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Cisco Firepower NGFW Firewall Competitors and Alternatives

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Executive Cyber Security Consultant at a tech services company with 11-50 employees
Top 10
An excellent solution for the right situations and businesses

Pros and Cons

  • "The Palo Alto VM-Series is nice because I can move the firewalls easily."
  • "It has excellent scalability."
  • "The product needs improvement in their Secure Access Service Edge."
  • "They made only a halfhearted attempt to put in DLP (Data Loss Prevention)."
  • "Palo Alto is that it is really bad when it comes to technical support."

What is our primary use case?

Palo Alto VM-Series is something we recommend as a firewall solution in certain situations for clients with particular requirements who have the budget leeway.  

What is most valuable?

The Palo Alto VM-Series is nice because I can move the firewalls easily. For instance, we once went from one cloud provider to another. The nice thing about that situation was that I could just move the VMs almost with a click of a button. It was really convenient and easy and an option that every firewall will not give you.  

What needs improvement?

We would really like to see Palo Alto put an effort into making a real Secure Access Service Edge (SASE). Especially right now where we are seeing companies where everybody is working from home, that becomes an important feature. Before COVID, employees were all sitting in the office at the location and the requirements for firewalls were a different thing.  

$180 billion a year is made on defense contracts. Defense contracts did not stop because of COVID. They just kept going. It is a situation where it seems that no one cared that there was COVID they just had to fulfill the contracts. When people claimed they had to work from home because it was safer for them, they ended up having to prove that they could work from home safely. That became a very interesting situation. Especially when you lack a key element, like the Secure Access Services.  

Palo Alto implemented SASE with Prisma. In my opinion, they made a halfhearted attempt to put in DLP (Data Loss Prevention), those things need to be fixed.  

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using Palo Alto VM-Series for probably around two to three years.  

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

I think the stability of Palo Alto is good — leaning towards very good.  

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Palo Alto does a good job on the scalability. In my opinion, it has excellent scalability.  

How are customer service and technical support?

My experience with Palo Alto is that it is really bad when it comes to technical support. When we have a situation where we have to call them, we should be able to call them up, say, "I have a problem," and they should ask a series of questions to determine the severity and the nature of the problem. If you start with the question "Is the network down?" you are at least approaching prioritizing the call. If it is not down, they should be asking questions to determine how important the issue is. They need to know if it is high, medium, or low priority. Then we can get a callback from the appropriate technician.  

Do you want to know who does the vetting of priority really, well? Cisco. Cisco wins hands down when it comes to support. I do not understand that, for whatever reason, Palo Alto feels that they do not have a need to answer questions, or they just do not want to.  

It is not only that the support does not seem dedicated to resolving issues efficiently. I am a consultant, so I have a lot of clients. When I call up and talk to Palo Alto and ask something  like, "What is the client's password?" That is a general question. Or it might be something even less sensitive like "Can you send me instructions on how to configure [XYZ — whatever that XYZ is]?"  Their response will be something like, "Well, we need your customer number." They could just look it up because they know who I am. Then if I do not know my client's number, I have got to go back to the client and ask them. It is just terribly inefficient. Then depending on the customer number, I might get redirected to talk to Danny over there because I can not talk to Lisa or Ed over here.  

The tedium in the steps to get a simple answer just make it too complicated. When the question is as easy as: "Is the sky sunny in San Diego today?" they should not be worried about your customer representative, your customer number, or a whole bunch of information that they really do not use anyway. They know me, who I am, and the companies I deal with. I have been representing them for seven or eight years. I have a firewall right here, a PA-500. I got it about 11 years ago. They could easily be a lot more efficient.  

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

I have clients whose architecture is configured in a lot of different ways and combinations. I use a lot of different products and make recommendations based on specific situations. For example:  

  • I have one client that actually uses multiple VM-series and then at each one of their physical sites that have the K2-series — or the physical counterpart of the VM-series.  
  • I have other clients that use Fortinet AlarmNet. As a matter of fact, almost all my healthcare providers use Fortinet products.  
  • I have another customer that used to be on F5s and they had had some issues so switched to Fortinet.  
  • I have a couple of holdouts out there that are still using the old Cisco firewalls who refuse to change.  
  • I have a new client that is using a Nokia firewall which is a somewhat unique choice.  

I have a customer that used to be on F5s and they had had some issues. The result of the issue was that they came to me and we did an evaluation of what they really needed. They came in and they said, "We need you to do an evaluation and when you are done with the evaluation, you need to tell us that we need Palo Alto firewalls." I said that was great and I sat down and got to work building the side-by-side comparison of the four firewalls that they wanted to look at. When I was done, just like they wanted the Palo Alto firewall was right there as the first one on the list. They selected the Fortinet firewall instead.  

Nokia is specifically designed to address the LTE (Long Term Evolution, wireless data transmission) threats with faster networks and such. So it is probably not considered to be a mainstream firewall. The client who uses Nokia is a service provider using it on a cellular network. They are a utility and they are using Nokia on a cellular network to protect all their cellular systems and their automated cellular operations. The old Nokia firewalls — the one on frames — was called NetGuard. This client originally had the Palo Alto K-series and they switched over to the Nokia solution. That is my brand new Nokia account. They were not happy with the K-series and I am not sure why.  

