Enterprise firewall protection: Where it stands, where it's headed

Last updated:February 2014

Editor's note

Firewalls are security tools that examine the flow of data packets in and out of the enterprise; they're governed by rules that decide whether that flow is safe, malicious, or questionable and in need of inspection. Some experts argue -- as one in this guide does -- that the firewall is not essential. But if you determine you need firewall protection, that's just the start of the implementation process. Decisions must also be made about which firewall features and policies best suit your company, and about how to test the firewall once it's deployed.

Meanwhile, hackers are getting more sophisticated, and vendors are responding with more advanced firewalls and related products. So you need to know about firewall variants and offshoots: Web-application firewalls, next-generation firewalls, unified threat management, software-defined networking and more.

This guide reviews the state of the firewall, outlines what's ahead in an increasingly virtualized networking world and teaches you the lingo you need to understand it all.

1Application firewalls: A new innovation

As hackers and their tricks get more sophisticated, firewall vendors are hustling to keep up. One innovation is the application firewall, which includes the Web-application firewall (WAF). An application firewall is -- as the name suggests -- an advanced security tool that blocks attacks to the network at the application level. This section of our guide explains the latest developments in, and pros and cons of, application firewalls in general, and WAFs in particular, and how to make them work well for you.

2Next-generation firewalls coming fast

Technology evolves faster and faster, and tech related to firewall protection is no exception. Even as you're implementing your latest firewall tool, you need to keep an eye on the future. Read on to get a grasp on what's coming next in next-generation firewall (NGFW) technology.

3New firewall products and other developments

Once you have a grasp on firewall protection in general, and the advantages and challenges of the NGFW in particular, you're ready to evaluate specific products and the ways firewall technology relates to other evolving technology, such as unified threat management (UTM) devices. And then there's the question being asked in every part of the high-tech world: What will be the impact of software-defined networking (SDN)?