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Chris Wolf: VMsafe is cool because …

VMsafe, the new security technology created by VMware Inc., gives virtualization users the ability to monitor and secure virtual machine resources in ways never before possible.

After I wrote a short article on VMsafe last week, I received feedback from Burton Group analyst Chris Wolf, who was at the VMworld conference in Cannes, France. His comments weren’t included in the story, but they put things in perspective, so here they are:

“VMsafe is a very important technology in my opinion, as it changes how virtual environments are secured. Today, security appliance virtual machines (VMs) typically monitor other VMs by connecting to them over a virtual switch. The result is virtual network monitoring that resembles physical network monitoring,” Wolf said. “The current model is fine until VMs begin to dynamically move across a virtual infrastructure. Dependent security appliances always have to follow their associated VMs as a VM is relocated. This can complicate the live migration and restart processes.”

“With VMsafe, you would typically configure a security appliance per physical host, such as an [intrusion prevention system] virtual appliance. The security appliance vendor would leverage policies to determine what to monitor (such as by VM, virtual switch, subnet, etc). With VMsafe, the appliance can connect to any virtual switch by accessing it through the hypervisor; you no longer have to configure a special promiscuous port group for network monitoring,” Wolf said. “With security configured at the host level with no direct attachment to virtual networks, VMs can move freely about the virtual and physical infrastructure and still have their related security policies enforced.”

secure data - Pentagon Freight image

Wolf continued, “VMsafe also provides the framework for offloading many security activities to special-purpose security VMs, including roles such as antivirus monitoring. As we move to an automated or dynamic data center, having special-purpose security appliances that are capable of enforcing security policies at the hypervisor level can ease security management in an environment that will be constantly changing. Sure, it’s possible to enforce security policies with special purpose network-based appliances, but such configurations would be substantially more complex to deploy and manage than comparable solutions based on VMsafe technology.”

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