The thing about Cisco is nobody is ever going to fire you for buying a Cisco product. It is like the old IBM adage. They just say that it is a Cisco product and that automatically makes it good. What they do not seem to acknowledge is that just because their solution is a Cisco product does not necessarily make it the right solution for them. It is really difficult to tell a customer that they are wrong. I do not want to say that it is difficult to tell them in a polite way — because I am always polite with my customers and I am always pretty straightforward with them. But I have to tell them in a way that is convincing. Sometimes it can be hard to change their mind or it might just be impossible.  

When I refer to Cisco, I mean real Cisco firewalls, not Meraki. Meraki is the biggest problem I think that I deal with. I do not have the network folks manage the Meraki firewalls differently than they manage their physical firewalls. I do not want there to be a difference, or there should be as little difference as possible in how the firewalls are handled. They do have some inherent differences. I try not to let them do stuff on the virtual firewalls that they can not do in the physical firewalls. The reason for that is because in defense-related installations it matters. Anytime you are dealing with defense, the closer I can get to maintaining one configuration, the better off I am. Unless something unique pops up in Panorama, I will not differentiate the setups.  

I say that there are differences because there is a little bit of configuration that inherently has to be different when you are talking about physical and virtual firewalls, but not much. I can sanitize the virtual machine and show the cloud provider that since I was going into a .gov environment or a .gov cloud, that it met all the requirements as stated in the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement. That is huge for our situation. Of course with a cloud provider, you are not going to have a physical firewall. Had we had a physical firewall, that becomes a bit of a chore because you have got to download the configuration file, then you have got to sanitize the configuration. Things like that become a bit of a burden. Having a VM-Series for that purpose makes it much easier.  

I did not mention Sophos in the list. Sophos does a semi-decent job with that too, by the way. The only problem with Sophos is that they are not enterprise-ready, no matter what they say. I have deployed Sophos in enterprises before, and the old Sophos models did very well. The new ones do very poorly. The SG-Series — Sierra Golf — they are rock solid. As long as we keep going with them, our customers love it. It works. I have one client with 15,000 seats. They are running 11 or 12 of them and they have nothing but great things to say about the product. The second you go to the X-Series, they are not up to the task.  

How was the initial setup?

Setting up Palo Alto is relatively quick. But I also have an absolute rockstar on our team for when it comes to Palo Alto installations. When he is setting it up, he knows what he is doing. The only thing he had to really learn was the difference between the VM-Series and the PA-Series.  

I lay out the architecture and I tell people doing the installations exactly what has to be there. I sit down and create the rule sets. Early on, the person actually doing the fingers-on-the-keyboard complained a little saying that the setup was a little bit more complicated than it should have been. I agree, generally speaking. I generally feel that Palo Alto is more complicated than it needs to be and they could make an effort to make the installations easier.  

But, installing Palo Alto is not as bad as installing Cisco. Cisco is either a language that you speak or a language that you do not. I mean, I can sit down and plot the firewall and get the firewall together about 45 minutes with a good set of rules and everything. But that is me and it is because I have experience doing it. Somebody who is not very well-versed in Cisco will take two or three days to do the same thing. It is just absolutely horrid. It is like speaking English. It is a horrid language.  

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

I do not have to do budgets and I am thankful for that. I am just the guy in the chain who tells you what license you are going to need if you choose to go with Palo Alto VM-Series. How they negotiate the license and such is not my department. That is because I do not resell.  

I know what the costs might be and I know it is expensive in comparison to other solutions. I get my licenses from Palo Alto for free because they like me. I have proven to be good to them and good for them. When they have customers that are going to kick them out, I can go in and save the account.  

I will tell you, they do practice something close to price gouging with their pricing model, just like Cisco does. When I can go out and I can get an F5 for less than half of what I pay for Palo Alto, that is a pretty big price jump. An F5 is really a well-regarded firewall. When I can get a firewall that does twice what a Palo Alto does for less than half, that tells me something.  

Sophos decided that they were going to play with the big boys. So what they did is they went in and jacked up all their prices and all their customers are going to start running away now. The model is such that it is actually cheaper to buy a new firewall with a three-year license than it is to renew the Sophos license of the same size firewall for an older product. It sorta does not make sense.  

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

I make recommendations for clients so I have to be familiar with the firewalls that I work with. In essence, I evaluate them all the time.  

I work from home and I have two Cisco firewalls. I have a Fortinet. I have the Palo Alto 500 and I have a Palo Alto 5201. I have a Sophos. My F5 is out on loan. I usually have about eight or nine firewalls on hand. I never go to a client without firing up a firewall that I am going to recommend, testing it, and getting my fingers dirty again to make sure I have it fresh in my mind. I know my firewalls.  

The VM-Series are nice because you can push them into the cloud. The other nice thing is whether you are running a VM-Series or the PA-Series, we can manage it with one console. Not without hiccups, but it works really well. Not only that, we can push other systems out there. For instance, for VMware, we are pushing Prisma out to them. VMware and the Palo Alto VM-Series do really well with Prisma. The issue I have with it is — and this is where Palo Alto and I are going to disagree — they are not as good at SASE (Secure Access Service Edge). I do not care what Palo Alto says. They do a poor job of it and other products do it better.  

