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By Laura Taylor
November 10, 2000
On November 6th, AXENT let its all new firewall appliance known as VelociRaptor out of the starting gate. Based on Cobalt's server appliance architecture, VelociRaptor marks AXENT's debut into the firewall appliance market. Firewall technology, and the eBusiness market, has steadily steered itself towards turn-key appliance solutions in the last couple years. Though VelociRaptor is a late entrant into this market, the birth of this beasty box is going to give prior market entrants, including the CheckPoint based Nokia IP650, a run for the money. An enhanced version of AXENT's Raptor Firewall software, sitting on top of a pre-hardened Linux operating system, VelociRaptor hardware uses the sleek, 1 rack unit high, show-offy Cobalt based line of server appliances.
Table 1: Corporate Information
After exceeding $100 million in net revenue in 1999, AXENT announced its intent to be acquired by Symantec in August in a stock for stock transaction worth $975 million. Cobalt, founded in 1996, was recently purchased by Sun Microsystems, a neighboring MountainView technology company, and leading carrier class server vendor. AXENT develops and sells numerous information security products and services, with its Raptor Firewalls being one of the strongest solutions on the market. AXENT acquired the Raptor line of firewalls through its acquisition of Raptor Inc., in February of 1998. Raptor was the first company to come out with a firewall for Microsoft's Windows NT enterprise operating system.
Product Strategy and Trajectory
Similar to the Nokia IP650 firewall appliance, VelociRaptor runs on an Intel compatible AMD-K6 platform. Its Remote Management Console (RMC) for Windows NT and Windows 2000 makes it ideal for organizations that need to manage firewall services remotely at customer sites or field offices. All communication between the RMC console and the VelociRaptor is encrypted for secure management over a public network. Included with all VelociRaptor units is a proxy-secured gateway-to-gateway Virtual Private Network (VPN) tunneling capabilities. The VPN capabilities are based on the standard IPSec protocol. Unique to VelociRaptor, VPN traffic can be further protected with our proxy-secured technology, providing fine granularity access control by either source or destination IP address, TCP or UDP applications, time of day and date ranges, as well as a variety of other authentication techniques including:
With a long-list of features, one of the competitive advantages that VelociRaptor has over other leading firewalls is completely transparent proxy redirection services, integrated HTTP and News Content Filtering, and dynamically and pre-configured system hardening. Not all firewalls provide the same level of security. While some firewalls provide either a proxy architecture or a stateful packet inspection architecture, VelociRaptor provides both. With IP level, circuit level, and application level logic, VelociRaptor can protect networks from IP fragmentation attacks, source routing, IP address spoofing, TCP SYN floods, TCP FIN Scans, Teardrop attacks, and others.
While many other firewalls are vulnerable to buffer overflow attacks, VelociRaptor's intelligent proxy system allows for the ability to protect against this growing network attack scenario commonly found in FTP, SMTP, and HTTP data streams.
Originally, commercial off the shelf firewalls were software packages that were installed on top of everyday operating systems. However, due to some of the advantages firewall appliances have over traditional firewalls, the firewalls that savvy IT Directors are eyeing today are the appliance units. Some of the advantages that firewall appliances have over traditional software firewalls include faster installations, ease-of-use, rapid deployment, and one-stop-shopping. Appliance architecture speeds up the selection, procurement, and deployment time associated with installing a new firewall. With over 100 firewalls on the market, the appliance-based architectures are clearly evolving as the market leaders. In this firewall segment, AXENT's VelociRaptor firewall has some features unsurpassed by other vendors.
One important feature VelociRaptor has that is lacking on other competing firewall appliances is the ability to perform order independent rule setting. On a firewall, one of the most critical files is the policy or rules file. On a large complex carrier class network, there can be hundreds of firewall rules. These rules need to be setup in a very specific order. With hundreds of rules, configuring the rules file is often the most complicated part of setting up a firewall. VelociRaptor has the ability to dynamically order the rule set in the most optimal way possible, a feature yet to be found on firewalls made by other vendors.
Though many firewalls are starting to come pre-hardened with unneeded TCP/IP services turned off, VelociRaptor is the first to come with a built-in automatic hardening process that continuously locates and kills any rogue processes that get started up by seditious or erroneous activities. For example, if a network administrator installs a network backup system that would compromise the security of the firewall, the rogue process killer will discover this and automatically disable the service. Erroneously configured back-up processes are a common cause of server security compromises, and on a firewall, all backups should always be done with local media drives.
With the ability to handle T3 and higher speeds with fully proxy protection, VelociRaptor puts to rest the old adage that proxy protection services are slow and clunky.
Last but not least, since we are in the midst of an election year when economists and patriots start pondering what will be best for the state of American commerce, we'd like to mention that VelociRaptor is made in America and owned by a U.S. company.
Figure 1. Except for a slight dip in April, AXENT has risen over leading market indicators for the duration of this year.
The most obvious weakness in the VelociRaptor box is the lacking of built-in high-availability. In light of this missing feature, AXENT is recommending Radware's Fireproof product for load-balancing and high-availability as an add-on. Without high-availability, in the event of a system crash, the lack of firewall services can close down all of you network connections.
VelociRaptor is a robust enterprise firewall appliance for remote offices, and small offices, with many features not yet available in competing firewalls. However, one feature that would be nice to see in future versions is built-in high-availability. Today AXENT is recommending Radware's Fireproof load-balancing and high-availability add-on to take care of this requirement. Within the next year, AXENT is planning to implement built-in high-availability into the VelociRaptor box. Once built-in high-availability is ready, we believe that VelociRaptor will be the most technologically sophisticated firewall on the market.
If your IT department has recently deployed all new firewalls, ripping out your existing firewall infrastructure to install VelociRaptor boxes probably doesn't make good business sense. However, if you're thinking of installing a firewall for the first time, or are upgrading older firewalls, you won't want to pass up taking a close look at VelociRaptor. Priced from $4,995 to $14,995 depending on how many users you are licensing it for, VelociRaptor is competitively priced and well worth the investment. The damage that can occur from one security incident can more than pay for the box itself.
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