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Cloud Security Start-Up: Dome9 – Firewall Management SaaS With a Twist

September 12th, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Dome9 has peeked its head out from under the beta covers and officially launched their product today.  I got an advanced pre-brief last week and thought I’d summarize what I learned.

As it turns out I enjoy a storied past with Zohar Alon, Dome9’s CEO.  Back in the day, I was responsible for architecture and engineering of Infonet’s (now BT) global managed security services which included a four-continent deployment of Check Point Firewall-1 on Sun Sparcs.

Deploying thousands of managed firewall “appliances” (if I can even call them that now) and managing each of them individually with a small team posed quite a challenge for us.  It seems it posed a challenge for many others also.

Zohar was at Check Point and ultimately led the effort to deliver Provider-1 which formed the basis of their distributed firewall (and virtualized firewall) management solution which piggybacked on VSX.

Fast forward 15 years and here we are again — cloud and virtualization have taken the same set of security and device management issues and amplified them.  Zohar and his team looked at the challenge we face in managing the security of large “web-scale” cloud environments and brought Dome9 to life to help solve this problem.

Dome9’s premise is simple – use a centralized SaaS-based offering to help manage your distributed cloud access-control (read: firewall) management challenge using either an agent (in the guest) or agent-less (API) approach across multiple cloud IaaS platforms.

Their first iteration of the agent-based solution focuses on Windows and Linux-based OSes and can pretty much function anywhere.  The API version currently is limited to Amazon Web Services.

Dome9 seeks to fix the “open hole” access problem created when administrators create rules to allow system access and forget to close/remove them after the tasks are complete.  This can lead to security issues as open ports invite unwanted “guests.”  In their words:

  • Keep ALL administrative ports CLOSED on your servers without losing access and control.
  • Dynamically open any port On-Demand, any time, for anyone, and from anywhere.
  • Send time and location-based secure access invitations to third parties.
  • Close ports automatically, so you don’t have to manually reconfigure your firewall.
  • Securely access your cloud servers without fear of getting locked out.

The unique spin/value-proposition with Dome9 in it’s initial release is the role/VM/user focused and TIME-LIMIT based access policies you put in place to enable either static (always-open) or dynamic (time-limited) access control to authorized users.

Administrators can setup rules in advance for access or authorized users can request time-based access dynamically to previously-configured ports by clicking a button.  It quickly opens access and closes it once the time limit has been reached.

Basically Dome9 allows you to manage and reconcile “network” based ACLs and — where used — AWS security zones (across regions) with guest-based firewall rules.  With the agent installed, it’s clear you’ll be able to do more in both the short and long-term (think vulnerability management, configuration compliance, etc.) although they are quite focused on the access control problem today.

There are some workflow enhancements I suggested during the demo to enable requests from “users” to “administrators” to request access to ports not previously defined — imagine if port 443 is open to allow a user to install a plug-in that then needs a new TCP port to communicate.  If that port is not previously known/defined, there’s no automated way to open that port without an out-of-band process which makes the process clumsy.

We also discussed the issue of importing/supporting identity federation in order to define “users” from the Enterprise perspective across multiple clouds.  They could use your input if you have any.

There are other startups with similar models today such as CloudPassage (I’ve written about them before here) who look to leverage SaaS-based centralized security services to solve IaaS-based distributed security challenges.

In the long term, I see Cloud security services being chained together to form an overlay of sorts.  In fact, CloudFlare (another security SaaS offering) announced a partnership with Dome9 for this very thing.

Dome9 has a 14-day free trial two available pricing models:

  1. “Personal Server” – a FREE single protected server with a single administrator
  2. “Business Cloud” – Per-use pricing with 5 protected servers at $20 per month

If you’re dealing with trying to get a grip on your distributed firewall management problem, especially if you’re a big user of AWS, check out Dome9.


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