By now I'm sure you've seen, heard, or read Check Point's official announcements made at NASDAQ this morning. This is by no means a regurgitation of the official press releases, but it is my own personal take on what was announced. If you want to see the announcement for yourself, check out the recording!
(Just to be clear, I work for Check Point and these are my own thoughts.)
Check Point R75.20
This release (press release, download) brings a number of new features. One of the most anticipated ones is the ability to inspect outgoing SSL traffic. Not just for Application Control, where it is most needed given the proliferation of sites requiring SSL, but in all the various software blades we support. And its included as part of the relevant software blades license (i.e. it's not a separate charge).
SSL inspection is done by essentially doing a "man in the middle" on the traffic. The gateway dynamically generates a certificate for the destination website, which is presented to the client when they connect. This allows the Security Gateway to see the traffic "in the clear" and make the relevant security decisions. The connection is encrypted as it leaves the gateway with SSL. Since SSL inspection is more intensive than inspecting HTTP traffic, and potentially creates potential regulatory issues by its use, you will have granular controls as to when this feature is invoked.
Another new feature in R75.20 is a completely revamped URL Filtering blade. While Check Point is still selling this as a separate product, it is actually integrated with Application Control. Applications and URL Filtering categories are given equal billing in the now combined Application Control and URL Filtering rulebase. You can do user-level URL filtering (with Identity Awareness) and can take advantage of our UserCheck technology to inform users of the policies. We can also handle HTTPS websites and custom categories. The categories themselves have also been substantially updated.
Unlike with previous versions of URL Filtering, where the entire URL filtering database was stored locally on the Security Gateway, the new engine makes use of the cloud. Commonly accessed URLs and their categories are stored in a local cache on the gateway. Over 99% of your web traffic should be met by the local cache on your gateway. When someone accesses a URL not in the local cache, the URL Filtering database in the cloud is consulted, with the result being stored in the local cache for future use.
The Data Loss Prevention (DLP) blade also gets a substantial update in R75.20. HTTP performance is substantially improved in this release and you also gain the ability to examine HTTPS traffic as well. A large number of additional "out of the box" datatypes are now included. We also integrate with an internal Microsoft Exchange server so DLP can be performed on internal email as well as email leaving the organization.
A common complaint I've heard from Check Point customers over the years is that the performance numbers we quote for our appliances don't reflect what performance you'll get in the real world with real world traffic patterns. This is because performance numbers have been historically quoted for a single firewall rule (any any any accept) with the most optimal traffic pattern (1500 byte UDP packets). To be fair, this has been the standard industry practice for some time now. Every vendor of network equipment performs tests like this.
Unfortunately, this isn't a good indicator of how an appliance will perform under real world conditions. With that in mind, Check Point has developed a new testing methodology for its appliances using a real rulebase (100 rules) with real-world traffic patterns (both based on industry standards and actual patterns seen at Check Point customer installations). This rulebase and traffic pattern exercises all of the various features and functionalities available in our Security Gateway. Based on those tests, Check Point has rated each appliance with a SecurityPower Unit rating (SPU).
One could call the SPU an arbitrary metric. What it gives you is a relatively simple way to compare appliances and the relative security load they can handle. More importantly, an SPU can be generated for a given set of requirements (required blades, throughput, number of connections, and so on). You can then compare that against the available appliances to ensure you choose the right security appliance for the right security task.
Check Point has developed a tool that does exactly this. It will be available shortly. Personally, I think this is a big deal.
Two new appliances are being launched today for the data center: the 21400 (press release, product page) and the 61000 (press release, product page). These appliances are aimed squarely at the data center, where tens or even hundreds of
megabits gigabits per second of throughput are needed!
The 21400 is a powerful 2U platform that features massive port density (up to 37 1000-base-T ports, 36 1000-base-F SFP ports, or 12 10GBase-F SFP+ ports), 50 GB of firewall throughput, 21GB of IPS throughput, hot-swappable redundant power supplies and disk drives, and an optional Lights-out Management card. Everything you'd expect from a carrier-grade chassis. The appliance runs both R71 and R75 with SecurePlatform.
The 61000 series, on the other hand, is a monster appliance! It's a 14U (DC) or 15U (AC) bladed chassis that, when fully loaded, will support 200GB of firewall throughput today and, with future hardware and software enhancements, will support over 1TB of throughput in the future! Aside from all of the various connectivity and redundancy options, the appliance acts as a single platform that, when new hardware blades are added, automatically configures itself to distribute the load between the blades! The platform currently runs a 64bit version of SecurePlatform based on R75.
Both appliances, which are referred to as Data Center Appliances, are available now on the Check Point pricelist.