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FWaaS is a firewall solution delivered as a cloud-based service that provides hyperscale, next-generation firewall (NGFW) capabilities that include web filtering, advanced threat protection (ATP), intrusion prevention system (IPS), and Domain Name System (DNS) security.

What Is Firewall as a Service (FWaaS)?

What is FWaaS? In many ways, FWaaS is much like a hardware firewall that you would have on-premises. However, it comes with distinct advantages, such as the ability to scale nearly instantaneously to suit an expanding network. You can also have new services provisioned that you previously did not need. 

All of this is possible, thanks to the fact that it is based in the cloud. Therefore, it can be molded according to the size, configuration, demand, and unique security needs of your network.

How FWaaS Works

Much like an NGFW solution, Firewall as a Service filters network traffic to safeguard organizations from both inside and outside threats. Along with stateful firewall features such as packet filtering, network monitoring, Internet Protocol security (IPsec), secure sockets layer virtual private network (SSL VPN) support, and Internet Protocol (IP) mapping features, FWaaS also has deeper content inspection capabilities that include the ability to identify malware attacks and other threats.

FWaaS is positioned between your network and the internet. As traffic attempts to enter your network, the FWaaS solution inspects it to detect and address threats. The inspection analyzes the information contained in the header of each data packet, garnering insight into where the packet came from and other behaviors that may signal it is malicious. 

Further, FWaaS can look at the data within the packet. This kind of deep packet inspection (DPI) can alert the threat response team to dangers with innocent-looking information in their headers, allowing them to be mitigated. With some FWaaS offerings, you get an NGFW powering the solution. With an NGFW, you also can get machine-learning tools that can identify novel, zero-day threats that have never been encountered before. This is done by analyzing how the data packets behave and looking for anomalous and potentially dangerous behavior.

As more organizations see their networks growing more decentralized, the benefit of moving applications and data to the cloud has become more practical and common. This is true for the firewall as well. Now, offering firewall via the cloud and as a service, the enterprise can realize the benefits of NGFW embedded within their cloud infrastructure.

Why Do Companies Need FWaaS?

FWaaS allows customers to partially or fully move security inspection to a cloud infrastructure. With security in the cloud, your solution is managed by the cloud provider, who will maintain the hardware infrastructure that powers your solution. Your service agreement will include details outlining the types of features you will have access to, depending on the subscription you choose. Many companies need a service-based architecture because it gives them the freedom to expand on-demand without having to worry about provisioning new hardware.

Maintaining hardware firewalls does not fit into many companies’ budgets or operational workflow, making FWaaS an attractive option. The convenience that comes with all updates and adjustments to settings being handled by the provider allows organizations to free up critical resources, time, and energy for other, mission-critical pursuits.

With FWaaS, an organization's distributed sites and users are connected to a single, logical, global firewall with a unified application-aware security policy, allowing them to better scale security. The Firewall as a Service provider gives all employees access to resources that protect a wide range of devices, making FWaaS a one-solution-fits-all option, regardless of the size of the organization.

This makes FWaaS a foundational component of any secure access service edge (SASE) architecture because it provides the functionality of NGFW without the high capital expenditure (CapEx) costs associated with an on-premises wide-area network (WAN) infrastructure investment. In an on-premise setup, upgrading your system involves taking the time to source the best components and compare them with each other before committing to a purchase. Then, after parting with valuable funds to purchase the item, the organization has to ensure staff is familiar with how it operates, how to maintain it, and how to ensure it is properly updated. For many companies, this is a heavy load to lift. With FWaaS, this is all taken care of by the provider.

FWaaS takes advantage of advances in software and cloud technologies to deliver a wide range of network security and inspection capabilities, provided on-demand for users anywhere. With an in-house setup, your IT team has to keep abreast of the latest software and technological developments impacting the world of network security. Some companies need FWaaS simply to ensure they have the latest and greatest protection. When the provider protects your network, you are more likely to have cutting-edge technologies and methodologies than if you put that responsibility on your in-house staff.

Advantages of Firewall as a Service

For companies looking for an agile security solution, FWaaS presents several distinct advantages. To maintain flexibility, many organizations are shifting away from traditional in-house options and trusting an FWaaS provider with the protection of their network.

