Next-generation firewalls will need wide variety of features

It may be time to upgrade to devices with a wider variety of defenses

"The next-generation firewall could be the last piece of network infrastructure before servers," Whitely says. This could be part of the function of load-balancing, application-accelerating gear such as that made by Citrix, F5, Imperva and others.

One user of a firewall with application-aware intrusion prevention capabilities says the transition from traditional firewalls should be made slowly. Bimba Manufacturing, a pneumatic equipment maker in Monee, Ill., has installed a Secure Computing Sidewinder firewall to help protect its network as more Web applications roll out, says Matt Nantais, system analyst for the firm.

It is still using IPS features of its Secure Computing Sidewinder firewall in monitoring mode until the company can determine the extent of false positives and how to minimize them. The company hopes that the IPS when turned on will drop attack traffic it identifies as potentially harmful to servers or the network.

As businesses consider moving to next-generation firewalls, they should weigh certain key factors, Young says.

These include, aligning their replacement schedule with the replacement schedules for other gear that now comes as part of some firewalls in bundles called unified threat management (UTM) devices. The devices may incorporate antivirus, antispam and content filtering.

If they align their firewall, IPS, URL filtering and Web antivirus refresh times they may gain option of merging them into fewer devices. So customers should check out what their current vendors offer. "You might not have to deploy a new appliance," he says.

Customers should consider their current firewall vendor for supplemental features, Youg says. Their current vendors will integrate these added protections with the firewall, eliminating the work of making sure the firewall is compatible. "You certainly don't want to break the firewall when you implement IPS," Young says.

He also recommends weighing the cost of retraining staff to administer a new firewall. It may be worthwhile sticking with the current vendor, he says.

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