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...]

The Virtualization Security Podcast on 7/22 was all about the news of the week with our panelists discussing how this news affects everyone and anyone with respect to Virtualization Security. The news discussed:

* NIST Released their Guide to Security for Full Virtualization Technologies (Draft)
* There is a Security issue with VMware vSphere 4.1
* VMware discussed the new vShield Zones Edge and vShield App products
* HyTrust and Catbird announced a cooperative effort

When you read books on virtualization, cloud computing, security, or software product sheets a common word that shows up is Policy. Tools often claim to implement Policy, while books urge you to read or write your Policy. But what does Policy imply?

Webster (webster.com) defines policy as:

1 a : prudence or wisdom in the management of affairs b : management or procedure based primarily on material interest
2 a : a definite course or method of action selected from among alternatives and in light of given conditions to guide and determine present and future decisions b : a high-level overall plan embracing the general goals and acceptable procedures especially of a governmental body

When you read policy in product literature and books we are looking at definition number 2 and often a over b. But what does this mean to those who administer and run virtual environments or make use of cloud services?

vSphere 4.1 Released – More Dynamic Resource Load Balancing

With the release of vSphere 4.1, VMware has added to their Dynamic Resource Load Balancing (DRLB) suite of tools that I hinted at in my post on Dynamic Resource Load Balancing that I wrote last week as well as providing new memory over commit and other functionality. In essence, vSphere 4.1 is more than a point release, this update includes many features that aid in security, reliability, and is a direct response to customer requests.

Encryption is important, encryption within a VM even more important. But the question is how to do this securely without allowing the encryption keys to be seen by an administrator of the virtual environment and that supports vMotion or LiveMigration. The solution is per VM encrypted memory, but something more robust that makes use of hardware, out of band key exchange, and supports vMotion or LiveMigration.

During the Virtualization Security Podcast on 7/8, Vizioncore’s Thomas Bryant joined us to discuss the state of virtualization backup security and forensic use of such backups. In the world of virtualization, backups are performed mostly by 4 distinct vendors: VMware Data Recovery (VDR) and VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB), Vizioncore vRanger, Veeam, and PHD Virtual Backup for vSphere. Each of these provide the most basic of security capabilities:

* Encrypted tunnels for data movement (SSL)
* Encryption of the backup

But in the increasing global nature of businesses and the difference in privacy laws between townships, states, and the need for Secure Multi-Tenancy, backup companies fall short with their products while making it increasing harder to use backups as a source of forensically sound data.

I just finished writing all the content for my next book entitled VMware ESX and ESXi in the Enterprise: Planning Deployment of Virtualization Servers (2nd Edition) which continues the discussion on Dynamic Resource Load Balancing (DRLB). DRLB is the balancing of virtualized workloads across all hosts within a cluster of virtualization hosts without human intervention. This is the ultimate goal of automation with respect to virtualization and therefore the cloud. In effect, with DRLB the virtualization administrators job has been simplified to configuration and trouble shooting leaving the virtual environment to load balance work loads on its own.

During the Virtual Thoughts podcast on 6/29/2010, the analysts discussed various hardware aspects of virtualization trying to determine if the hypervisor was to move into the hardware? and if so how much of it? as well as whose hypervisor? and lastly such a move part of any business model?

Virtual Thoughts is a monthly podcast that looks at the entire scope of virtualization to discuss new trends and thoughts within the virtualization and cloud communities.

This weeks podcast started with a discussion of TPM/TXT and the boost it gives to virtualization security. Since TPM/TXT is based in the hardware and provides a measured launch of an operating system, the next logical discussion was on whether or not the hypervisor would be placed into the hardware?

During the Virtualization Security Podcast on 6/22, Steve Orrin of Intel and Dennis Morreau of RSA joined us to discuss the impact of Intel Westmere chips built-in Trusted Platform Module (TPM) and Trusted Execution Technology (TXT) on Cloud and Virtualization Security. TPM is not all that new, but TXT’s usage in virtualization security is new. Both together can form a hardware root of trust for the virtual environment.

At the moment however, these technologies are limited to just providing a secure launch of a well known hypervisor within the hardware. As such they have not been extended to the virtual machine. TXT however solves a very important issue that at the time the book VMware vSphere and Virtual Infrastructure Security was written had theoretical solutions, I speak of Blue Pill style attacks. There were rumors of Hyperguard or Guard Hype tools becoming available, but they are only research projects. TXT on the other hand, offers protection from Blue Pill style attacks.

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