Palo Alto claims it is SASE capable, but even Gartner says that it is not. Gartner usually has the opinion that favors those who pay the most, and Palo Alto pays them well. So when Gartner even questions their Secure Access Service Edge, it is an issue. That is one of those places where you want the leader in the field.  

From my hands-on experience, Fortinet's secure access service edge just takes SASE hands down.  

What other advice do I have?

My first lesson when it comes to advice is a rule that I follow. When a new version comes out, we wait a month. If in that month we are not seeing any major complaints or issues with the Palo Alto firewall customer base, then we consider it safe. The client base is usually a pretty good barometer for announcing to the world that Palo Alto upgrades are not ready. When that happens, making the upgrade goes off our list until we hear better news. If we do not see any of those bad experiences, then we do the upgrade. That is the way we treat major revisions. It usually takes about a month, or a month-and-a-half before we commit. Minor revisions, we apply within two weeks.  

I am of the opinion right now that there are some features missing on Palo Alto that may or may not be important to particular organizations. What they have is what you have to look at. Sit down and be sure it is the right solution for what you need to do. I mean, if the organization is a PCI (Payment Card Industry) type service — in other words, they need to follow PCI regulations — Palo Alto works great. It is solid, and you do not have remote users. If you are a Department of Defense type organization, then there are some really strong arguments to look elsewhere. That is one of the few times where Cisco is kind of strong choice and I could make an argument for using them as a solution. That is really bad for me to say because I do not like Cisco firewalls.  

On a scale from one to ten (where one is the worst and ten is the best), I would rate the Palo Alto Networks VM-series as an eight-out-of-ten.  

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
Principal Network and Security Consultant at a comms service provider with 10,001+ employees
Real User
Top 5
Central architecture means we can see an end-to-end picture of attacks

Pros and Cons

  • "Check Point definitely has a great architecture, where you can just enable the software blades and deploy a secure service. Overall, it provides ease of deployment and ease of use."
  • "The area it needs improvement is the SandBlast Agent. It receives a file, or if it detects a Zero-day attack, it takes the file and analyzes it, either on-premise or in the Check Point Cloud, and then it reports back whether the file is secure or non-secure, or is unknown. That particular area definitely needs a bit more improvement, because there is a delay... where it needs improvement is where [SandBlast is] an appliance-based solution rather than a software or cloud-based solution."

What is our primary use case?

I support multiple clients within the UK, the EMEA region, the US, and now in Asia Pacific as well. I specialize in Check Point firewalls. I design and secure their data centers, their on-premises solutions, or their businesses security.

The firewalls are mostly on-premise because most of our clients are financial organizations and they have strict compliance requirements. They feel more secure and have more control when things are on-premise in the data center. However, there are use cases where I have helped them to deploy Check Point solutions in the cloud: AWS, Azure, and in Google as well. But cloud deployments are very much in the early stages for these clients, on a development or testing basis. Most of the production workloads are still on-premise in data centers.

Most of my customers are still using R77.30, and they are on track to upgrade from that to R80, which is the current proposed version by Check Point.

How has it helped my organization?

One of our customers has just recently been attacked by malware and internal DoS attacks, and they have a multi-vendor, multi-layer firewall approach. The internal firewalls are Check Point. The great thing about Check Point is that because of its central architecture, you can very quickly pinpoint where the attacks are coming from. It gives you comprehensive reporting when the attacks start and when they've stopped, so you can see the complete, end-to-end picture: where the point of attack is, at what time, and what host. They can track all of that.

However, in parallel, that customer is using other firewalls which have no visibility. One of the main advantages of having Check Point firewall is definitely that it gives you absolute in-depth visibility.

What is most valuable?

Among the valuable features are antivirus, URL inspection, and anti-malware protection. These are all advanced features.

One of the great advantages of having Check Point as a firewall is that all of these are software blades, so you can buy a license or subscription and enable them and get the security up and running. With other firewalls, it's a completely different agenda, meaning some of them require hardware modules, and some of them have a complex way of adding the licensing, etc. Check Point definitely has a great architecture, where you can just enable the software blades and deploy a secure service. Overall, it provides ease of deployment and ease of use.

What needs improvement?

The area it needs improvement is the SandBlast Agent. It receives a file, or if it detects a Zero-day attack, it takes the file and analyzes it, either on-premise or in the Check Point Cloud, and then it reports back whether the file is secure or non-secure, or is unknown. That particular area definitely needs a bit more improvement, because there is a delay. That's one of the main complaints for most of our customers. Or if it is quick, then it's very complex. For example, if they have received a file which is "unknown" or has Zero-day attack malware, sometimes it doesn't get analyzed properly or it's locked into the cloud. So there are various small issues with the product that need possible improvement.

The SandBlast product on its own is a very good concept, and it works absolutely brilliantly. However, when you integrate it with existing firewalls, it just doesn't play very well.

