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Juniper SRX 5800: Biggest firewall ever

But tests show issues with security reporting and manageability

By and , Network World
February 23, 2009 12:01 AM ET

Network World - If the Guinness Book of World Records had an entry for "biggest firewall ever," Juniper's new SRX 5800 would certainly qualify.

How we tested Juniper's SRX 5800
Archive of Network World tests
Manageability problems with Juniper's firewall

In our exclusive Clear Choice test, this hulking brute of a machine sped traffic at rates approaching 140Gbps through its 16 10Gigabit Ethernet interfaces, making it by far the largest and fastest firewall we or anyone else has ever tested.

But "biggest" isn't the same as "most capable." For example, enabling intrusion prevention caused forwarding rates to drop to 30Gbps, even when handling only benign traffic.

And there were issues with security policy management. The Network and Security Manager (NSM) appliance Juniper supplied doesn't yet accept security alerts from the SRX. In other words, it's a security management platform that won't say how or even whether the network is under attack.

As a firewall, the SRX/NSM combo is fine, even for managers of the very largest networks. But because of the lack of security alerts and some serious usability drawbacks in the NSM, we can't yet recommend the system as a combined firewall/IPS.

What a chassis

The SRX 5800 is a chassis-based system. Pre-populated with two switch control boards to manage inter-card communications, it's up to the customer to insert I/O cards or Service Processing Cards (SPC) as needed. The I/O cards come in two flavors: four-port 10G Ethernet or 40-port 1-gigabit Ethernet. You can mix and match I/O cards with the SPCs, which handle services such as firewall and intrusion prevention.

While this system is clearly aimed at nonstop environments, Juniper hasn't gotten all of its hot-swap technology in the single-chassis version. You can't insert or remove cards without interrupting traffic flow. Juniper's solution is chassis clustering -- linking two of these monster boxes into a cluster that lets you take a chassis down for maintenance, upgrade or repairs, while still passing traffic.

The SRX's operating system is JunOS through-and-through, with firewall and intrusion prevention features from Juniper's NetScreen acquisition layered on top. If you like managing routers from the command line and have a modest firewall policy, you'll take to the SRX 5800 right away. It's got the JunOS you love, a rock-solid stateful firewall and the fastest performance of any firewall on Earth.

Performance metrics

When Juniper initially told us it would supply its SRX 5600 firewall, a 60-Gbps system, we sized our test bed accordingly. So it was a bit of a surprise when Juniper instead sent the larger SRX 5800, which the vendor's data sheet lists as a 120-Gbps firewall. Both systems support up to 16 10G Ethernet interfaces, but the 5800 offers twice the forwarding capacity – and twice what our test bed could generate in terms of TCP traffic. Juniper populated this chassis with eight of its dual-CPU Service Processing Cards, completely filling the 14-slot chassis.

Although the test bed at Spirent's Sunnyvale SPOC lab offered "only" 80Gbps of TCP traffic for this particular project (using 16 Spirent Avalanche 2900 appliances), we were able to fully exercise the SRX 5800 by offering up to 160Gbps of stateless UDP traffic (using a Spirent TestCenter traffic generator/analyzer). We ran separate sets of TCP and UDP tests, and assessed the system's features and usability.

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