The term Last Generation Firewall (LGFW), Next Generation Firewall (NGFW) was coined 15 years ago. Today, with the rapid evolution of cloud technology, these LGFWs are based on architectures developed for data centers that no longer meet the security needs of cloud and multi-cloud environments.
Here are three reasons why cloud architectures are changing the game for local government firewalls:
1. Changing Boundaries
The traditional concept of static boundaries no longer exists in the cloud. Cloud networks are dynamic, endless, and constantly evolving, making it difficult to defend using traditional methods.LGFW requires traffic to be redirected to a centralized point of inspection and policy enforcement, which leads to operational complexity, bottlenecks, increased latency, and costly data processing. In addition, it becomes operationally infeasible to manage a large number of dynamic ingress and egress points in the cloud using the LGFW approach.
2. Dynamic Cloud Applications
Cloud applications are highly dynamic, use microservice architectures and containerization, and often rely on direct Internet connections and service grid networks. These applications need to scale elastically and rely on native cloud PaaS services and API gateways, which breaks the LGFW and proxy-based security approaches in the cloud. In addition, from a policy creation perspective, security teams can no longer define policies based on IP addresses, which are constantly changing in these dynamic application environments.
3. Infrastructure Agility Requirements
Cloud infrastructure teams need to keep up with the agility demands of modern applications. They must adopt rapid release cycles, DevSecOps automation, and leverage the CI/CD pipelines that application teams have used for years. However, the centralized appliance operating model that originated in the data center era of local government firewalls cannot meet the agility expectations of cloud software-defined agility. Migrating LGFWs to the cloud leads to operational challenges, tool sprawl and unsustainable cost increases.
Organizations now need cloud cybersecurity solutions designed specifically for the cloud. Distributed cloud firewalls have emerged as a promising alternative to capitalize on the distributed nature of the cloud.
Distributed Cloud Firewall Definition
This is the approach to firewall policy creation familiar to security professionals, but architected to take advantage of the distributed nature of the cloud. Instead of distributing firewalls across locations, this approach distributes inspection and policy enforcement into the natural application communication paths in the cloud network while maintaining centralized policy creation.
Here are five characteristics that security professionals should look for when exploring a distributed cloud firewall approach:
1. Distributed enforcement in local cloud traffic
The product should embed inspection and policy enforcement into the local cloud infrastructure and natural application communication paths, eliminating the need for traffic redirection, load balancer sandwiches and other network gymnastics. This ensures scalability, eliminates bottlenecks, and enables the entire cloud network to act as a single scalable firewall.
2. Centralized Policy Creation Across Multi-Cloud Environments
Cloud-aware policy creation uses dynamic cloud-native application workload identities (e.g., labels and attributes) rather than static IP addresses to abstract enforcement details. Security teams can define policies through a single programmable interface while supporting inspection and policy enforcement across multiple cloud environments.
3. Cloud Operations Model
The product should provide complete visibility and control, support elastic auto-scaling to match application requirements, and enable programmability using industry-standard infrastructure-as-code automation tools such as Terraform. It should integrate seamlessly into the DevSecOps CI/CD pipeline.
4. Native Cloud Networking and Security Orchestration
The product should utilize native cloud APIs for network and security orchestration, abstracting the complexity of the underlying infrastructure. This ensures consistency between cloud service providers and prevents conflicts between network and security configurations.
5. Advanced Security Service Integration
A distributed cloud firewall should provide more than just basic firewall functionality. It should support micro-segmentation, network isolation, automated threat detection and mitigation, anomaly detection, vulnerability scanning, cloud workload risk scoring, L7 decryption and inspection, full traffic visibility and audit reporting. It must maintain role-based access controls to separate network and security responsibilities, all integrated into the local cloud infrastructure and operations.
Implementing a distributed cloud firewall can deliver significant business value to organizations compared to existing LGFW implementations. Benefits include lower total cost of ownership, increased cloud infrastructure agility, improved performance, shorter mean time to detect and resolve issues, simplified enterprise and regulatory compliance, and reduced overall business risk. By adopting a cloud-native security approach, organizations can better protect their cloud environments and adapt to the dynamic nature of the cloud.