The cloud solution is quite straightforward because it seems the SandBlast solution was designed, initially, for cloud deployments, where you've got multiple clouds or multiple vendors, and you are receiving files from different points. And on the cloud edge, for example in AWS, if you have Check Point sitting there, it works very well if you're running a virtual firewall. However, if it's on-premise and it's a dedicated appliance, then the performance is slightly different and the way it works is very different. So where it needs improvement is where it's an appliance-based solution rather than a software or cloud-based solution.

If I am using SandBlast on a virtual appliance — for example, I've got Check Point virtual appliances in AWS, and Azure as well, for a customer — those virtual appliances work absolutely fine as a service, as does SandBlast as a service. However, if it's an appliance, if it's a dedicated firewall on-premise in a data center and you add SandBlast as a software service, the integration is not that straightforward, so the experience is very different. 

It seems like they were possibly built by different teams, independent of each other.

For how long have I used the solution?

I've been using Check Point firewalls for about 16 years. I am the main network or security lead and I have four other engineers who report to me. They also do design and deployment.

I work with approximately 40 companies that utilize Check Point.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Check Point firewalls are very stable. One good thing about Check Point is that they do rigorous testing internally before releasing updates, which is something I have not found with any other firewall products. With most of the other firewall products, when they release something, it's like the customer becomes the guinea pig for that particular version, whether a minor or a major update. However, with Check Point, you can see all the white papers and what ways they have tested a minor or major upgrade of the software version, and what the performance was like. What are their known issues and is somebody working on them or not?

So the software releases are very stable and you have visibility into how they operate and what the known issues are, so you know whether you should go ahead with them or not. And in case there is a problem, the support is excellent. You can reach out to Check Point and say, "Look, I've done the software upgrade and I'm experiencing these problems. How can I deal with them?" They are there to help you out.

There are times when we have problems in terms of software or hardware defects. We have sustained downtime, but most of the architecture I design is resilient, so if one device is down, the other one is working fine. Then in the background, I or my support team will deal with Check Point directly, to get a replacement. They're definitely quick to respond and very efficient. 

In the past, we had a lot of problems with licensing, specifically, but Check Point has redone the whole way they do licensing. It's very quick now, and very efficient.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Check Point firewalls are extremely scalable. Recently, I deployed Check Point in an AWS cloud solution for one of my clients, and it's been absolutely excellent in handling growth. They've grown from 10,000 users to a million users. The way Check Point has advertised the product, it is supposed to be highly scalable, which means it grows as your demand grows, and that has been the case. 

Recently we have set up a test case where we are moving over management servers from on-premise to a Check Point-provided Infinity cloud solution. We are still at the testing phase but, overall, it's been a great experience so far.

How are customer service and technical support?

The teams we deal with within Check Point are extremely knowledgeable. They know how to understand the background of the problem, and they're very good about articulating how we deal with the issue, whether it's a minor software upgrade issue or it's a major failure of the hardware itself. They know where to look for the right stuff. The key point is they're very knowledgeable and very technical. And if somebody doesn't have the technical capability, they will definitely help you out to make sure you get to the bottom of the problem.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

In the past, most of the customers I've worked with have used different firewall vendors, such as Cisco, Palo Alto, and Juniper.

I've recently seen deployments where customers have tried to move from Cisco ASA to Cisco Firepower and the deployment has gone horribly wrong because the product has not been tested by Cisco very well and is not a mature product. I've gone in and reviewed their business requirements and technical requirements and, based on that, I've recommended Check Point and done the design and deployment. They've absolutely been happy with the solution, how secure and how capable it is.

We use Check Point across multiple types of customers, such as financials, retail, and various other public and private sector organizations. I review their security architecture, which is firewall specific and, based on that, I have recommended Check Point. In most cases, I've managed to convince them to go ahead with Check Point firewalls as a preferred secure firewall solution.

The main reason is that Check Point is far ahead in the game. They're definitely the market leader. They are visionaries when it comes to security. Another reason is that a lot of firewall architecture starts from the firewall itself, which is the local firewall. It can easily be hacked and manipulated. However, the Check Point architecture, out-of-the-box, is very secure. They have a central Management Server and all of the firewalls are managed through that one central point. So in case somebody breaks into your firewall, the firewall is encrypted; they will delete the database. The architecture is secure by default. The good thing is that other firewall vendors have realized this and they've started to copy the same system that Check Point has used for the past 20 years now.

How was the initial setup?

When working with the Check Point team on deployment, they're really helpful and very talented people. When you speak to other firewall vendors, they just think about the firewall from their point of view. The good thing about Check Point engineers, or technical staff, or even management staff, is that they understand what the requirements of business are and how they can improve or align the proposed solution. Overall, Check Point staff are very knowledgeable, they understand different industries, and they understand the product very well. That's definitely a competitive edge compared to other firewalls.

Once the design is done, for something simple the deployment can take half a day, whereas for a complex deployment in a data center it can take about five days.

Our implementation plan is divided into different phases. Phase One might be the physical cabling of the firewall device itself. Phase Two would be the logical setup, which means defining the interfaces and the virtual setup of the firewall itself. The final phase would be to bring it online in parallel with production, in a non-prod service, and test it to ensure it works as per the design.

What was our ROI?

