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Unified Threat Management: The New Firewall?

UTM perimeter-security devices combine firewalling, antivirus, and intrusion detection and prevention on a single appliance. Many throw in content filtering and antispam, making a compelling argument for one-stop security shopping. Unified threat management, a term coined by IDC, is not a new concept, however: Vendors have tried to bring these processes together for years but were stymied by performance problems. Fortunately, advances in processing, both on the main CPU and in specialized silicon, mean that performance problems can be overcome.

To see how well vendors are tak- ing advantage of new technologies, we tested UTM products in our Syracuse University Real-World Labs, rating each on how well it increases protection without hurting performance. Unfortunately, we found most products wanting. Our scenario was typical: An organization with 5,000 users seeks an edge device that provides firewall, IDS/IPS, antivirus and content filtering. The organization's DMZ network hosts DNS and Web servers that communicate with a back-end Microsoft SQL Server and an SMTP server, which relays mail to an internal Exchange 2000 server (for more details, see "Test Methodology,"). Most traffic is from internal users to the Internet.

We invited 11 vendors to participate. Fortinet, Internet Security Systems, Secure Computing, SonicWall and Symantec accepted our invitation. Check Point Software Technologies, Cisco Systems and Finjan Software said they couldn't ship products in time. Juniper Networks doesn't have an offering that fits, and Astaro and iPolicy Networks did not respond to our invitation.

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