Archive for October, 2008

Gartner: Oracle & VMware Tied For Most Secure Hypervisor?

October 24th, 2008 5 comments

I was reading an interesting article from James Maguire from Datamation that outlined various competitors in the virtualization platform space.

In the article, James referenced a Gartner slide that comparatively summarized hypervisor selection criteria including the maturity of features, pricing, management and ultimately security.  Unfortunately the presentation source of the slide was not cited, but check this out:

What I found very interesting was the security section which equated the security capability/maturity criteria of Oracle with that of VMware while at the same time demonstrating that the overall maturity/stability of Oracle was not has highly ranked. 

Since Oracle's hypervisor is based upon Xen and Citrix/XenSource is not ranked as high, it leaves me scratching my head.

Given that this chart references hypervisor selection to YE08, it more than likely does not take into consideration the coming vNetwork/VMsafe API's; it's unclear if this section is a measure of VMM "security" based upon published vulnerabilities, an assessment of overall architecture, the availability of security solutions in the ecosystem…

This is a very interesting assertion and I'd really like to get the entire document that describes how this was quantified and what it means.  Anyone know which report this came from?


Categories: Virtualization, VMware Tags:

Attack Of the Virtualization Hacking Hyperbole…Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Over.

October 22nd, 2008 4 comments

BabyhangerI'm literally emulating a bobble head doll at this point.  In a fit of snarky confusion,  I'm simultaneously trying to nod-shake-shrug my oversize gourd to arrive at some commonsensical conclusion about this piece.  I can't, so my head just flops about like the headpiece on a 4-axis CNC machine.

Tarry Singh from the Avastu Blog spends his time as an independent analyst covering virtualization and cloud computing. His latest post regarding security left me scratching my head.

I had a bunch of folks ping me asking me for my interpretation of Tarry's latest work but I thought I'd turn it over to you lot since the more eyeballs the merrier.

Tarry's post is titled "Good News! Hackers Focus On Virtualization."

I read it.  I read it again.  I had something to drink.  I read half of it.

I think what Tarry's trying to say is that with more attention being paid to virtualization platforms by "hackers" that we ought to see increased pressure for more secure environments due to impending carnage from mounting exploits and regulators amassing mad virtualization audit skillz.  I could be wrong as it was really, really good wine.

Despite abusing the term "hackers," it's not an unreasonable assertion despite being dusty.  The rest of the post (or the wine) still leaves me a bit dizzy.

Pay attention now, I'll highlight the interesting bits in bold…

So why is this good news? We need the endorsement of those hackers of
understanding that it's not the OS where all the energy will be spilled
but on the Virtual Data Center OS, as VMware puts it.

So again why it's good news?
  • This is a validation of the fact that Virtualization is going mainstream
  • Security and Compliance will be core focus of all organizations
  • Virtual Infrastructures are easier to battendown and secure due to its uniformity
  • Regulators
    will increasingly ask for audits, where as in traditional environments
    (I've seen such audits by the like of KPMG etc) and always wondered
    like "wow–so are so prepared, dude, NOT!", Virtual environments
    suddenly enables auditors to ask the right questions and get or not get the expected results.
  • Focus on security would mean that we will have to work harder to provide a secure and compliant platforms.
I welcome this shift. Virtualization platform are secure and have been
secured, the ones that aren't, should start doing it right away.
be personally speaking in an event in November on security and why a
"secure and complaint practice will enhance your competitive edge"
, its
not just about securing, your customers want to know if they are secure
with you. Feel free to mail me if you need more information.

I'd be very interested to understand what a "secure and compliant practice" within the scope of a virtualized environment means, especially in light of some of the statements above. 

Tarry, you've got mail.


Categories: Virtualization Tags:

Schneier Has It All Wrong: Quantum Crypto is FTW!

October 21st, 2008 4 comments

I was reading Bruce's recent post on Quantum Crypto and couldn't believe what I read.  I'm horrified:

While I like the science of quantum cryptography — my undergraduate
degree was in physics — I don't see any commercial value in it. I
don't believe it solves any security problem that needs solving. I
don't believe that it's worth paying for, and I can't imagine anyone
but a few technophiles buying and deploying it. Systems that use it
don't magically become unbreakable, because the quantum part doesn't
address the weak points of the system.

