During the recently ended VMworld conference (see virtualization.info live coverage), VMware announced a remarkable number of new products. One of them is vShield Edge 1.0.
VMware acquired the vShield security technology from Blue Lane Technologies in October 2008. The only product offered so far has been Zones, a virtual firewall that uses stateful inspection and application layer gateway approaches to monitor and filter virtual network traffic between multiple virtual machines deployed on the same virtualization host.
vShield Zones didn’t mature much in almost two years, and VMware is offering it for free as part of vSphere Advanced, Enterprise and Enterprise Plus editions.
A major limitation of Zones is the inability to filter traffic entering and leaving the virtual network, which is a critical need in multi-tenant cloud computing environments like the ones created by the new vCloud Director.
VMware overcame this limitation by releasing extending the vShield product family with this new solution called Edge.
Zones and Edge share the same firewall engine, but while the former is attached to a specifc virtualization host, the latter is attached to a specific portgroup.
In this role, the engine has been enriched by a few key new capabilities:
- Site-to-Site VPN (IPSec only)
- NAT and DHCP services
- Web load balancing (HTTP/S, with Round-Robin algorithm and sticky sessions)
- Logging on local or remote Syslog facilities (Firewall and NAT rules, VPN connections, load balancing sessions, DHCP bindings)
Because of its key importance in the VMware vCloud infrastructure, vShield Edge also allows to meter network utilization and account it to specific tenants when it’s integrated with vCloud Director.
The VPN component has some limitations: it only supports pre-shared key mode, AES or 3DES encryption, IP unicast traffic, and no dynamic routing protocol between the vShield Edge and remote VPN routers.
Also, there’s no mention about IPv6. Hopefully the product supports this kind of traffic.
The way it’s deployed implies that vShield Edge can isolate different portgroups in a way that reminds the VLANs on physical network switches.
Anyway, to have this feature, customers need to deploy a specific Loadable Kernel Module (LKM) on each virtualization host they want to control. The enforcement of other features don’t have this requirement.
To control Edge, Zones, and the other new security products announced at VMworld, VMware is using an additional component called vShield Manager. This is a centralized policy management console that doesn’t require any specific license.
vShield Manager can be accessed through a web interface or the VMware SDK as it offers a specific API.
Such API allows advanced manipulation of all information produced by the other vShield products, like rules and the logs.
vShield Edge 1.0 pricing starts at $4,538, which includes protection for 25 virtual machines and 1 year basic support (12×5), which is not exactly an affordable solution for SMBs.