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Archive for May, 2012

Bridging the Gap Between Devs & Security – A Collaborative Suggestion…

May 23rd, 2012 3 comments

After my keynote at Gluecon (Shit My Cloud Evangelist Says…Just Not To My CSO,) I was asked by an attendee what things he could do within his organization to repair the damage and/or mistrust between developers and security organizations in enterprises.

Here’s what I suggested based on past experience:

  1. Reach out and have a bunch of “brown bag lunches” wherein you host-swap each week; devs and security folks present to one another with relevant, interesting or new solutions in their respective areas
  2. Pick a project that takes a yet-to-be-solved interesting business challenge that isn’t necessarily on the high priority project list and bring the dev and security teams together as if it were an actual engagement.

Option 1 starts the flow of information.  Option 2 treats the project as if it were high priority but allows security and dev to work together to talk about platform choices, management, security, etc. and because it’s not mission critical, mistakes can be made and learned from…together.

For example, pick something like building a new app service that uses node.js and MongoDB and figure out how to build, deploy and secure it…as if you were going to deploy to public cloud from day one (and maybe you will.)

You’ll be amazed to see the trust it builds, especially in light of developers enrolling security in their problem and letting them participate from the start versus being the speed bump later.

10 minutes later it’ll be a DevOps love-fest. ;)

/Hoff

 

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Incomplete Thought: On Horseshoes & Hand Grenades – Security In Enterprise Virt/Cloud Stacks

May 22nd, 2012 7 comments

It’s not really *that* incomplete of a thought, but I figure I’d get it down on vPaper anyway…be forewarned, it’s massively over-simplified.

Over the last five years or so, I’ve spent my time working with enterprises who are building and deploying large scale (relative to an Enterprise’s requirements, that is) virtualized data centers and private cloud environments.

For the purpose of this discussion, I am referring to VMware-based deployments given the audience and solutions I will reference.

To this day, I’m often shocked with regard to how many of these organizations that seek to provide contextualized security for intra- and inter-VM traffic seem to position an either-or decision with respect to the use of physical or virtual security solutions.

For the sake of example, I’ll reference the architectural designs which were taken verbatim from my 2008 presentationThe Four Horsemen of the Virtualization Security Apocalypse.

If you’ve seen/read the FHOTVA, you will recollect that there are many tradeoffs involved when considering the use of virtual security appliances and their integration with physical solutions.  Notably, an all-virtual or all-physical approach will constrain you in one form or another from the perspective of efficacy, agility, and the impact architecturally, operationally, or economically.

The topic that has a bunch of hair on it is where I see many enterprises trending: obviating virtual solutions and using physical appliances only:

 

…the bit that’s missing in the picture is the external physical firewall connected to that physical switch.  People are still, in this day and age, ONLY relying on horseshoeing all traffic between VMs (in the same or different VLANs) out of the physical cluster machine and to an external firewall.

Now, there are many physical firewalls that allow for virtualized contexts, zoning, etc., but that’s really dependent upon dumping trunked VLAN ports from the firewall/switches into the server and then “extending” virtual network contexts, policies, etc. upstream in an attempt to flatten the physical/virtual networks in order to force traffic through a physical firewall hop — sometimes at layer 2, sometimes at layer 3.

It’s important to realize that physical firewalls DO offer benefits over the virtual appliances in terms of functionality, performance, and some capabilities that depend on hardware acceleration, etc. but from an overall architectural positioning, they’re not sufficient, especially given the visibility and access to virtual networks that the physical firewalls often do not have if segregated.

Here’s a hint, physical-only firewall solutions alone will never scale with the agility required to service the virtualized workloads that they are designed to protect.  Further, a physical-only solution won’t satisfy the needs to dynamically provision and orchestrate security as close to the workload as possible, when the workloads move the policies will generally break, and it will most certainly add latency and ultimately hamper network designs (both physical and virtual.)

Virtual security solutions — especially those which integrate with the virtualization/cloud stack (in VMware’s case, vCenter & vCloud Director) — offer the ability to do the following:

…which is to say that there exists the capability to utilize  virtual solutions for “east-west” traffic and physical solutions for “north-south” traffic, regardless of whether these VMs are in the same or different VLAN boundaries or even across distributed virtual switches which exist across hypervisors on different physical cluster members.

For east-west traffic (and even north-south models depending upon network architecture) there’s no requirement to horseshoe traffic physically. 

It’s probably important to mention that while the next slide is out-of-date from the perspective of the advancement of VMsafe APIs, there’s not only the ability to inject a slow-path (user mode) virtual appliance between vSwitches, but also utilize a set of APIs to instantiate security policies at the hypervisor layer via a fast path kernel module/filter set…this means greater performance and the ability to scale better across physical clusters and distributed virtual switching:

Interestingly, there also exists the capability to actually integrate policies and zoning from physical firewalls and have them “flow through” to the virtual appliances to provide “micro-perimeterization” within the virtual environment, preserving policy and topology.