No commercial value? Doesn't solve any security problem that needs solving?  Isn't worth paying for?  Only a few folks buying and deploying it!?

Hell, I'm writing a business plan right now and going for VC funding!  This is obviously the next big thing!  After all, this is mantra that the entire security industry is predicated upon.

Silly Bruce.


Categories: Jackassery Tags:

Performance Of 3rd Party Virtual Switches, Namely the Cisco Nexus 1000v…

October 20th, 2008 2 comments

One of the things I'm very much looking forward to with the release of Cisco Nexus 1000v virtual switch for ESX is the release of performance figures for the solution.

In my Four Horsemen presentation I highlight with interest the fact that in the physical world today we rely on dedicated, highly-optimized multi-core COTS or ASIC/FPGA-powered appliances to deliver consistent security performance in the multi-Gb/s range. 

These appliances generally deliver a single function (such as firewall, IPS, etc.) at line rate and are relatively easy to benchmark in terms of discrete performance or even when in-line with one another.

When you take the approach of virtualizing and consolidating complex networking and security functions such as virtual switches and virtual (security) appliances on the same host competing for the same compute, memory and scheduling resources as the virtual machines you're trying to protect, it becomes much more difficult to forecast and preduct performance…assuming you can actually get the traffic directed through these virtual bumps in the proper (stateful) order.

Recapping Horsemen #2 (Pestilence,) VMware's recently published performance results (grain of NaCl taken) for ESX 3.5 between two linux virtual machines homed to the same virtual switch/VLAN/portgroup in a host shows throughput peaks of up to 2.5 Gb/s.  Certainly the performance at small packet rates are significantly less but let's pick the 64KB-64KB sampled result shown below for a use case:
Given the performance we see above (internal-to-internal) it will be interesting to see how the retooling/extension of the networking functions to accomodate 3rd party vSwitches, DVS, API's, etc. will affect performance and what overhead these functions impose on the overall system.  Specifically, it will be very interesting to see how VMware's vSwitch performance compares to Cisco's Nexus 1000v vSwitch in terms of "apples to apples" performance such as the test above.*

It will be even more interesting to see what happens when vNetwork API's (VMsafe) API calls are made in conjunction with vSwitch interaction, especially since the performance processing will include the tax of any third party fast path drivers and accompanying filters.  I wonder if specific benchmarking test standards will be designed for such comparison?

Remember, both VMware's and Cisco's switching "modules" are software — even if they're running in the vKernel, so capacity, scale and performance are a function of arbitrated access to hardware via the hypervisor and any hardware-assist present in the underlying CPU.

What about it, Omar?  You have any preliminary figures (comparable to those above) that you can share with us on the 1000v that give us a hint as to performance?


* Further, if we measure performance that benchmarks traffic including
physical NICs, it will be interesting to see what happens when we load
a machine up with multiple 10Gb/s Ethernet NICs at production loads
trafficked by the vSwitches.

Categories: Cisco, Virtualization, VMware Tags:

Say It Ain’t So, Mama! Economic Uncertainty May Lead To Reduced Security Budgets!?

October 18th, 2008 14 comments

In the immortal words of David Byrne:

"Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was."

Look, I love my brother from a different mother, and as entertaining as I find Amrit's latest blog on the end of the world due to the world economic malaise, I can't help but remember the last time this happened at the end of the dot-com bubble. 

You might say that it's never been this bad.  You might be right.  However, we've all weathered storms before and while things certainly change — and not always for the best — security will survive.  It may look a little different, however.  Meh.

As I have both said and experienced previously, situations such as this will deliver new regulations and oversight, more compliance requirements, stretched/reduced budgets and a streamlining in role, process, function and technology.  It's the flatlining function in the pulse before the CPR kicks in.

Amrit's predictions are interesting, but all of these things were happening well BEFORE the financial crisis hit as part of the normal cycle of punctuated equilibrium.  Seriously, we've seen this behavior for the last four years already.*  To paraphrase Amrit's "predictions:"

  • Innovation will come to a grinding halt
  • Coming regulations will add to compliance madness
  • Enterprises will instantiate process/capability maturity and efficiency models
  • Companies will move more functions/services to outsourced partners and grapple with SLA, ownership and portability issues.
  • Vendors will quickly grasp at the latest buzzword in order to maintain relevance such as virtualization, SaaS, Cloud, etc.

