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Network management, next-gen firewall tools take center stage

A recap of SearchNetworking's How to Buy series, which teaches IT professionals what to keep an eye on when buying new products for their networks.

SearchNetworking launched its How to Buy series in 2014 to help networking professionals make educated purchasing decisions when they are in the market for new hardware, software or applications. Among the initial installments of the series were tips on buying network management applications and next-generation firewall tools. In these series, experts discussed what to look for when purchasing these critically important components and the steps IT pros should take to beef up their network infrastructure.

Network management applications: What to look for

In part one of this series, Amy Larsen-DeCarlo stresses the importance of network management applications that are able to keep up with the demands of software-defined networks (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV). With network environments rapidly changing, it is important that monitoring applications can provide the visibility that IT departments need. What happens when networking management applications perform poorly? DeCarlo said the cost of downtime could be hundreds of thousands of dollars. And those losses don't count the cost of losing consumer trust.

In the second part of the series, DeCarlo said IT managers need to determine what network management application vendor will work best with their particular business. Some vendors, like IBM, offer integrated management systems, while others, like SolarWinds, are IT management specialists. Riverbed Technology, meantime, is engineered for virtualized networks. The key, DeCarlo said, is for IT pros to understand what their network environment needs now, and to plan for the technology they will deploy in the future. Above all, maintaining overall visibility and control is necessary.

Choosing a next-generation firewall

In this How to Buy package, security expert Dave Shackleford focuses on assessing next-generation firewalls (NGFW). He explains what features are "must haves" for next-generation firewall tools and provides reviews of three products to further guide buyers. Two of the features Shackleford said any NGFW must include are application identification and control and user identification. Why are these so important? Shackleford said the No. 1 feature of any NGFW is being able to protect against intruders. It is important that the firewall be able to decode and analyze application traffic for anomalies and known threats based on signatures. User identification is important for similar reasons. In an enterprise-grade NGFW, it is necessary to be able to track activity from the network to the individual user.

Other features that Shackleford said are nice to have include URL filtering and Secure Socket Layer (SSL) termination and inspection. The bottom line, Shackleford said, is that NGFWs are becoming more capable by the day and can enhance or replace traditional firewalls in just about any environment.

This was last published in January 2015

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