WatchGuard M500 Appliance Alleviates HTTPS Performance Woes

By Frank Olhorst  |  Posted 2015-02-28 Print this article Print
WatchGuard M500

That man-in-the-middle approach ensures that all HTTPS (or SSL certificate-based traffic) must pass through the device and become subject to the security algorithms employed. This, in turn, creates an environment where DLP, AV, APT protection and other services can function without hindrance.

Initial deployment consists of little more than placing the M500 in an equipment rack and plugging in the appropriate cables. The device defaults to an open mode for outboard connections that allows all outbound traffic to enable administrators to quickly plug it in without much disruption.

On the other hand, inbound traffic will be blocked until policies are defined to handle that traffic. This can potentially cause some disruption to remote workers or external services until the device is configured.

A configuration wizard guides administrators through the steps to set up the basic security features. While the wizard does a decent job of preventing administrators from disrupting connectivity, there are settings that one must be keenly aware of to maintain efficient performance. The wizard also handles some of the more mundane housekeeping tasks, such as installing licenses, subscriptions, network configurations and so on.

To truly appreciate how the Firebox M500 works and to fully comprehend the complexity of the appliance, one must delve into policy creation and definition. Almost everything that the device does is driven by definable policies that require administrators to carefully consider what traffic should be allowed, should be examined and should be blocked.

Defining policies ranges from the simplistic to the very complex. For example, an administrator can define a policy that blocks Web traffic based on content in a few simple steps. All it takes is clicking on policy creation, selecting a set of predefined rules, applying those rules to users/ports/etc. and then clicking off on the types of content that are not allowed (such as botnets, keyloggers, malicious links, fraud, phishing, etc.).

Policy definition can also be hideously complex, such as with HTTPS proxy definition and the associated certificate management. Although the device steps you through much of the configuration, administrators will have to be keenly aware of exceptions that must be white-listed (depending on their business environment), privacy concerns and a plethora of other issues.

That said, complexity is inherent when it comes to controlling that type of traffic, and introducing simplicity would more than likely unintentionally create either false positives or limit full protection.

Naturally, performance is a key concern when dealing with encrypted traffic, and WatchGuard has addressed that concern by leveraging Intel processors, instead of creating custom ASICs to handle the traffic.

Independent performance testing by Miercom Labs shows that WatchGuard made the right choice by choosing CISC-based CPUs instead of taking a RISC approach. Miercom's testing report shows that the M500 is capable of 5,204M bps of throughput with Firewall services enabled.

For environments that will deploy multiple Firebox M500s across different locations, WatchGuard offers the WatchGuard System Manager, which uses templates for centralized management and offers the ability to distribute policies to multiple devices. That eliminates having to manage each M500 individually, beyond initially plugging in the device.

WatchGuard offers a deployment tool called RapidDeploy, which provides the ability to install a preconfigured/predefined image and associated policies on a freshly deployed device. Simply put, all anyone has to do is plug in the appliance and ensure there is connectivity, and an administrator located anywhere can set up the device in a matter of moments. That proves to be an excellent capability for those managing branch offices, remote workers, multiple sites or distributed enterprises.

The M500 starts at a MSRP of $6,190, (including one year of security services in a discounted bundle). APT services for a year add another $1,375, while a year's worth of DLP services adds another $665. The company offers significant discounts for multiyear subscriptions and also supports a vibrant reseller channel.

While the WatchGuard Firebox M500 may not be the easiest security appliance to deploy, it does offer all the features almost any medium enterprise would want. It also offers a solution to one of the most critical pain points faced by network administrators today—keeping systems secure, even when dealing with encrypted traffic.



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