So again, which of these weren't already happening?

Times are tough.  So are we. 

See you Monday.


P.S.  Buried in the comments is the most profound point I have to make in response to Amrit:

You know how I know this isn't the end of the [security] world? You [Amrit] and I — people who make a career by squawking on blogs — still have jobs

* To make it clear, because I've obviously done a poor job understanding Amrit's points, I'm not suggesting that the impacts of the last few months aren't taking a toll.  I'm suggesting, however, that the crisis(es) are acting as an accelerant delivering more quickly the outcomes of things already in motion.  Further, as I mentioned in the comments, while innovation is certainly delivered from the tech. startup community, it's also driven from corporations when necessity pushes for innovation and innovative solutions even due to reasons like cost control…

Categories: Jackassery Tags:

Will You All Please Shut-Up About Securing THE Cloud…NO SUCH THING…

October 14th, 2008 13 comments

How’d ya like this picture of “THE Cloud…”

This love affair with abusing the amorphous thing called “THE Cloud” is rapidly  approaching meteoric levels of asininity.  In an absolute fit of angst I make the following comments:

  1. There is no singularity that can be described as “THE Cloud.” There are many clouds, they’re not federated, they don’t natively interoperate at the application layer and they’re all mostly proprietary in their platform and operation.  They’re also not all “public” and most don’t exchange data in any form. The notion that we’re all running out to put ALL our content and apps in some common repository on someone else’s infrastructure (or will) is bullshit.  Can we stop selling this lemon already? There will be lots of Clouds that we’ll spread much of our information and applications onto — some internal, some external, some public, some private….

    Yay!  More people have realized that outsourcing operations and reducing both OpEx and CapEx by using shared infrastructure makes sense.  They also seem to have just discovered it has some real thorny issues, too.  Welcome to the 90’s. Bully!Just like there are many types of real billowing humid masses (cumulonimbus, fibratus, undulatus, etc.) there are many instantiations of resource-based computing models that float about in use today —,, Clean Pipes from ISP’s, Google/Google Apps, Amazon EC2, WebEx — all “cloud” services.  The only thing they have in common is they speak a dialect called IP…

  2. The current fad of butchering the term “Cloud Computing” to bring sexy back to the *aaS (anything as a service) model is embarrassing. More embarrassing is the fact that I agree with Larry Ellison wherein he stated:

    “The interesting thing about cloud computing is that we’ve redefined cloud computing to include everything that we already do. I can’t think of anything that isn’t cloud computing with all of these announcements.
    The computer industry is the only industry that is more fashion-driven than women’s fashion. Maybe I’m an idiot, but I have no idea what anyone is talking about. What is it? It’s complete gibberish. It’s
    insane. When is this idiocy going to stop?

  3. It ain’t all new, folks. Suggesting that this is a never-before-seen paradigm that we’ve not faced prior and requires entirely thinking as to privacy, trust models, security as a service layer and service levels mocks the fact that the *aaS model is something we’ve been grappling with for years and haven’t answered.  See #2.  I mean really.  I’ve personally been directly involved with cloud-models since the early 90’s.  Besides the fact that it’s become (again) an economically attractive and technologically viable option doesn’t make it new, it makes it convenient and marketable.  That said, we’re going to struggle with the operational and organizational issues and where theory meets practice on the battlefield.
  4. Infrastructure Gorillas are clouding the issue by suggesting thier technology represents THE virtual datacenter OS. Microsoft, Citrix, VMware, Cisco.  They all say the same thing using different words.  Each of them claiming ownership as the platform/OS upon which “THE cloud” will operate.  Not one of them have a consistent model of securing their own vDCOS, so don’t start on how we’re going to secure “IT.”(Ed: In fairness just so nobody feels left out, I should also add that the IaaS (Infrastructure as a service)/integrator gorillas such as IBM and HP are also in the mix — each with their own flavor of service differentiation sprinkled on top.)

If you thought virtualization and its attendant buzzwords, issues and spin were egregious, this billowy mass of marketing hysteria is enough to make me…blog 😉

C’mon, people. Don’t give into the generalist hype.  Cloud computing is real.  “THE Cloud?”  Not so much.


