Due to the lack of a standardized methodology for reporting firewall performance, current datasheets are designed for marketing and provide inflated throughput measurements obtained under unrealistic scenarios. As a result, customers lack usable metrics to select a device that best meets their needs.
In this paper, we develop a systematic approach to estimate the performance offered by stateful firewalls. To do so, we first conduct extensive experiments with two enterprise firewalls in a wide range of configurations and traffic profiles to identify the characteristics of a network’s traffic that affect firewall performance. Based on the observations from our measurements, we develop a model that can estimate the expected performance of a particular stateful firewall when deployed in a customer’s network. Our model ties together a succinct set of network traffic characteristics and firewall benchmarks. We validate our model with a third enterprise-grade firewall, and find that it predicts firewall throughput with less than 6-10% error across a range of traffic profiles.