The Virtualization Practice

Author Archive for Edward Haletky

Edward Haletky
Edward HaletkyEdward L. Haletky, aka Texiwill, is the author of VMware vSphere(TM) and Virtual Infrastructure Security: Securing the Virtual Environment as well as VMware ESX and ESXi in the Enterprise: Planning Deployment of Virtualization Servers, 2nd Edition. Edward owns AstroArch Consulting, Inc., providing virtualization, security, network consulting and development and The Virtualization Practice where he is also an Analyst. Edward is the Moderator and Host of the Virtualization Security Podcast as well as a guru and moderator for the VMware Communities Forums, providing answers to security and configuration questions. Edward is working on new books on Virtualization. [All Papers/Publications...]

Security as a Service: Is it Safe?

Last week I spoke with two different Security as a Service vendors, each with their own approaches to security as a service. The first company I spoke to was CloudPassage who just exited stealth mode in time for RSA Conference, and Zscaler who is a well known company. Both provide Security as a Service with a similar approach by a different design. Both make use of large grids or computers to do all the heavy lifting of security, but from there they differ completely. While there is some overlap in the products, the different designs show us multiple ways to implement Security as a Service.

I just finished reading, yet another Multi-Tenancy Design/Overview that claims to be secure or trusted. While I will agree that this particular design does cover Availability and some GRC (Governance, Regulatory, and Compliance) it is severely lacking in Integrity and Confidentiality. The design even went as far as saying the cloud/virtual administrator requires “COMPLETE VISIBILITY.” I was really taken aback by those words. Why does an administrator need ‘COMPLETE VISIBILITY?’ Which leads me to the question is Integrity and Confidentiality possible within any cloud or virtual environment? Or is it purely based on TRUST?

If so this is an appalling state of virtual and cloud environment security.

In July 2009 I wrote an article entitled Cloud Computing Providers — are they content providers or carriers? and in January of 2011 Chuck Hollis wrote an article Verizon To Acquire Terremark — You Shouldn’t Be Surprised. Now with the Terremark acquisition almost complete and RSA Conference 2011 also over, at which I talked to Terremark about the benefits of belonging to Verizon, a picture is starting to emerge. Yes, my predictions in 2009 make sense and still hold forth today, but is there more of an impact than we realize?

On the 2/24 Virtualization Security Podcast we were joined by Davi Ottenheimer and Michael Haines of VMware to discuss vCloud security. This is of quite a bit of interest to many people these days. As VMware adds more and more Cloud functionality, how to secure the environment is becoming more and more important. The podcast started with the question what aspects of the cloud do customers want secured. The answer was intriguing to say the least.

On the third Virtualization Security Podcast of 2011 we were joined by Charlton Barreto of Intel to further discuss the possibility of using TPM/TXT to enhance security within the virtual and cloud environments. We are not there yet, but we discussed in depth the issues with bringing hardware based integrity and confidentiality up further into the virtualized layers of the cloud. TPM and TXT currently provide the following per host security:

It is often very hard to plan which virtualization and cloud conferences to attend and why. You may need to start your planning now as justification from work could be hard to come by. It may mean you make the decision to go on your own dime. If you do the later, there are some alternative mechanisms that could work for the bigger conferences. The conferences and events I attend every year depend on my status with the organization hosting those events, and whether or not I can get a ‘deal’ as a speaker, analyst, or blogger. So what conferences do I find worth attending? That will also depend on your job role. There is one I would attend regardless of role, and a few I would attend as a Virtualization and Cloud Security person. All are good conferences.

This years Innovation Sandbox at RSA Conference was won by a little know company to virtualization and cloud security vendors, its name is Invincea. However, it makes use of virtualization to aid in security. This years finalists once more included HyTrust for the inclusion of what appears to be complete UCS support within the HyTrust Appliance, Symplified which provides a unified identity within a cloud, CipherCloud which encrypts bits of your data before uploading, but not enough encryption to mess with sort and other algorithms. Plus other non-cloud like products: Entersect (non-repudiation in the form of PKI), Gazzang (MySQL Encryption), Incapsula (collaborative security to browsers), Pawaa (embed security metadata with files), Quaresso (secure browsing without browser/OS mods), and Silver Tail (mitigation).

Unlike last year where there were many virtualization security vendors existed at RSA Conference, there was a noticeable lack of them within booths, yet all of them were here to talk to existing and potential customers. However, there were many vendors offering identity management in the cloud for these I asked the identity management product owners the following question:

How can you prove identity in the cloud?

Distributed Virtual Switch Failures: Failing-Safe

In my virtual environment recently, I experienced two major failures. The first was with VMware vNetwork Distributed Switch and the second was related to the use of a VMware vShield. Both led to catastrophic failures, that could have easily been avoided if these two subsystems failed-safe instead of failing-closed. VMware vSphere is all about availability, but when critical systems fail like these, not even VMware HA can assist in recovery. You have to fix the problems yourself and usually by hand. Now after, the problem has been solved, and should not recur again, I began to wonder how I missed this and this led me to the total lack of information on how these subsystems actually work. So without further todo, here is how they work and what I consider to be the definition for fail-safe.

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