Unified Security Policy Deployed via the Cloud

Unified security involves combining multiple security initiatives under one umbrella. The overarching service is therefore able to shield the organization from a wider variety of threats. A unified security architecture may incorporate intentional redundancy that results from two or more security measures that are able to stop the same kind of threat. 

Having this managed in the cloud streamlines your setup. Instead of having to find, purchase, configure, and manage each facet of your unified architecture, the service provider takes care of all that for you.

Flexible Deployment and Operating Expense (OpEx) Consumption Model

Deploying an in-house solution can be complex and time-consuming. There are a lot of moving parts, equipment-related and otherwise. With an FWaaS, on the other hand, deployment is handled by the provider. Often, this can be done quickly and with little to no work on the part of the company. In situations where custom configurations are needed, the organization only has to provide the necessary information to the provider, who can then customize the deployment.

Your OpEx consumption model needs to have flexibility as well. It is rare that an organization’s OpEx figures are static—they need to be able to adjust as needs arise. With FWaaS, you can find ways to get the most out of your budget and even ways to limit OpEx expenditures while still achieving the security you need. You can present your situation to your FWaaS provider, and they can help you choose the package that suits your needs. This can change as frequently as you want with very little onboarding time.

Simplified Deployment and Maintenance

Deploying a new on-premises security suite—or even a single security tool—can involve heavy time and resource investments. With FWaaS, all you have to do is tell your provider what you need. They have the resources on hand already, and all configuration details can be handled by their team.

Improved Scalability

Scaling your FWaaS solution is simple. You merely have to discuss your new needs with your provider. They can then advise you based on your business’s goals. Also, when you scale with an FWaaS, it is relatively easy to roll back to your old configuration if the new solution turns out to be unnecessary or excessive. 

With an on-premises solution, you may not be able to get a refund of your money—and there is no way to get a “refund” on the time invested in deploying the scaled-up solution.

Increased Flexibility

With an FWaaS, you can decide when and how you want to deploy protections based on the processes and assets you want to protect. You can also decide where in a cloud-based data chain you want to place your protections. 

For example, if your DevOps team is using a cloud-native development architecture, you can deploy an FWaaS solution to protect their processes. You can also use FWaaS to protect a cloud-native database, application, or content management system. Further, you can tweak the configuration of each solution as you see fit.

FWaaS vs. NGFW

With a cloud-based architecture, you may have a challenging decision to make: FWaaS or NGFW? For many companies rooted in the cloud, there are some distinct advantages of opting for FWaaS over NGFW.

  1. FWaaS provides faster performance with cloud applications: Cloud applications like Microsoft 365 are made to be used on the internet. With an NGFW, traffic would have to be sent back to a corporate data center before going back to the internet. That could hurt performance.
  2. FWaaS makes it easier to duplicate security architectures: If you have several locations, setting up NGFWs at each one may be prohibitively expensive or time-consuming. With an FWaaS, deployment is straightforward and quick.
  3. Some NGFWs cannot adequately inspect SSL traffic: An NGFW may have to use software to process SSL inspections. This can negatively impact the experience of the user.

How Fortinet Can Help

The Fortinet SASE service provides FWaaS that has all the benefits of the FortiGate NGFW, including SSL inspection and the advanced detection of threats. Further, the Fortinet SASE gives you protection against DNS threats, an intrusion prevention system, data loss prevention (DLP), a secure web gateway, virtual private networking, zero-trust network access (ZTNA), and sandboxing. This provides you with a security solution that covers every edge of your network.

FAQs

What is FWaaS?

FWaaS is a firewall solution delivered as a cloud-based service that provides hyperscale, next-generation firewall (NGFW) capabilities, including web filtering, advanced threat protection (ATP), intrusion prevention system (IPS), and Domain Name System (DNS) security.

How does Firewall as a Service work?

FWaaS is positioned between your network and the internet. As traffic attempts to enter your network, the FWaaS solution inspects it to detect and address threats. The inspection analyzes the information contained in each data packet, garnering insight into where the packet came from and other behaviors that may signal it is malicious.

What is firewall service?

Firewall service refers to an offering organizations can subscribe to that protects their network from threats using a firewall. This is sometimes preferable to setting up your own physical infrastructure to manage your security.