The perimeter is disappearing. There really is little or no argument on that score. So if the perimeter is going away, how does one defend a perimeter that no longer exists? The answer is philosophically simple even if it is not quite so easy to implement. The perimeter has become virtual. Not just in the sense of a formal virtual environment – a software-defined data center or the cloud, for example – but in the sense that the perimeter still exists, just not as the formal demarcation to which we have become accustomed.

With that in mind, one might go out on a bit of a limb and state that the perimeter is a device-specific thing. Every server, workstation or mobile device – whether in physical space or in cloud space – has its own perimeter. The overall enterprise perimeter now becomes defined, not just by where you put the firewall, but by the policy that controls all of the individual device perimeters. That – sort of – is the approach taken by our two Innovators in the perimeter defense space.

...the perimeter is a device-specific thing.

You will note that this year we have not included any of the traditional firewall or gateway products in this section. That is because we see the entire issue of the perimeter changing rapidly and we wanted to look for the most forward-thinking Innovators. Does that mean that we believe that the firewall is doomed? Certainly not (although that has been a topic of discussion for quite a while in security circles). What we believe is that the roles of traditional devices – such as firewalls, gateways and IPSs – are due for a change as the perimeter becomes less and less easily definable.

With that said, the Innovators in this space will need to take either (or both) of two approaches: deal with the policy-defined virtual perimeter, and/or redefine the roles of their traditional products to accommodate the emerging network architecture of the future. Our two Innovators have looked closely at the problem and their solutions to the challenge of protecting a disappearing perimeter are what attracted us to them this year. We believe that they are headed in the right direction – although it seems that we never are, actually “there."  It doesn't hurt to try to complete the journey though.