There are at least three choices for hypervisor management-integrated solutions on the market for these solutions today:

  • VMware vShield App,
  • Cisco VSG+Nexus 1000v and
  • Juniper vGW

Note that the solutions above can be thought of as “layer 2″ solutions — it’s a poor way of describing them, but think “inter-VM” introspection for workloads in VLAN buckets.  All three vendors above also have, or are bringing to market, complementary “layer 3″ solutions that function as virtual “edge” devices and act as a multi-function “next-hop” gateway between groups of VMs/applications (nee vDC.)  For the sake of brevity, I’m omitting those here (they are incredibly important, however.)

They (layer 2 solutions) are all reasonably mature and offer various performance, efficacy and feature set capabilities. There are also different methods for plumbing the solutions and steering traffic to them…and these have huge performance and scale implications.

It’s important to recognize that the lack of thinking about virtual solutions often seem to be based largely on ignorance of need and availability of solutions.

However, other reasons surface such as cost, operational concerns and compliance issues with security teams or assessors/auditors who don’t understand virtualized environments well enough.

From an engineering and architectural perspective, however, obviating them from design consideration is a disappointing concern.

Enterprises should consider a hybrid of the two models; virtual where you can, physical where you must.

If you’ve considered virtual solutions but chose not to deploy them, can you comment on why and share your thinking with us (even if it’s for the reasons above?)

/Hoff

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Overlays: Wasting Away Again In Abstractionville…

May 5th, 2012 3 comments
IBM Cloud Computing

(Photo credit: IvanWalsh.com)

 

I’m about to get in a metal tube and spend 14 hours in the Clouds.  I figured I’d get something off my chest while I sit outside in the sun listening to some Jimmy Buffett.

[Network] overlays.  They bug me.  Let me tell you why.

The Enterprise, when considering “moving to the Cloud” generally takes one of two approaches depending upon culture, leadership, business goals, maturity and sophistication:

  1. Go whole-hog with an all-in Cloud strategy. 
    Put an expiration date on maintaining/investing in legacy apps/infrastructure and instead build an organizational structure, technology approach, culture, and operational model that is designed around building applications that are optimized for “cloud” — and that means SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS across public, private and hybrid models with a focus on how application delivery and information (including protecting) is very different than legacy deployments, or…
  2. Adopt a hedging strategy to get to Cloud…someday.
    This usually means opportunistically picking low risk, low impact, low-hanging fruit that can be tip-toed toward and scraping together the existing “rogue” projects already underway, sprinkling in some BYOD, pointing to a virtualized datacenter and calling a 3 day provisioning window with change control as “on-demand,” and “Cloud.”  Oh, and then deploying gateways, VPNs, data encryption and network overlays as an attempt to plug holes by paving over them, and calling that “Cloud,” also.

See that last bit?

This is where so-called “software defined networking (SDN),” the myriad of models that utilize “virtualization” and all sorts of new protocols and service delivery mechanisms are being conflated into the “will it blend” menagerie called “Cloud.”  It’s an “eyes wide shut” approach.

Now, before you think I’m being dismissive of “virtualization” or SDN, I’m not.  I believe. Wholesale. But within the context of option #2 above, it’s largely a waste of time, money, and effort.  It’s putting lipstick on a pig.

You either chirp or get off the twig.

Picking door #2 is where the Enterprise looks at shiny new things based on an article in the WSJ, Wired or via peer group golf outing and says “I bet if we added yet another layer of abstraction atop the piles of already rapidly abstracting piles of shite we already have, we would be more agile, nimble, efficient and secure.”  We would be “cloud” enabled.

[To a legacy-minded Enterprise,] Cloud is the revenge of VPN and PKI…

The problem is that just like the folks in Maine will advise: “You can’t get there from here.”  I mean, you can, but the notion that you’ll actually pull it off by stacking turtles, applying band-aids and squishing the tyranny of VLANs by surrounding them in layer 3 network overlays and calling this the next greatest thing since sliced bread is, well, bollocks.

Look, I think SDN, protocols like Openflow and VXLAN/NVGRE, etc. are swell.  I think the separation of control and data planes and the notion that I can programmatically operate my network is awesome.  I think companies like Nicira and Bigswitch are doing really interesting things.  I think that Cloudstack, Openstack and VMWare present real opportunity to make things “better.”

Hey, look, we’re just like Google and Amazon Web Services Now!

But to an Enterprise without a real plan as to what “Cloud” really means to their business, these are largely overlays within the context of #2.  Within the context of #1, they’re simply mom and apple pie and are, for the most part, invisible.  That’s not where the focus actually is.

That said, for a transitional Enterprise, these things give them pause, but should be looked upon as breadcrumbs that indicate a journey, not the destination.  They’re a crutch and another band-aid to solve legacy problems.  They’re really a means to an end.

These “innovations” *are* a step in the right direction.  They will let us do great things. They will let a whole new generation of operational models and a revitalized ecosystem flourish AND it will encourage folks to think differently.  But about what?  And to solve what problem(s)?

If you simply expect to layer them on your legacy infrastructure, operational models and people and call it “Cloud,” you’re being disingenuous.

Ultimately, to abuse an analogy, network overlays are a layover on the itinerary of our journey to the Cloud, but not where we should ultimately land. I see too many companies focusing on the transition…and by the time they get there, the target will have moved.  Again.  Just like it always does.

They’re hot now because they reflect something we should have done a long time ago, but like hypervisors, one day [soon] network overlays will become just a feature and not a focus.

/Hoff

 

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