Symantec preps Linux firewall for IBM iSeries

Hardened, seasoned, thickened

ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Symantec will announce this week that it is working with IBM to deliver a hardened firewall which will run within an iSeries Linux partition and provide protection for the iSeries or other connected servers on corporate networks,

Timothy Prickett Morgan writes

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The firewall is a tweaked version of Symantec's Enterprise Firewall for Windows and Solaris servers, and it is expected to be available in the second half of 2002.

OS/400 V5R2 is expected to start shipping at around the same time--notwithstanding recent rumors about IBM's moving up the next-generation iSeries announcements (an announcement is not the same thing as a delivery date, remember). Sources at Symantec say that they are keen on moving into the OS/400 server space, but that there are some significant issues involved with support the open-source Linux operating system.

Because Linux is open source, anybody can, in theory, as well as in practice, go into the very guts of the Linux operating system--its kernel--and make substantial changes. This self-reliance is one of the benefits of using Linux over other operating systems. When it comes to security, however, this is a serious detriment. The reason security programs like Symantec's Enterprise Firewall work is that only Symantec and the operating system vendor have the ability to make changes to the operating system and the way it interacts with the firewall.

This is why Symantec does not support its firewalls on Linux and why it only sells an appliance server version of the Enterprise Firewall to customers who want to run it on Linux. Symantec uses a version of Red Hat Linux 7.1 that runs on an Intel-based server.

Symantec takes the Red Hat Linux, weaves its firewall into it, and "hardens" it. Hardening a piece of software means closing up potential security gaps, applying specific settings that cannot be changed, and restricting how other programs interact with that piece of software. Symantec controls the hardware, software, and firewall, so it can say confidently that it will be secure.

Having done this for its Enterprise Firewall appliance, called VelociRaptor, Symantec is now taking the same approach as it moves into the iSeries market. Rather than just deliver a Linux-version of its firewall that can load into an iSeries Linux partition,

Symantec will ship a hardened version of Red Hat plus its firewall and effectively turn a single iSeries Linux partition into an appliance server, or, in IBM lingo, a Dedicated Firewall Partition (I made that name up). No other application will be allowed in the iSeries Linux partition where the Symantec firewall runs, and customers will load the Red Hat and firewall programs as a single entity. Pricing has not been set for the firewall, and Symantec is not a liberty to say when the Enterprise Firewall for iSeries will be ready. But the company is looking for beta testers for the new iSeries program. You can contact Symantec at www.symantec.com for more information.

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