Not Dead Yet - The Evolution of the Data Center

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The ever-evolving business needs of today’s organizations and their work-from-anywhere (WFA) hybrid workforces are compelling IT leadership to redesign their networks. It is clear that network architectures must be agile to meet all traditional and new business needs. Because of this evolution, changes to the status quo are inevitable.

Physical, virtual, and cloud infrastructures are converging and changing the nature of on-premises data centers. Some even believe this trend toward hybrid networks spells the end of the data center as well as traditional data center security—but they aren’t dead yet.

Adapt and Scale

Data center firewalls are still relevant. They are not instantly obsolete when cloud-distributed application delivery is added to data center infrastructures. These existing firewalls can be maintained to support traditional inbound data flow patterns and residual outbound connections from users that are on-site. However, IT leaders must be sure the traditional firewalls can adapt and scale as their data centers and networks evolve and grow.

Currently, the best data center firewalls prevent threats from traveling between the data center and the rest of the network, including campus, branch, multi-cloud, and remote user locations. Organizations require data center firewalls that are robust and capable of protecting the rapid transfer of high volumes of traffic via business-critical applications.

Beyond the Data Center

The increase of cloud and computing along with the exponential growth of data and the requirement for more responsive applications means data creation and storage must be nearer to where it’s generated and further from the traditional data center. Also, business applications can now reside in any environment.

The new method of distributing critical resources adds security risks and compounds operational complexity. It can result in misconfigurations, inconsistent policy enforcement, and lost visibility as apps and data move across the network. The securing of applications as they travel into, within, and across clouds and on-premises locations demands a new approach that natively integrates and extends data center and cloud securitysolutions across hybrid physical and virtual environments—including all major cloud platforms and technologies. 

Combining Security Systems

Consistent security policy distribution and enforcement, centralized management, and comprehensive protection can be achieved by combining disparate security systems into a single, cohesive solution.

Complexity can be significantly reduced, and the network agility, security, and response increased by incorporating infrastructure into a single IT operational model. The key component of such a system is the data center firewall that safeguards vital applications, data, and workloads that can’t be moved to the cloud but still need to be used by staff, clients, and partners.

Safeguarding the Network

It’s no surprise to find that cybercrime is also evolving and becoming more sophisticated. Expanding attack surfaces are inviting attackers to exploit the existing and newly created vulnerabilities. The best defense against cybercriminal incursions is to fortify all attack vectors and tactics with consistent, up-to-date protection.

CISOs and IT leadership can do everything they can to prevent threats from breaching edge defenses. However, it’s just a matter of time before an attack and a breach will take place. Therefore, it is essential to have a system designed to immediately detect and minimize business disruptions. By consolidating technologies and use cases into a simplified, single policy and management framework, organizations have expanded visibility and control—and reduced risk and cost via early detection and response.

A unified security and management framework must span all form factors and edges to support hybrid environments in a consistent and coordinated way. This also simplifies operations, helping to address the current IT and security skills shortage. Today, most organizations don’t have the experienced IT people and financial resources to adequately protect themselves. To address these shortages, IT teams must employ intuitive automation, simplified management, and coordinated responses.

Simplifying Ops with Centralized Management

Defending your hybrid network starts with a next-generation firewall (NGFW) designed specifically for the data center, however, it cannot operate in a silo. It needs to be part of a centralized security management solution that can automatically detect, defend, and respond to sophisticated threats. NGFWs enable your NetOps team to handle network anomalies in heterogeneous and distributed networks.

NGFWs also allow your SecOps team to automatically launch coordinated responses to threats—a key feature for self-healing network operations. With end-to-end monitoring across domains and coupling that data with advanced machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) systems, IT security teams can quickly cut through numerous alerts to find and respond to critical ones early in the attack chain—before they can impact an organization.

Centralized management also:

  • Delivers consistent and automated security policy across an expanded network ecosystem, which is essential to building a robust and scalable security posture
  • Simplifies operations, enabling a comprehensive security framework that can span and adapt to a hybrid network to protect all network edges
  • Eliminates the manual operations that increase the likelihood of missing critical events because operators cannot hand-correlate data fast enough to detect an attack and launch an effective response
  • Uses a single-pane-of-glass to enable automation and orchestration across the cybersecurity mesh architecture and simplify enterprise-wide workflows
  • Provides SOC and NOC teams with a unified view across security, networking, and user experience combined with native automation for operation optimization


On-premises data centers will continue to play a vital role in new infrastructure. However, security risks are growing because applications can live anywhere—from the data center to multi-cloud to edge compute environments. Unfortunately, most legacy firewalls protecting the traditional data center cannot keep up with exponentially growing performance demands or adequately protect new hybrid environments.

To protect today’s highly dynamic application journey, organizations need data center and cloud security solutions like NGFWs that can be natively integrated across major cloud platforms and technologies, including hybrid and multi-cloud environments.

Learn how Fortinet can provide consistent security with and how FortiGate NGFWs can deliver industry-leading enterprise security for any edge at any scale.


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