A next-generation firewall (NGFW) is the third generation of firewall security technology. It builds on the previous versions, combining the basic capabilities of traditional firewalls in monitoring a device’s connection to the internet with more advanced tools, such as application-level traffic monitoring, deep packet inspection, and intrusion prevention systems (IPSs).
A next-generation firewall is designed to combat modern network security threats that have risen with the digitization of organizations. A NGFW tends to be more context-aware when scanning the incoming and outgoing network traffic for suspicious or malicious activity. See below to learn all about a next-generation firewall:
What is a next-generation firewall?
- How does a next-generation firewall work?
- What are the types of next-generation firewalls?
- What are the key features of a next-generation firewall?
- Why is a next-generation firewall important?
- What are the top next-generation firewall providers?
- What is the size of the next-generation firewall market?
- Bottom line
In principle, NGFWs don’t differ that much from their traditional counterparts. They sit at the outermost part of your network, monitoring and scanning the traffic exchanged between the users, devices, and applications in the network with servers, websites, and devices through the public internet.
An NGFW improves on this feature by implementing comprehensive control and visibility over applications and user devices. Additionally, they provide Layer 7 application filtering when inspecting the contents of transferred data packets.
Some NGFW offerings are capable of network-wide access management, as well as behavior management and analysis using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML).
There are 3 types of NGFWs depending on the method of delivering the security and control capabilities of the solution:
Software NGFWs don’t require a dedicated part of the network’s physical resources. Instead, they run similarly to any application within the network; using your CPU and RAM resources as needed.
This type needs to be installed and configured for each network device either individually or collectively. It’s generally easy to install on any type or size of computer network.
Hardware firewalls are physical devices that all the incoming and outgoing network traffic gets routed through it for monitoring and scanning purposes.
Instead of being housed directly on your network’s infrastructure, this type relies on its own physical resources and doesn’t weigh down your network’s flow.
A cloud-based NGFW, also known as hosted NGFW, is a software-based firewall that’s deployed on an off-premises cloud in order to minimize pressure on network resources or demand technical management.
The hosted cloud can be owned by the network owner or rented for storage and computing space. Similarly, cloud-based solutions can sometimes be categorized as Firewall-as-a-Service (FWaaS), where a third-party hosts and deploys the firewall solution to your network with little involvement on your end.
The features included in any NGFW offering can vary depending on the vendor. It’s important to understand what an NGFW can do for your network and seek out vendors that provide the level and features of security you’re after.
Following are a handful of the features you’re likely to find at a number of NGFW solutions on the market:
Comprehensive network visibility
Through monitoring the behavior and interactions of the user devices and applications, an NGFW is capable of providing a complete image of the network in real time. The data can be analyzed for finding and solving bottlenecks and ensuring operations run efficiently and securely.
The Juniper Networks SRX Series NGFW is one of the best on the market in terms of comprehensive network visibility. It monitors and feeds data from applications, edge devices, and data centers, reporting on their movements and activities.
Centralized control over network traffic
Unlike traditional firewalls, NGFWs can be nuanced in their approach to access control. You can determine the applications and user devices that have access to network resources and the limits of their communication with servers outside the network.
Palo Alto Networks’ Panorama is one of the best centralized access management and control solutions in NGFW on the market. It enables network admins to easily control which applications can traverse through the network and the types and volumes of data they can move and access.
Multi-layer network protection
NGFWs are capable of preventing threats by securing your network on multiple levels. Application-level protection monitors the activity and behavior of the applications inside the network, ensuring they don’t behave maliciously or access areas of the network without authorization.
The CloudGen NGFW by Barracuda Networks comes equipped with Layer 7 application profiling features, allowing for advanced web filtering that protects your networks from malware and malicious behavior on more than just the endpoints.
Policy setting and enforcement
Defining and enforcing security policies is an essential part of network security that many NGFW solutions offer. They are a straightforward way to set parameters for user and application behavior within the network, establishing a baseline for the security and privacy standards in the network.
Fortinet’s FortiGate has a built-in tool for security policy management and network-wide enforcement. The same can be extended to your network’s intrusion prevention tool in place.
Setting up security tools at the outer parameter of your network is an essential part of an effective network security strategy. There are countless tools that fall into the categories of Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) and Network Detection and Response (NDR) with varying areas of expertise and levels of importance. However, firewalls stand out as one of the most indispensable network security solutions.
With security technology constantly evolving to combat the myriad of highly-sophisticated cyber threats, so did firewalls. Now that traditional firewall software is no longer effective on its own, businesses and companies are advised to employ a Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW) solution.
A couple of the leading vendors in the market and their offerings include:
Fortinet is a multinational cybersecurity company based in Sunnyvale, California. It’s known best for developing and selling cutting-edge network security tools from physical firewalls to antivirus software and various endpoint security components.
FortiGate is Fortinet’s NGFW offering designed for protecting networks of all sizes. It’s highly scalable and can be extended to protect a company’s remote offices and branches, in addition to off-premises data centers and cloud servers.
Fortinet was named a Leader in the 2021 Gartner Magic Quadrant for firewalls and continued on to receive the highest evaluation scores in the 2022 Critical Capabilities report.
Barracuda Networks’ CloudGen
Barracuda Networks is a security and computer networking company based in Campbell, California. It helps organizations build and secure their networks, providing protection tools from malware, hackers, and email-based threats.
Barracuda’s CloudGen Firewall is an all-in-one solution that encompasses a wide range of security features and capabilities. It promises reliable connectivity between network components in addition to advanced web filtering, remote access control, and VPN integration.
In 2022, SC awarded Barracuda the prizes for the Best Email Security and the Best Cloud Security solution.
The market is booming with a wide variety of NGFW offerings by a large number of vendors in the technology and computing networking industries.
The global NGFW market was valued at $3.17 billion in 2021. It’s expected to reach an estimated value of $5.07 billion by 2028, trailing a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 6.5% throughout the market analysis period.
NGFWs are the present and future of firewall technology in network security. They offer a number of features, capabilities, and tools that protects your network from modern cyber threats and secures all possible avenues of attack.
There are many features and resulting benefits to implementing the right type and offering of NGFW, depending on your network’s infrastructure and your security tools and capabilities.