Network Firewalls Are Still Vital in the Era of the Cloud

Network Firewalls Are Still Vital in the Era of the Cloud
Network Firewalls Are Still Vital in the Era of the Cloud
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Today, nearly all companies have some form of cloud infrastructure, and 89% are operating multi-cloud deployments. In general, this trend seems to be continuing with many companies planning to move additional assets to the cloud.

With the adoption of cloud infrastructure, organizations must reexamine their existing security infrastructures. Some security solutions are ill-suited to securing cloud environments, and the cloud introduces new security risks and challenges that must be managed as well. However, network firewalls are still a relevant and vital security solution in the era of the cloud.

Cloud Security Can Be Complex

Companies are moving to the cloud due to the various benefits that it provides. Cloud deployments increase the scalability and flexibility of IT infrastructure and are also better suited to supporting a distributed enterprise comprised of on-site and remote workers. Additionally, the cloud supports new methods of application development, such as a transition to serverless applications.

Another major selling point of the cloud is that customers can outsource responsibility for some of their infrastructure stacks to the service provider. Up to a certain layer, the service provider is wholly responsible for configuring, maintaining, and securing the leased infrastructure. However, this does not translate to a total handover of security responsibility. Under the cloud shared responsibility model, the cloud customer is responsible for managing and securing the portion of the infrastructure stack that they access and control.

Cloud deployments differ significantly from traditional, on-prem data centers. Many organizations struggle to effectively adapt their security models and architectures to support their new cloud environments, leading to widespread security misconfigurations and frequent cloud data breaches.

The interconnection between on-prem and cloud environments and between applications within cloud deployments makes network security vital to cloud security. Network firewalls are a crucial part of this, inspecting traffic flowing between different areas and limiting the risk of threats entering the corporate network or spreading within it.

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What to Look for in a Network Firewall

Many organizations already have network firewalls in place; however, a network firewall designed to secure the perimeter of the corporate LAN is ill-suited to protecting a distributed enterprise WAN. As companies move to the cloud, there are a number of core capabilities a network firewall should include:

Location Agnostic

Companies are growing increasingly distributed. In addition to traditional on-prem data centers, organizations are moving data storage and applications to cloud-based infrastructure, often as part of multi-cloud deployments. At the same time, employees are moving outside of the traditional network perimeter with the growth of remote and hybrid work, and the use of mobile devices for business.

As a result, network firewalls need to be able to provide protection wherever a device is located. Backhauling traffic to the corporate network for security inspection doesn’t work because it hurts network performance and increases load on on-prem IT infrastructure. Network firewalls must be as distributed as the rest of an organization’s IT assets.


Companies are increasingly dependent on Software as a Service (SaaS) applications to provide critical functionality to both on-prem and remote employees. Often, these SaaS applications are latency-sensitive, and poor network performance has a significant impact on corporate productivit

Network firewalls must offer strong performance to avoid creating tradeoffs between network performance and security. If network firewalls create latency due to inefficient routing or an inability to inspect traffic at line speed, they are more likely to be bypassed or otherwise undermined.


Corporate IT infrastructures are rapidly expanding as companies adopt cloud infrastructure, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and mobile devices. As a result of this digital transformation, there are more devices, more applications, and more data flowing over corporate networks.

Network firewalls are responsible for inspecting and securing this network traffic, so they must scale with the network. As IT infrastructure takes advantage of the power of cloud scalability and IoT devices proliferate, network firewalls also need the scalability that the cloud provides.

Solution Integration

Since corporate security architectures are growing increasingly complex, the variety of environments and endpoints that security analysts must secure can result in an array of standalone security solutions. This security sprawl is exacerbated by the evolution of the cyber threat landscape and the need to deploy defenses against new and emerging threats.

These complex and disconnected security architectures overwhelm security personnel and degrade a security team’s ability to rapidly identify and respond to threats. Standalone solutions require individual configuration and management, force context switching between dashboards when investigating an incident, and make security automation difficult or impossible.

A network firewall is the foundation of a corporate security architecture. To enforce consistent security policies and controls across all of an organization’s IT assets — including on-prem, cloud-based, and remote systems — companies need a network firewall that can operate effectively in all of these environments. Additionally, this firewall should be integrated with the rest of an organization’s security architecture to support rapid threat detection and response and enable security automation.

Simplifying Network Security with SASE

The transition to cloud-based infrastructure makes reconsidering and redesigning corporate security architecture critical. Cloud environments are more distributed and more exposed to potential threat actors than on-prem environments, and perimeter-based security models that worked in the past no longer apply when the perimeter is rapidly dissolving. While companies could attempt to build and integrate their own security architectures using various standalone solutions, a better approach is to adopt security designed for the modern corporate network.

Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) implements security with a network of cloud-based points of presence (PoPs) that meet all of the needs of the modern network firewall:

  • Location Agnostic: SASE PoPs are deployed as virtual appliances in the cloud. This allows them to be deployed anywhere, making them geographically convenient to devices located on-prem, remote, or in the cloud.
  • Performance: Each SASE PoP converges a full security stack, so security inspection and policy enforcement can happen at once and anywhere. This eliminates the need to backhaul traffic for scanning.
  • Scalability: SASE PoPs host cloud-native software that can leverage the scalability benefits of cloud infrastructure. A SASE Cloud can elastically scale vertically with more compute and throughput in a certain PoP, and horizontally with more PoPs in new geographical locations.
  • Solution Convergence: SASE PoPs converge a range of network and security functions, including a next-generation firewall, intrusion prevention system (IPS), zero-trust network access (ZTNA), SD-WAN, and more. A solution built to converge these functions into a single platform can optimize and streamline their interactions to a degree that is impossible with standalone solutions.

Cato provides the world’s most robust single-vendor SASE platform, converging Cato SD-WAN and a cloud-native security service edge, Cato SSE 360, including ZTNA, SWG, CASB/DLP, and FWaaS into a global cloud service. With over 75 PoPs worldwide, Cato optimizes and secures application access for all users and locations, and is easily managed from a single pane of glass. Learn more about how Cato SASE Cloud can improve your organization’s cloud security by signing up for a demo today.

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