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The bottom line: We suspect the firewall market will look vastly different in a year or two. Although we don't envision the demise of standalone firewall appliances anytime soon, what we thought was a product a year ago is starting to look suspiciously like a feature. After spending three months testing firewalls, interviewing customers and grilling vendor executives, we know enterprises building a cohesive network-protection strategy need these questions answered: Will next-generation routers and switches come bundled with application-level policy enforcement? Will silicon-based network-access-control devices finally overtake their PC-based rivals? Will today's NIPS (network intrusion-prevention systems) become tomorrow's firewalls, or vice versa? Will network infrastructure heavyweights like Cisco Systems and Juniper Networks finally put the squeeze on companies like Check Point Software Technologies and Internet Security Systems?
Is this the last time we'll review standalone firewalls? Probably not, but this market is about to get more confusing, not less. Prepare for more changes--and carnage.
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