Five tech sectors staring into the abyss

The end is nigh for some areas of the tech industry. We look at which ones could be six feet under in the not too distant future.

Back in the 1990s, the firewall was being touted as the answer to all our security problems. It's clear now that our belief in the technology as an effective protector of the corporate network was somewhat misguided.

Whilst they remain semi-useful, standard firewalls simply cannot protect against the myriad threats that organisations face today.

"The type of threats we are seeing around at the moment are not hindered by the firewall at all," Mark James, technical manager at ESET UK, told IT PRO. "The majority of infections we are dealing with at present tend to be delivered in such a manner that having a firewall or not has no bearing on the threat being installed. User education is much more effective than a firewall in these situations."

Admittedly, it would be a surprise to see the firewall completely disappear, but people have been talking about its demise for some time now.

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James' colleague David Harley, senior research fellow at ESET, said it is unlikely the final nail in the firewall's coffin will be hammered down in the near future. However, he suggested it's likely the industry will see fewer basic desktop firewalls and perhaps even less industrial strength devices around the gateway.

"At all levels, protection is much more about multilayering nowadays than it is about single defensive layers, whether it's at the desktop or further back into the cloud," Harley added.

If firewalls are to survive, it may need adoption of next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) to ramp up fast. These systems offer more than your standard firewall, in particular the ability to detect application-specific attacks. They can also allow IT admins to enforce granular security policies around application use, on top of packet filtering.

This kind of application management has just not been available on legacy firewalls.

Gartner recently predicted the installed base of NGFW will increase to 35 per cent by 2014, so uptake could be set to spike very soon.

Nevertheless, it'd be fair to say the firewall of the 1990s, with its limited application awareness, is on life support and it'll be time to pull the plug soon.

Landline phones

There's some decent evidence out there pointing to the death of the landline phone. First off, not using one can save businesses money.

A plethora of alternative services are out there that give you connectivity, from VoIP to the simple use of a company mobile. Not only do they allow businesses to make cheaper calls, they mean workers can be anywhere and keep connected with both customers and coworkers.

During a recent meeting at IT PRO offices, Vodafone showed us how unified communications was negating the need for a landline phone. Instead, companies can use a mix of mobiles and 3G desk phones for all their calls.

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Businesses can simply move their fixed line numbers over to Vodafone, as part of the One Net Express deal, and have a setup where workers can use that same number across as many devices as they choose. Of course, employees can still use their own mobile number, but as many customers value locality, the ability to use faux landline numbers could provide real value to a business. Well, according to Vodafone at least.

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