A customer I'm working with right now was running with Check Point and they wanted to move to Fortinet firewalls. However, when I worked with them on the design to upgrade the existing Check Point firewalls, what we worked out was that even though the Fortinet might have seemed like a cheaper option, it didn't have the security capabilities that Check Point is offering. On that basis, the customer signed off on a project for upgrading their existing firewalls, on-premise and cloud, from R77.30 to R80.10.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

It can be expensive, but it's value for money. What you pay for is what you get. You can go down in price and buy some cheap firewalls, but you're not going to get great support and you're not going to get the level of protection you need. With Check Point you get all of that.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

With Juniper, one of the biggest downsides is support. The support portal is slow and I won't say the staff is competent in terms of understanding. They're very disconnected internally. What I mean is that the team working on the software development of the firewall has no interface with the support teams that are handling day-to-day TAC cases. They definitely struggle when it comes to understanding challenges, problems, and incidents with the firewalls.

In the past, Juniper firewalls were good, but recently the security offering has just not been there. They don't have anything like SandBlast from Check Point. They don't have up-to-date Zero-day attacks control. They're still running a very old architecture. They can do things like antivirus and URL proxy, but those are very simple features. They have none of the advanced feature set that Check Point has.

Palo Alto is very competitive with Check Point when it comes to security. However, one of the challenges with Palo Alto is that, overall, the solution can be extremely complex and expensive. That is one thing I've heard from customers again and again. Either they have existing Palo Altos or they plan to go to Palo Alto, but when they do a comparison with Check Point, what they find is that the overall value with Check Point is much greater than with Palo Alto firewalls.

What other advice do I have?

If you're looking to implement Check Point as a security solution, definitely do your homework. Do some research, not just in terms of firewalls, but overall security architecture. Which ones are the leaders in the field? Which ones are there to deliver what they promise? And overall, how does the architecture work? Is it secure or not? And does it come from a team that understands how to support the solution itself? Are they consistent? Look at their track record for the past 10 or 15 years, or are they a new player? If they are, you don't know whether they're going to stay in the game or not. A good thing about Check Point is that its core product is security. They've been doing it day in and day out. You know they're there to stay in the game. You can trust them.

Check Point is a proven solution. A lot of customers and clients already rely on it. And for the Next Generation Firewalls, they're coming up with new features as security threats become known.

If somebody wants a secure and stable environment, Check Point is definitely the leader to go to; definitely the number-one choice. It's not only what it says on the box. In reality, I've worked with hundreds of banks and they're happy with the product because it works; in practice, it works. That's the main thing.

Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
Virtual CIO/ CISO at Kyber Security
Real User
Top 20
Easy to implement, fairly stable, and supports SSL-DPI

Pros and Cons

    • "From a support perspective, if we're talking tech support I think Silver Partners, Gold Partners, Platinum, whatever level, should have a different number to call. End users can call tech support over at SonicWall if they've paid for support as part of their AGSS or whatever services they bought. The end-user can call, or we can call, however, I don't want to be calling the same line that an end user's calling. I don't want the same response time. I need a different level of expertise."

    What is most valuable?

    Once we moved the units up to the Gen 6 platform, they could support SSL-DPI. We are huge fans of the DPI. That piece is incredibly easy to implement. I'd say probably the most powerful thing about the solution is that coupled with the captured functionality. 

    What needs improvement?

    We've turned the SSL inspection on, and it is a nightmare. It doesn't mean it doesn't work, but it will turn your world upside down for weeks until you tune it and get it right. That's an across the board problem. It's not just TZ. That's TZ's, NSA's, etc. Wherever you're using their implementation of SSL, where you've got to implement a certificate on every machine. Once you even get past that it's still going to be particular and finicky. Banking sites are driven crazy by it every time we turn it on.

    It is trying to lock down outbound traffic so tightly that you get to sites that are already very security conscious. It's just a battle to get the traffic through. Intentional traffic, the traffic you want to get through, seems to be a problem. It will stop almost everything. Too much in fact. I understand the concept. It's just a little threatening. We just had a client sign off on a 6650. Then we send them a scope of work for implementing it. We specifically put a note in there in enormous bold type: "Note does not include SSL-DPI implementation". That is additional. The client responded that  "That's the one piece I wanted you guys to do. I'm scared of it."

    He said, "We're scared of it," and I told him, "We're scared of it too." I said, "I don't know how long it's going to take. And it's going to turn your universe upside down for a week to 10 days to maybe two weeks." He said that he heard that this would be the case. 

    My fear is that the client thinks that we'll say it will take four hours and then, when it turns into 40, try to make us give them the submission for free. 

    Even tiny environments, for example, 10 user environments, once you turn it on, you will spend days tuning it. The last one we did took us 22 hours to get it perfect. We learned our lesson. We slotted in four to eight hours to do it and it took us 16 to 20.

    From a support perspective, if we're talking tech support I think Silver Partners, Gold Partners, Platinum, whatever level, should have a different number to call. End users can call tech support over at SonicWall if they've paid for support as part of their AGSS or whatever services they bought. The end-user can call, or we can call, however, I don't want to be calling the same line that an end user's calling. I don't want the same response time. I need a different level of expertise.

