Palo Alto Networks unveils SaaS-based Strata Cloud Manager for AI-based Zero Trust management and operations

The company has also added improved versions of five next-generation firewalls to address specialized use cases, as well as some new capabilities in their software.

Navneet Singh, Vice President of Marketing for Network Security, Palo Alto Networks

Palo Alto Networks has launched Strata Cloud Manager, which uses both AI and Zero Trust to provide a SaaS-based Zero Trust management and operations solution. While Palo Alto Networks had already used AI and ML in their Panorama management platform, Strata Cloud Manager marks the first appearance of Generative AI in the company’s management and operations portfolio. In addition, Palo Alto Networks has complemented this with the introduction of updated versions of five Next-Generation Firewalls to expand addressable use cases, and with  new advanced security capabilities.

“I’ve been here at Palo Alto Networks for seven plus years and I’m constantly amazed at the level of continuous innovation,” said Navneet Singh, the company’s Vice President of Marketing for Network Security. “Strata Cloud Manager is the industry’s first centrally managed operations solution for hardware firewalls, software SW firewalls and SASE.”

Strata Cloud Manager uses predictive analytics to leverage AI-powered analysis of policies and real-time compliance checks, in order to proactively anticipate capacity bottlenecks and assess deployment health up to seven days ahead. For the first time, customers can also easily oversee configuration and security policies across all form factors, including SASE, hardware, and software firewalls.

“We have had AI and ML for a while,” Singh said. “But the Generative AI is new and we have combined that with all the enhancements in PAN-OS Cosmos v 11.1 to  provide 4400 machine learning models that we use to detect highly evasive threats. These new models are able to prevent Patient Zero.”

Singh emphasized the superiority of Strata Cloud Manager over the Panorama management platform that Palo Alto Networks has been using for many years.

“Strata Cloud Manager is different because it is SaaS,” he said. “It can gather operational metrics and we can give insights from this that we could not do before. The ability to predict bottlenecks that might brings down networks seven days in advance is another net-new from this. It can also show customers a heat map of what they have enabled and best practices for things they have purchased but not deployed.”

The new software capabilities against new and advanced threats include Advanced Wildfire, which integrates machine learning directly into its cloud-based detection engines to block attacks.

“Before we did that with offline file service detection offline, and then brought it  back,” Singh indicated. “Now AI and ML are used inline with no impact to productivity to ensure early detection and mitigation. This is especially important given that we are seeing more and more unique attacks.”

Detection capabilities have also been upgraded to proactively prevent threats such as man-in-the-middle and SaaS platform-hosted phishing attacks. New advanced URL filtering can anticipate and block 88% of malicious URLs, a full 48 hours ahead of competing solutions.

“We are proud of what we achieved in URL filtering,” Singh said. “We were the first to bring AI and ML to this, a few launches ago, and we have now expanded the capabilities. Attackers use a reputable SaaS platform to host malware, so the malware passes traditional reputation-based tests because it is on a reputable website. Our improved URL filtering is what lets us detect up 88% of URLs up to 48 hours before competitors.”

New threat protection capabilities have also been added to defend again command-and-control (C2) attacks propagated through the widely used red team tool Empire.

“Many attackers now have access to red team tools,” Singh said. “In the past, we created detections against Cobalt Strike, and we now protect against Empire, which lets attackers stay hidden. It has an over 97% success rate in preventing these command and control attacks.”

The five firewalls announced are also an important part of the news.

“Customers tell us that they still have hybrid applications, with some apps not moving to the cloud, so we have launched five new firewalls,” Singh stated. “The really high end  one is the PA-7500.” It is powered by custom ASICs to deliver over 1.5 Tbps App-ID performance.

“We also have three smaller ones for branch offices and one [the PA-450R]  that protects you in harsh environments,” he added. “These all have new capabilities which can address newer use cases. We have a firewall with 5G connectivity in remote or branch use cases, and one with PoE.”

Partners will be able to do a couple of new things with the announced offerings, Singh indicated.

“They will be able to address small branch offices or small customers who operate in harsh environments, who need 5G  connectivity or need PoE,” he said. “Partners who want to manage the security environments for larger customers can also do that more effectively using Strata Cloud Manager.”