The Future Of The Firewall
by Jeff Wilson, Infonetics
Published May 2005; Posted November 2005




“What is a firewall?” My mom asked me that question the other day, demonstrating the fact that Internet security is no longer the domain of reclusive super-nerds. Honestly, that can be a tough question to answer when the person asking still doesn’t know how to make “folders” and put “files” in them.


I told Mom that firewalls keep the bad guys from getting on to your network, server or personal computer; the answer satisfied her. It’s a simple and accurate answer, and it’s not going to change. What will change is how firewalls, and other devices, will perform firewall functions.


So is the future of firewalls simple or complicated? I guess it depends on where you’re sitting. For the people building them, it’s complicated to integrate scores of disparate functions and technologies into one platform that runs at 5 Gbps and up, and that always stops all the bad traffic and always lets the good traffic in - oh, and that costs less than $100. Throw in the fact that hackers never go on vacation: As soon as you have a problem licked there is a new one ready to take its place. That’s certainly a challenging position for any product manufacturer.


Firewall customers, however, will demand that the future be simple: No more worms, no more viruses, no more hacks, no more trojans, no more denial-of-service attacks and no more security headaches. End users, based on our research, have one primary concern when it comes to security: they don’t want to be attacked from the outside.


And that’s what a firewall does - keeps the flames off your network and off your devices, right? The firewall of the future may not look much like the firewall of today, and the historical bread and butter of firewalls - that is, packet filtering - won’t even scratch the surface of what the firewall of the future will do. Eventually we may find it more appropriate to call it an intrusion prevention system or integrated threat protection system. But it seems more likely that we’ll still call it a firewall.



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About the author:

Jeff Wilson is principal analyst, VPNs and security, with Infonetics Research.


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