100 Days of Cloud — Day 16: Azure Firewall

Its Day 16 of 100 Days of Cloud and todays post is about Azure Firewall.

Firewall …. we’ve covered this before haven’t we? Well, yes in a way. In a previous post, I talked about Network Security Groups and how they can be used to filter traffic in and out of a Subnet or a Network Interface in a Virtual Network.

Azure Firewall v NSG

Azure Firewall is a Microsoft-managed Network Virtual Appliance (NVA). This appliance allows you to centrally create, enforce and monitor network security policies across Azure subscriptions and virtual networks (vNets). An NSG is a layer 3–4 Azure service to control network traffic to and from a vNet.

Unlike Azure Firewall, an NSG can only be associated with subnets or network interfaces within the same subscription of Azure VMs. Azure Firewall can control a much broader range of network traffic. It can filter and analyze L3-L4 traffic, as well as L7 application traffic.

Azure Firewall sits at the subscription level and manages traffic going in and out of the vNet. The NSG is then deployed at the subnet level and network interface. The NSG then manages traffic between subnets and virtual machines.

Azure Firewall Features

Azure Firewall includes the following features:

  • Built-in high availability — so no more need for load balancers.
  • Availability Zones — Azure Firewall can span availability zones for greater availability.
  • Unrestricted cloud scalability — Azure Firewall can scale to accommodate changing traffic flows.
  • Application FQDN filtering rules — You can limit outbound HTTP/S traffic or Azure SQL traffic to a specified list of fully qualified domain names (FQDN) including wild cards
  • Network traffic filtering rules — Allow/Deny Rules
  • FQDN tags — makes it easy for you to allow well-known Azure service network traffic through your firewall.
  • Service tags — groups of IP Addresses.
  • Threat intelligence — can identify malicious IP Addresses or Domains.
  • Outbound SNAT support — All outbound virtual network traffic IP addresses are translated to the Azure Firewall public IP.
  • Inbound DNAT support — Inbound Internet network traffic to your firewall public IP address is translated (Destination Network Address Translation) and filtered to the private IP addresses on your virtual networks.
  • Multiple public IP addresses — You can associate up to 250 Public IPs with your Azure Firewall.
  • Azure Monitor logging — All events are integrated with Azure Monitor.
  • Forced tunneling — route all Internet traffic to a designated next hop.
  • Web categories — lets administrators allow or deny user access to web site categories such as gambling websites, social media websites, and others.
  • Certifications — PCI/SOC/ISO Compliant.

Azure Firewall and NSG in Conjuction
NSGs and Azure Firewall work very well together and are not mutually exclusive or redundant. You typically want to use NSGs when you are protecting network traffic in or out of a subnet. An example would be a subnet that contains VMs that require RDP access (TCP over 3389) from a Jumpbox. Azure Firewall is the solution for filtering traffic to a VNet from the outside. For this reason, it should be deployed in it’s own VNet and isolated from other resources. Azure Firewall is a highly available solution that automatically scales based on its workload. Therefore, it should be in a /26 size subnet to ensure there’s space for additional VMs that are created when it’s scaled out.

A scenario to use both would be a Hub-spoke VNet environment with incoming traffic from the outside. Consider the following diagram:

The above model has Azure Firewall in the Hub VNet which has peered connections to two Spoke VNets. The Spoke Vnets are not directly connected, but their subnets contain a User Defined Route (UDR) that points to the Azure Firewall, which serves as a gateway device. Also, Azure Firewall is public facing and is responsible for protecting inbound and outbound traffic to the VNet. This is where features like Application rules, SNAT and DNaT come in handy.

Conclusion

If you have a simple environment, then NSGs should be sufficient for network protection. However for large scale Production environments, Azure Firewall provides a far greater scale of protection.

Hope you enjoyed this post, until next time!!

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