During the recently ended VMworld conference (see virtualization.info live coverage), VMware announced a remarkable number of new products. One of them is vShield App 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.
vShield App is an enhanced version of Zones. At the moment App doesn’t replace Zones but customers can purchase an upgrade so it’s likely that over time VMware will fade away Zones entirely.
Like Zone, App too must be deployed per virtualization host as a Loadable Kernel Module (LKM). The key difference between the two products is the introduction of Flow Monitoring and Security Groups.
Flow Monitoring is the ability to recognize some protocol sessions between virtual machines in the network traffic. This capability is limited to specific TCP/IP Layer 2-4 protocols: ICMP, ARP, other L2/L3 protocols, UDP and TCP. Like for vShield Edge, there’s no mention about IPv6 support and the App administrator’s guide specifically mentions IPv4 capabilities.
Administrators can use the report generated by Flow Monitoring to generate new firewall rules.
The other key difference, is the availability of Security Groups.
These are logical containers that let users to group together different virtual machines by their vNICs. So rather than specifying every single virtual machine by its IP in the rulebase, firewall administrators can finally create group of objects and use them as source or destinations in the rules.
To control Zones, App, 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.
Like for the new vShield Edge, vShield App 1.0 pricing starts at $4,538, which includes protection for 25 virtual machines and 1 year basic support (12×5).