Data Center Virtualization

One of today’s most rapidly evolving and widely deployed technologies is virtualization. Many organizations are already realizing the cost savings from implementing virtualized servers, and systems administrators love the ease of deployment and management for virtualized systems. There are even security benefits to virtualization – easier business continuity and disaster recovery, single points of control over multiple systems, role-based access, and additional auditing and logging capabilities for large infrastructures.

With these benefits comes a dark side, however. Virtualization technology is the focus of many new potential threats and exploits and presents new vulnerabilities that must be managed. In addition, there are a vast number of configuration options that security and system administrators need to understand, with an added layer of complexity that has to be managed by operations teams. Virtualization technologies also connect to network infrastructure and storage networks and require careful planning with regard to access controls, user permissions, and traditional security controls.

Physical security devices are not designed to protect the new virtual components architecture of virtualization. Such “traditional” security depends on physical devices deployed on the perimeter of the data center or on physical networks. These physical devices depend on network inspection and are thus blind to the significant security-related activity within virtual infrastructure, whose networks they cannot see.

Virtualization brings four significant changes to security:

  • A new virtual network fabric, blind to physical security devices
  • A new threat surface: the hypervisor
  • An all-powerful virtual administrator, collapsing roles
  • Machines becoming files, leading to mobility, rapid change and opportunity for theft