Thursday, October 23, 2008

A horse's ass approach to virtualization security - Part 3 - Data is the "constant"

The third in the series where I am trying to think through the current approaches to securing virtual environments...

See part one and two here...

Virtualization enables organizations to optimally manage their infrastructure resources. It can provide significant cost benefits (by sharing resources), flexibility (by just-in-time allocation of resources where they are needed), and agility (speed of provisioning resources). Therefore, organizations have been able to virtualize:

  • Devices/OS: Companies such as VMWare, Citrix, Microsoft, and Sun are providing hypervisor, virtual machine, and virtual device solutions where several virtual “devices,” “servers,” or “desktops” can mimic separate physical devices.
  • Networks: Virtualized networks enable dynamic collaboration by slicing bandwidth into virtual, isolated channels that can be assigned to a particular set of devices, real or virtual. Setting up new connections and collaborative environments becomes extremely easy.
  • Applications: Virtual applications can either be streamed down to execute on local desktops (Microsoft App-V or Altiris SVS) or executed remotely from server farms such as Citrix XenApp. This allows applications to be portable and accessible from anywhere while reducing inter-application conflicts.
However, organizations will never be able to virtualize the fourth element, I talked about in teh second blog post — the data itself. The focus of device, network, and application virtualization is about flexibility, resource sharing, and agility. This involves short life spans, since these elements are brought up to fulfill a specific short term task, and upon completion, they are brought down or even deleted. Data, however, has a lifetime beyond the short term and will therefore live on for further use or analysis in a non-virtual or subsequent virtual world.

This makes data the “constant” in a dynamically changing environment — even if the location of data itself is virtualized. Data will also have the longest lifetime of the four elements in the infrastructure and thus will have to live “outside” of the virtual environment. Therefore, from a security standpoint, it is imperative that data becomes the focus of protection - and we dont just continue protecting the infrastructure. Data is the critical asset, and since it travels across boundaries and lives longer than virtual elements, it can be easily compromised.

2 comments:

Alaska said...
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Alaska said...

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