    For how long have I used the solution?

    We've been a SonicWall dealer for 21 years approximately. We've been handling the solution since 1999. I personally didn't start using the solution until 2004.

    What do I think about the stability of the solution?

    Once you get past all the configuration issues, If you are on a rock-solid GA (Generally Available firmware), I don't know if I want to say it's bulletproof, however, the stability is really, really good. I don't sit and worry, thinking, "Oh, God. We know another one's going to fail today." We never think that way about that type of stuff. It's the odd time where we might get hardware failures or random reboots. We've had a couple of SMA units go sideways. Even SonicWall couldn't solve the problem. However, that said, it's rare.

    What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

    There's a couple of different ways to answer the question of scalability. They've built the TZ line wide enough so that we've got enough of a selection to be able to fit most bandwidth and user count situations. It's never going to fit everybody and it's not meant to. It shouldn't. It is a little challenging to try to get one of the boxes to do full wire speed. I'm not so sure inside that box, at the price point, you're going to solve that problem.

    That's why we sold the 6650. One client has got a one gig fiber line and they're in a school. On an NSA 3600, he can't get over 400 on it. I told him he never would. Some days I'd be surprised to get 400, depending on the user count. The TZ lineup is pretty good, however, I'm not so sure I'd use the word scalable. 

    If what we mean by scalable is, "oh, well, I buy a 300 and I buy it for 10 users, but I can scale up to 30 users with that box," the answer to that is no you can't. If you ask "could I scale up to 25 users and move to 200 or 300 or 400 meg?" You can't. We've got somebody in that situation right now and we're quoting a box replacement because it just can't scale that way.

    You can't necessarily scale on the appliance. You've got to get the right size. That's the easiest way to scale. If it's the right-sized appliance for the environment with some headroom then I think most situations users are going to be fine. There's going to be some issues where somebody cheaps out. For example, we worked with a law firm. They bought a TZ 300 because they didn't want to spend the money for the 500. Now they're going to have to spend the money for the 500 anyway because they need to scale up. 

    How are customer service and technical support?

    I don't think they really separate support from line to line. Maybe if you get all the way up into supermassive issues they do. Between NSA and TZ, it's the same level of service that you get on the other end of the phone. To be quite honest, level one support is not sparkling. Level two is usually really good. Level three is usually a combination. You get to level three, and you're almost talking to development or a combination of a crew that's dealing with development and senior technical expertise. Those guys rarely fail us.

    That's a typical support story. The level one guys will read the scripts and don't necessarily fix anything. We've already run through level one through three on our end with my staff. If they can't fix it, talking to a level one script reader is definitely not going to get it fixed. You should be able to bypass those guys if you're a reseller and a long-standing Silver Partner, like we are.

    Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

    We've also used Cisco previously. A while back, we used to have Cisco as our primary choice, with SonicWall being our second. That changed when I came to the company in 2004, where SonicWall became our solution of choice. We've got 400 or 500 firewalls out there and we don't plan on changing over to anything else.

    What other advice do I have?

    We're a Silver Partner.

    I'm not an engineer. I was a field engineer for nine years a long, long time ago. However, I'm not typically the one that gets my fingers into stuff, and it would be my engineering and senior engineering staff that do that. That said, I can say that I don't think any of our guys have touched the virtual platform yet.

    We use TZ and traditional NSA tech every day. That's our bread and butter.

    The current version we're using right now is the 600 series, although we do still have some 350 series. 90% of what we use are Gen 6. They're either TZ 300, 400, 500, 600 or NSA 2600, 3600, 4600. 

    We've got a smattering of 2650s that we've rolled out, which have been really, really good. Those are powerful units.

    I'd rate the solution eight out of ten. It doesn't warrant more than that. There's plenty of products I'd give a five to out there, however, for the quality of the product offering, I think an eight is a fair mark.

    Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Partner
    Network Administrator at a real estate/law firm with 201-500 employees
    Real User
    Top 20
    Handles all of our network traffic without impacting performance

    Pros and Cons

    • "The machine learning in the core of the firewalls, for inline, real-time attack prevention, is very important to us. With the malware and ransomware threats that are out there, to keep abreast of and ahead of those types of attacks, it's important for our devices to be able to use AI to distinguish when there is malicious traffic or abnormal traffic within our environment, and then notify us."
    • "The SD-WAN product is fairly new. They could probably improve that in terms of customizing it and making the configuration a little bit easier."

    What is our primary use case?

    We use them to do quite a bit of URL filtering, threat prevention, and we also use GlobalProtect. And application visibility is huge for us. Rather than having to do port-based firewalling, we're able to take it to an application level.

    How has it helped my organization?

    We have quite a number of security pieces that are implemented for our network, such as a DNS piece, although we're not using Palo Alto for that purpose. But with that, in line with our seam, we're able to better distinguish what normal traffic looks like versus what a potential threat would look like. That's how we're leveraging the NG Firewalls. Also, we have separated the network for our databases and we only allow specific users or specific applications to communicate with them. They're not using the traditional port base, they're using application-aware ports to make sure that the traffic that has come in is what it says it is.