(I don’t know what it was about this article that just set this little rant off, but well done Mr. Moyle)

Categories: Cloud Computing, Virtualization Tags:

VMware Acquires BlueLane: Further Differentiation Through Security

October 10th, 2008 10 comments

From comes the news that VMware has acquired BlueLane Technologies

BlueLane is the maker of solutions that protect both physical and logical infrastructure which includes ServerShield and VirtualShield.  The company has of late focused wisely on
the latter which provides application-aware firewalling, inter-VM flow visibility and analytics, application policy control, and intrusion prevention capabilities.

Coupled with the introspection capabilities provided by VMware's vNetwork/VMsafe API's natively, the integration of BlueLane's solution sets will add to the basal capabilities of the platform itself and will allow customers the flexibility to construct more secure virtualized operating environments.

The notion of enabling in-line patch-proxying as well as the "IPS-like" in-line vulnerability mitigation capabilities for VM's and additional VMM protection make this very interesting indeed.  You can read more about BlueLane's approach on their website.  I also interviewed Allwyn Sequeira on my blog.

VMware's acquisition of Blue Lane comes as no surprise as it became clear to me that in order to continue to strengthen the underlying platform of the hypervisor itself, I wrote earlier this month prior to rumors of Blue Lane's acquisition by other bloggers that as part of a successful differentiation strategy:

    VMware will make additional acquitisions in the security space.  Yes, I know this sounds
    heretical given the delicate balance most "platform" providers keep with their ecosystem
    partners, but VMware have already shown that they are ready to buy as well as build and
    ally with prior acquisitions and security will continue to be a key differentiator for them. 
    They've done it once already with Determina, they'll do it again.

Of course, I actually talked about it a year ago when Determina was acquired…

I think it's actually an excellent move as it continues on the path of not only helping to ensure that the underlying virtualization platform is more secure, but the elements that ride atop on it are equally "security enabled" also. 

This point was at the heart of my debate with Simon Crosby, Citrix Systems' CTO (see here and here);
focusing solely on VMM resilience and leaving the ISVs to sort out security was a bad idea.  It  leads to more siloes, less integration, more complexity and overall a less secure environment.

We need a unified secure ecosystem to start with instead of worrying about securing the ecosystem's products.

Form a business perspective it takes a mixture of resolve, market dominance, and confidence to cannibalize a section of your ecosystem, but it's the right thing to do in this case in order to offset competitive forces and help customers solve some really nasty issues.

I made mention of this point with emerging security ISV's at Vmworld, and was asked several times whether I really thought VMware would do this.  The odd question that inevitably came next was "were does that leave security ISV's like us?"  You can guess my answer.  Honestly, I'm sure most of them were hoping to be bought for the same reason.

So, will this cause a run on alignment to support Hyper-V over VMware?  I don't think so.  ISV's who were hinging their hopes for success solely on VMware understand this risk.  Microsoft has no API facility like vNetwork/VMsafe, so the options for reasonable and rational installation of their products are limited.  Citrix is in the same boat.

This is the reason my next set of VirtSec presentations will focus on Hyper-V.

On a side note, I was one of Blue Lane's first customers for their patch proxy product and have been an ardent supporter of their approach for many years, despite taking quite a bit of crap for it from purists and pundits who had difficulty rectifying the approach in comparison to traditional IPS'.

This is a good thing for VMware, VMware's customers and Blue Lane. Congratulations to the BlueLane team.

Categories: Virtualization, VMware Tags:

See You At SecTor (Toronto) and/or DayCon (Dayton)

October 3rd, 2008 4 comments

It's been a whirlwind tour recently travel-wise as I've been speaking quite a bit on the virtualization circuit regarding security (or lack thereof.)

I've spent some serious time talking to users, vendors and analysts regarding some of the research I've been doing on current and future state virtualization technologies and roadmaps.

To cap of this year's events, I'll be at SecTor in Toronto on 10/8-9 and DayCon in Dayton from 10/10-12.

DayconAfter that in November (at Information Security Decisions) I'll be officially retiring the Four Horsemen presentation in lieu of the next in the series to come.

Hope to see you in Toronto or Dayton, eh?


Categories: Speaking Engagements Tags: