Network Security Appliance

I was reading this week’s issue of Information Week magazine. There was a full page advertisement for the SonicWALL NSA 240. It was being hyped as the next generation firewall. The ad claimed it could support 600 Mbps network throughput. The proposition declared this was three times better than similar priced competition. There were a lot of buzzwords in this advertisement. So I thought I would try to digest what the heck they were selling, and determine whether there was any substance to the claims.

The first thing I did was look to the fine print at the bottom of the page. They said their massive throughput was assuming use of their “RFDPI” engine and specialized multi-core processor. Now I did not immediately know what that means. However I assumed that meant you had to pay more for some if not all of these features.

To tell you the truth, I do not think I have heard of SonicWALL before. I did know some of the big competitors they listed like Cisco Systems, Fortinet, and Juniper Networks. The ad stated that it provided full network protection without compromising performance. It was in the sales text that I found out that NSA means Network Security Appliance in this context. That is funny. Everywhere else I thought it mean National Security Agency. Perhaps they chose this acronym on purpose to align with the real NSA.

Here is what I have gathered this box does. It performs antivirus, spy ware, and other intrusion detection activities. I also decoded that RFDPI refers to Reassembly Free Deep Packet Inspection. Once again I cannot be totally sure, but I am hoping this means that they check every single byte that goes through their device. A look at their web site shows they are aligning the NSA 240 to compete against products which cost between $1000 and $2000. Unfortunately I could not find their price listed anywhere.

Well I am going to be honest here. It is going to take a while to further digest how good this box does its job. At least I found out that SonicWALL was founded in 1991, and employs over 700 people. They appear to be a real company. I am not sure, but I believe their headquarters is in Sunnyvale, CA. Shortly I shall also inspect competitor products like the FG100A, the SSG 20 Extended, the UTM-1 Edge, the X55e, and the ASA 5505. Those are great names, aren’t they? Hopefully I will learn something more about intrusion detection systems by researching this.