Security Appliance Keeps Tabs On Facebook, LinkedIn Use

The WatchGuard XTM 8 Series delivers the company's next-generation firewall capabilities of advanced intrusion detection and prevention, application control and advanced spam- and spyware-filtering in a high-performance appliance in WatchGuard's trademark bright-red box.

In today's highly virtualized world, why not simply deploy a virtual firewall and forgo the expense and maintenance burdens of yet another hardware appliance? "Because they do slightly different jobs," said Timothy Helming, WatchGuard's director of product management, in defense of the the physical. "For one thing, hardware can accelerate encryption. And if you're using the box for [remote access] tunneling, you want that in hardware."

Appliances also offer the additional security of physical isolation from core networking and virtualization services. "If someone gains access to the hypervisor, that's a problem," he said. And since they're hard-wired, the task of port assignment is greatly simplified, Helming said. "That's a big advantage for our target audience of small and medium businesses."

Though not new, WatchGuard's VPN deployment is among the easiest we've seen. Its drag-and-drop interface can have remote users tunneling faster than Charles Bronson in The Great Escape. This is done through System Manager, WatchGuard's centralized management tool that permits managed service providers to remotely monitor, manage and generate reports for any of their customers' WatchGuard boxes.

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As in prior models, the XTM 8 Series is configured out of the box to stand alone, but with a few mouse clicks can be set to act as the primary, secondary or client node in a cluster. An unlimited number of boxes can be deployed in as cluster nodes for load balancing and failover redundancy, each backing up the others in an N+1 configuration, and all managed from a single (primary) node.

The XTM 8 Series runs cool, but not as quietly as other WatchGuard appliances we've tested. The unit draws about 46 watts, and at its exhaust port blew air at 82 degrees. Pricing for the XTM 8 Series starts at $8,499; it's available now.