Palo Alto Networks Updates Platform With New Cloud, SaaS Application Security Features

Palo Alto Networks unveiled multiple new platform features Tuesday -- many of them focused on enhancing the company's platform for cloud and Software-as-a-Service applications.

The additions are part of PAN-OS 7.1, which the company launched at its Ignite 2016 event in Las Vegas this week.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based security vendor lifted the curtain on new Software-as-a-Service security solutions to allow companies to have better visibility, policy and management enforcement, and data flow through the company's Aperture solution. Because of the movement of customers to cloud and SaaS applications, these capabilities are critical, said Frank Mong, senior vice president of Product, Industry and Solutions Marketing.

[Related: Palo Alto Networks Updates Partner Program, Adds New Tier, Certifications And Incentives]

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"We believe our customers have to go to SaaS," Mong told CRN. "They are going in that direction -- they are using a lot of different applications already and that is going to continue."

In particular, Palo Alto Networks extended its capabilities for Office 365, additions that Mong called "game changing" for securing SaaS applications. PAN-OS 7.1 allows for partners and clients to extend policies built for the Office environment into the cloud and Office 365, he said, allowing them to securely enable Office 365 deployments.

Palo Alto Network also boosted its cloud capabilities with the PAN-OS 7.1 release, extending support to Microsoft Azure and Hyper-V, as well as further enhancing the company's support in Amazon Web Services around firewall security and GlobalProtect. Azure support and the new AWS features are expected to roll out in mid-May.

"With this, we essentially support all major cloud, whether it's public or private," said Chris Morosco, product marketing director for data center and cloud security. "It gives customers the investment protection they need and it gives them the ability to choose and migrate where they need to."

For partners, SaaS application and cloud security capabilities are key, Mong said, as they can play a critical role in helping customers transform their environments to the cloud. That is especially true with the new added capabilities around Office 365 and Microsoft Azure, he said.

"Partners are able to help customers go through this transformation," Mong said. "Part of this is forcing the user base to really engage with them in a different way. As customers are forced into this transformation, what will happen to data? How do users interact now that it is hosted somewhere else? We have the ability to secure all of that. … I think that's a big benefit to the customer."

Palo Alto Networks also boosted its threat intelligence capabilities, an area Mong said is increasing in importance as customers need increased automation to respond in an economical way to today's sophisticated and wide-reaching threat landscape. Specifically, the security vendor extended more AutoFocus integrations into the Panorama management platform, increased correlation between Wildfire, AutoFocus and PAN-DB, increased updates to every five minutes, and added support for Mac OS X signatures.

"I think part of the problem for threat intelligence is that it's hard to share or that it isn't accessible to the right people," Mong said. "I think what we've done is make that threat intelligence available to everyone and made it accessible to everyone. … That's going to add a lot of value and show partners they're very aware of the challenges within most of our customers, and their ability to provide value to cut across silos is very valuable."

Finally, Palo Alto Networks added new user credential security features, adding two-factor authentication in GlobalProtect mobile security and helping prevent phishing attacks through WildFire and PAN-DB.

Amy Rao, founder and CEO of Palo Alto, Calif.-based Integrated Archive Systems, has been a Palo Alto Networks partner for about three years. Part of the reason her company has invested so big in its partnership with the security vendor, rising to the company's new Diamond tier, is because of the platform's breadth and threat detection capabilities.

"The breadth of their platform and product line, it's something that every single customer we touch needs to have," Rao said.

The new updates through PAN-OS 7.1 are immediately available to customers already under a support contract.