    Machine learning in Palo Alto's firewalls, for securing networks against threats that are able to evolve and morph rapidly, has helped us out significantly, in implementation with different security software and processes. The combination allows our security analysts to determine the type of traffic that is flowing through our network and to our devices. We're able to collect the logs that Palo Alto generates to determine if there's any type of intrusion in our network.

    What is most valuable?

    The machine learning in the core of the firewalls, for inline, real-time attack prevention, is very important to us. With the malware and ransomware threats that are out there, to keep abreast of and ahead of those types of attacks, it's important for our devices to be able to use AI to distinguish when there is malicious traffic or abnormal traffic within our environment, and then notify us.

    The fact that in the NSS Labs Test Report from July 2019 about Palo Alto NG Firewalls, 100 percent of the evasions were blocked, is very important to us. 

    What needs improvement?

    The SD-WAN product is fairly new. They could probably improve that in terms of customizing it and making the configuration a little bit easier.

    For how long have I used the solution?

    I've been using Palo Alto NG Firewalls for about five years.

    What do I think about the stability of the solution?

    The firewalls are very stable. We've had no issues with downtime.

    What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

    They're very scalable. Because we use Panorama, we're able to have global firewall rules for areas that we want to block, across the network, for security reasons. We just push those down to all the devices in one shot.

    Our corporate site has about 500 users, and our 14 remote sites, because they're retail, usually have anywhere from five to 10 users each.

    How are customer service and technical support?

    Their support is generally very knowledgeable. Sometimes it depends though on who you get, but they've always addressed our issues in a timely manner.

    Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

    We were using older versions of Palo Alto's firewalls and we also had Cisco firewalls in our environment.

    How was the initial setup?

    For our remote stores we're able to use Panorama, along with Palo Alto's Zero Touch Provisioning hardware. Once a device is connected to the internet and can communicate back to our Panorama, it just pulls the configurations. That means it's very easy to deploy.

    It took about two to three months to deploy about 14 sites. That wasn't because we were having issues, it was just the way we scheduled the deployment, because we had to bring down different entities and had to schedule them accordingly with a maintenance window. But if it wasn't for that scheduling, within a week we could have deployed all of the remote sites.

    For our implementation strategy, at our corporate site we had both old and new firewalls sitting side by side on the network. As we went to a remote site we would take them from their legacy Cisco and cut them over to the new firewall. Once that was done, we moved all of the firewall rules that were on the old firewall over to the new one.

    When it comes to maintenance and administration of the firewalls, my team of five people is responsible. We have a network architect, a network specialist, two senior network specialists, and a security manager.

    What about the implementation team?

    We did it by ourselves. We have a certified Palo Alto engineer on staff and he did all the installation.

    What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

    Definitely look into a multi-year license, as opposed to a single-year. That will definitely be more beneficial in terms of cost. We went with five-year licenses. After looking at the overall costs, we calculate that we're only paying for four years, because it works out such that the last year is negligible. If we were to be billed yearly, the last year's costs would be a lot more. With the five-year plan we're saving about a year's worth of licenses.

    Based on the quantity of devices we purchased, we found that the hardware price was actually cheaper than most of the other vendors out there.

    If a colleague at another company were to say, "We are just looking for the cheapest and fastest firewall," given my experience with Palo Alto's NG Firewalls, my answer would depend on the size of the company and how much traffic they're going to be generating. Palo Alto is definitely not the cheapest, but if you scale it the right way it will be very comparable to what's out there.

    Which other solutions did I evaluate?

    One of the things we like about Palo Alto is the fact that the hardware appliances we have are not impacted in terms of resources. The CPU and memory stay low, so we don't have a bottleneck where it's trying to process a whole bunch of traffic and things are slow. We were looking at various brands because we were going from older hardware to newer, and we wanted to evaluate what the other vendors were doing. After that evaluation, we were comfortable that Palo Alto would be able to handle all of our network traffic without impacting performance.

    We looked at Fortinet and Cisco. Cisco is a bit pricey when compared to our Palo Altos. Fortinet was definitely cheaper, but we were skeptical about their performance when we bundled all of the features that we wanted. We didn't think it was going to be fast enough to handle the network traffic that we were generating across the board. We believe Cisco would have handled our traffic, but their next-gen platform, along with SD-WAN, required us to have two separate devices. It wasn't something that would have been on one platform. That's probably why we didn't go down that road.

    Part of what we considered when we were looking around was how familiar we were with the technology. That was also a big area for us. Most of the guys on our team were pretty familiar with Cisco and Palo Alto devices. They weren't too familiar with Fortinet or Check Point. We narrowed it down based on if we had a security breach, how easy would it be for us to start gathering information, remediating and troubleshooting, and looking at the origin of the threat. We looked at that versus having to call support because we weren't too familiar with a particular product. That was huge for us when we were doing the evaluation of these products.

    What other advice do I have?

    Other than the SD-WAN, everything else has been functioning like our previous setup because it's a pretty similar license. The way that the new hardware handles URL filtering, threat protection, and GlobalProtect has been pretty solid. I don't have any issues with those.

    Overall, I would rate Palo Alto NG Firewalls at nine out of 10. It's definitely not the cheapest product out there. Cost is the main reason I wouldn't put it at a 10.

    Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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    Oscar Bashford
    Network Operations Support at EOS IT Management Solutions Ltd
    Top 10
    Fast with good usability and fairly scalable

    Pros and Cons

    • "I'm told the solution is the fastest, and, so far, I do find that to be the case."
    • "It could use more tutorials."

    What is our primary use case?

    I primarily use the solution for experimentation. I just wanted to create a site to site VPN. I was hoping that you can make the SRX like a hub, so if I had a site here and then I had a new site, I could just create another VPN from that new site to the virtual X in the cloud. I don't know if it works like that. I'm skeptical if it can. Maybe there is a roundabout with the actual Azure AWS, however, I'm not so sure about that part. That's why I'm learning about Azure, and how that works in connecting to the cloud.

    What is most valuable?

    I'm told the solution is the fastest, and, so far, I do find that to be the case. 

    I'm familiar with the solution, so I'm pretty comfortable with the processes. There's pretty good usability.

    What needs improvement?

    Largely the solution seems fine to me.

    It could use more tutorials.

    I think there's a step missing or the use cases are missing information. I'm not sure why you have to connect from the descendant to another SRX. The why part, why would I do that and what's practical, is not really answered in any documentation I have access to. At my last job, we used to hook up a VPN to the data center, and then at each site we would have a device connecting to that data center. Now that project is not 100% right now, I'm still wondering if I were to go and do that project, how would I do it? Should I make it cloud-based?

    If I want to use it virtually in the cloud as a hub, I want to see if that's possible, and, if it's possible, they should have documentation on that.

    I looked at the config. I played around with the config and then I say, "Okay, I see what they're doing, with the actual Azure part, and yet, on AWS, I'm having the same problem." It's something to do with the public IP. It's only functioning on the management side, on the virtual firewall. I can't get the other side, the other network interface to connect out. I don't have a connection out technically. I could ping, but through management and that's not how it's supposed to work. It's just through the management. I'm not seeing the departments.

    For how long have I used the solution?

    I haven't been using the solution for that long. Basically it's just this year. I've been tinkering with it since March.

    What do I think about the stability of the solution?

    The solution is stable. It seemed very good. I'm just trying to learn everything right now, however, from what I've experienced, I'd say it's reliable.

    What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

    Scalability is very good. I'm not an expert yet, however, I would recommend it to anybody who needs to expand.

    There's hundreds, if not thousands, or users on the solution currently.

    How are customer service and technical support?

    I believe there is something on Amazon and you can ask questions about the solution. I was trying to go through something like that, and maybe they can help. I didn't really follow through, due to the fact that I didn't get an email, so I don't know who could contact me. With Azure, I didn't really go that far in depth.

    Mostly I just do my own research and try to troubleshoot issues on my own. I'm figuring out everything from scratch.

    Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

    I'm kind of familiar with ASA firewalls from Cisco. I've worked with SonicWall a lot and Pablo Alto a little bit, however, I'm not 100% familiar with it. I've worked on it, but not every day. For Palo Alto, I just worked on it once. I know the interface. I know some other firewalls as well, however, I don't think they need to be mentioned, as they're not that popular. ASA firewall, I would say, is the most popular one.

    How was the initial setup?

    At first the implementation was straightforward. I got around quickly. I was able to, after a week, feel like I had the hang of everything. I can move around in Azure and AWS. That said, it's just the part with the elastic IP. I don't know if it's a Juniper issue or it's on there and there's another connection, and that's the part I'm not getting.

    I was able to deploy the solution in days. It's just getting it to work properly, however. In that sense, it took weeks, or, at least a week and a half. I had to say "Okay, let me give up this for now" before I really got anywhere.

    There isn't really maintenance per se. It's just running. There's 24/7 support. When it goes down, I guess, we're there.

    What about the implementation team?

    I did the implementation myself, however, I have a lot of tutorials and documentation on hand. I use YouTube as well. I even got Pluralsight the other day. I have IME. I have CBT Nuggets. Anything I can use to find out more about the product I will look at. What has really helped me was I got a lot of PDF files from Juniper and it had some stuff about AWS.

    Which other solutions did I evaluate?

    I would say this solution was the default selection, however, I know that ASA is up there too. That said, the virtual SRX is what's most popular now.

    What other advice do I have?

    Our organization is partners with Juniper. We have a business relationship with them.

    At work I see it a lot, however, a lot of tasks are automated at work. It's not like you have hands-on from scratch experience. In my position, I'm doing more support or some automation to build the VRX or the virtuals needed for lab equipment. At home and in the labs I am able to learn from scratch, and I'm trying to connect VPNs, etc. I am hoping to get into the cloud in the future.

    The version of the solution we use should be the latest. I downloaded it a couple of months ago. It should be the latest, due to the fact that I have a virtual that's a trial. I get it through the partnership through my job. The virtual that I've got is on AWS. Azure is the recommended platform.

    I'd recommend the solution. I'd rate it ten out of ten.

    Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

    Public Cloud

    If public cloud, private cloud, or hybrid cloud, which cloud provider do you use?

    Amazon Web Services (AWS)
    Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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