The Virtualization Practice

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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.

Blade Physical-Virtual Networking and Virtualization Security

I have been thinking about blades and virtualization security for some time spurred on by a conversation with Brad Hedlund six months ago. Nearly all my customers use Blades and virtualization security is a big concern to them. In my Rethinking vNetwork Security article, I touched on some of the issues in response to Brad’s comments a while back. I would like to now expand that discussion to blades.

There are three sets of blade enclosures I would like to discuss, those that use pass thru networking, those that use standard switching fabric within the enclosures, and those that use flexible interconnects such as HP Flex-10 and Cisco Palo adapters. The last is the so called physical-virtual network device.

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.

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.

The security companies are looking into all aspects of virtual environment introspection to label, tag, or mark all objects for compliance reasons, inspect the contents of virtual machines for asset management (CMDB), and an early form of Root Kit detection.

Virtualization Security is not just about the firewall, it is about the entire ecosystem, auditing, compliance, and object management.

During the Virtualization Security Podcast on 5/13, IBM’s David Abercrombie joined us to discuss IBM’s Virtualization Security Protection for VMware (VSP) which contains several exciting uses of the VMsafe API for VMware vSphere. These being:

* Network: Network Monitoring, Firewall, Access Control, and a Protocol Analysis Module
* Memory: Rootkit Detection

The most recent Virtualization Security Podcast was on the subject of virtualization security for the SMB. Specifically cover the case where the customer wanting virtualization security could afford to purchase a hypervisor and perhaps one other security product. In the end the panelists came up with a list of suggestions for virtualization security for the SMB that are applicable to all levels of Virtualization. The panel looked at SMB security with an eye towards Availability, Integrity, and Confidentiality.

The Cisco-VMware-NetApp (CVN) was discussed on the Virtualization Security Podcast as it pertains to Secure Multi-Tenancy (SMT). This is a major concern that was also discussed at RSA Conference 2010 within the Cloud Security Alliance Summit. The question still remains how to achieve this goal however. CVN is a very good start, but as we discussed on the podcast is missing some key elements.

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