Palo Alto Networks Unfurls Managed Firewall Service for Azure

Palo Alto Networks today launched a managed firewall service for Microsoft Azure environments. The next-generation firewall (NGFW) can be accessed via a console running on the Microsoft cloud platform or in an on-premises environment using the company’s Panorama console for managing firewalls.

Tanya Shastri, senior vice president for product management for next-generation firewall at Palo Alto Networks, said Palo Alto Networks already makes an unmanaged instance of its next-generation firewall available, but more organizations are now looking to use it to also manage those firewalls on their behalf.

It’s not clear whether more organizations are looking to cybersecurity vendors to provide managed services, but as organizations continue to struggle with hiring and retaining cybersecurity talent, many of them are re-evaluating their approach to maintaining cybersecurity. In many cases, it’s simpler for organizations to rely on external service providers to handle routine security operations, noted Shastri.

That’s especially true as organizations deploy more workloads in cloud computing environments that many cybersecurity teams have little to no experience protecting, she added. To make up for that lack of expertise, organizations are either relying completely on managed services or finding ways to co-manage cybersecurity alongside a managed security services provider.

Cloud security is, of course, challenging because many of the infrastructure resources are provisioned by developers that have little to no cybersecurity expertise, so the chances mistakes will be made are high. In contrast, cybersecurity in on-premises environments tends to be less problematic because developers don’t typically provision IT infrastructure themselves.

However, as hybrid cloud computing continues to evolve, some organizations are now also enabling developers, for better or worse, to directly provision IT infrastructure resources anywhere they are found. As a result, many organizations are starting to employ Panorama to manage firewalls that are distributed across multiple cloud and on-premises IT environments, noted Shastri.

Palo Alto Networks has been making a case for firewalls infused with machine learning algorithms to better identify threats in addition to automating many network security tasks. Regardless of who manages the firewalls, the overall goal is to reduce the cognitive load for attaining and maintaining network security in both on-premises IT environments and in the cloud.

As more workloads are deployed in the cloud, cybercriminals are clearly spending a lot more time scanning for misconfigurations and vulnerabilities. The first line of defense in the cloud is a network firewall, and organizations should expect Palo Alto Networks to expand the scope of managed services it offers for the Microsoft Azure Cloud, said Shastri.

In the meantime, cybersecurity teams need to decide how much of their time and effort they want to devote to security operations. In theory, at least, every resource allocated to managing security operations is one less that could be applied to identifying threats and remediating vulnerabilities. The challenge, as always, is determining how best to allocate finite cybersecurity resources at a time when adversaries have access to seemingly unlimited resources.

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Michael Vizard

Mike Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist with over 25 years of experience. He also contributed to IT Business Edge, Channel Insider, Baseline and a variety of other IT titles. Previously, Vizard was the editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise as well as Editor-in-Chief for CRN and InfoWorld.

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