A per-VM firewall would be great if properly executed

Posted by virtualization.info Staff   |   Thursday, October 16th, 2008   |  

As virtualization.info reported many times in the last couple of years, the current effort to bring security into the virtual infrastructure leaves much to desire.

The best thing that new and consolidated security vendors can do at the moment is:

  1. moving traditional tools like firewalls, IDS, anti-virus and so on into virtual machines
  2. ask the virtual infrastructure administrator to reconfigure the virtual network so that virtual traffic pass through or pass by the virtualized security tools above
  3. offer support for this uncommon new deployment

and all of them are bad things:

#1 is highly inefficient because the admin has to deploy multiple copies of the same tool (it depends on the virtual networking actually, but think about the anti-virus agent in a VDI environment as the worst case) when he could just deploy one that monitors the entire virtual infrastructure at the hypervisor level. And this wastes physical resources big time.

Unfortunately, until VMware releases its VMsafe APIs (and other vendors follow the trend), there’s not much that can be done.

#2 is highly constraining because it breaks the premise of mobility that virtualization brings. As soon as the administrator invokes a live migration for the protected virtual machine, the virtual networking is messed up and the virtualized security tool could be cut out of the game.

VMware is working to mitigate this issue and VI 4.0 will introduce a thing called vNetwork Distributed Switch, preserving the same virtual network configuration even during a live migration.
The technology is interesting but it certainly is just a partial solution of the problem.

#3 is highly unreliable because no matter how committed the vendor is, it will never be able to forecast how many virtual machines are running at the same time on the same virtualization host, and how this will impact on the performance of its virtualized product.

The just released OVF standard allows to define specific characteristics for each virtual machine through a metadata layer, including service level agreements (SLAs), but we are far away from mainstream adoption.

 

A possible solution (not fully detailed) could be:

  • wrapping each virtual machine in a security layer (something that products like VMware ACE, Kidaro Workspaces and Sentillion vThere already do since a while) where the administrator define a specific security policy
  • having an independent tier (the virtualization management layer doesn’t seem a good candidate) that acts as security coordinator, reading the policy requirements for each VM security wrapper and querying the hypervisor to see if it has any security product connected that can satisfy the requirements
  • having multiple security products that plug into the hypervisor and wait for the a call to action solicited by the security coordinator

Now Altor Networks has just announced what they call Virtual Firewall, which on paper seems to introduce part of the architecture above.

Unfortunately a careful analysis of the most technical brochure available online raises some doubts:

…The Altor VF installs as a virtual appliance on each virtualization host and inspects all traffic to and from each VM guest. Admins use a web-based management console to define and centrally manage traditional firewall rules: allowed and rejected sources, destinations, and protocols; actions to take; etc. Rules can apply to all VMs, a group of VMs with similar connectivity and security needs (such as web servers), or a single VM. Policies built with these rules can also be enforced at the global, group, and per-VM levels…

It really seems that this product, just like any other, requires virtual network reconfiguration (it doesn’t matter if the process is automated by a helpful setup that interacts with VirtualCenter) and that it simply replicates the security policy from one virtual appliance deployed into a virtualization host to another, deployed into a second virtualization host.
In this way the company can claim that virtual machines are protected even during live migrations:

The virtual firewall is “attached” to a VM at all times and travels with it during a VMotion event. This assures continuous security policy enforcement before, during, and after every live migration. Just as importantly, the Altor solution maintains the connected states of all applications within the migrating VM.

Has Altor Networks really found a way to create a security wrapper around ESX virtual machines?



blog comments powered by Disqus


virtualization.info Newest articles
Amazon updates AWS plugin for Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager

January 22nd, 2015

In October last year, Amazon released the AWS System Manager for Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM). AWS System Manager is an add-in for SCVMM which allows customers to…

VMware announces vCloud Air Disaster Recovery

January 22nd, 2015

VMware has announced that later this quarter it will release an updated disaster recovery solution for its IaaS solution vCloud Air (formerly vCloud Hybrid Service). The solution which will be…

Paper: Cisco Unified Computing System with VMware Horizon 6 with View and Virtual SAN

January 20th, 2015

Cisco and VMware have released a paper titled: "Cisco Unified Computing System with VMware Horizon 6 with View and Virtual SAN". The paper which contains 59 pages describes a reference…

Release: Xen Project Hypervisor 4.5

January 19th, 2015

The Xen Project, the community which develops the Xen hypervisor under the GNU General Public License (GPLv2) last week announced the availability version 4.5 of the Xen Hypervisor. With major…

Microsoft and Persistent Systems release solution for Azure IaaS data center migration

January 15th, 2015

Microsoft, together with partner Persistent Systems has developed and released a tool which helps customers to move complete Infrastructure as a Service (Iaas) deployments from one Microsoft datacenter to…

Citrix announcements from its annual Summit partner conference

January 15th, 2015

Before and during its annual Summit partner conference, held on January 13 and 14, Citrix made several announcements. First of all Citrix announced the acquisition of Sanbolic, which virtualization.info already…

Citrix announces XenServer 6.5 – UPDATED

January 13th, 2015

Citrix today announced the next version of its virtualization platform XenServer which is a commercial product based on the open-source Xen Project hypervisor. XenServer 6.5 will be the follow up…

Citrix Acquires Sanbolic

January 12th, 2015

Citrix today announced that its has completed its acquisition of Sanbolic. Sanbolic which has a product called Sanbolic Scale-Out Platform which can be seen as an aggregation of both local…

Survey: State of the VDI and SBC union 2015

January 12th, 2015

Two years ago, Project Virtual Reality Check (VRC) started a survey asking participants to provide more insight in the non-technical issues related to Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) and Server Based…

Paper: VMware Mirage 5.0 Reviewer’s Guide

January 9th, 2015

VMware has released a reviewers guide for its End User Computing solution Horizon version 5. The paper titled: "VMware Mirage 5.0 Reviewer’s Guide" contains 209 pages and allows readers to…

Microsoft updates Azure with availability of G-series, Docker image support and a public preview of Azure Key Vault

January 9th, 2015

Microsoft yesterday announced several updates to its Microsoft Azure cloud platform. Updates include the availability of the new G-series type of VM’s, the availability of Ubuntu image with a…

Red Hat releases Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization for Power

January 7th, 2015

As we know IBM and Red Hat have a story of collaboration behind its back and they have been working lately together on various projects, the latest announcement they made…

Paper: Large scale Virtual Desktop Infrastructure deployment using Windows Server 2012 R2 with Storage Tiers and Data Deduplication

January 7th, 2015

Microsoft has released a paper titled:"Large scale Virtual Desktop Infrastructure deployment using Windows Server 2012 R2 with Storage Tiers and Data Deduplication". The paper which contains 49 pages explains…

Book: Microsoft System Center Introduction to Microsoft Automation Solutions

January 5th, 2015

Microsoft has released a free book titled: “Microsoft System Center Introduction to Microsoft Automation Solutions“. The book which contains 105 pages gives an introduction to the automation solutions provided…

 
Monthly Archive