VMware fleshes out cloud security strategy

VMware Inc. announced its vShield security technology and other details of its vCloud initiative this week at VMworld Europe in Cannes, France.

The company’s Virtual Datacentre Operating System (VDC-OS) will let companies run IT as an “internal cloud service,” and will also allow IT manager to “carve up the cloud into distinct zones,” said John Gilmartin, senior manager of product marketing at Palo, Alto, Calif.-based VMware.

“It is a supporting technology within VDC-OS, the concept being you can take a compute cloud and logically divide it into security or trust zones,” Gilmartin said of vShield.

The first product is a “virtual appliance,” dubbed vShield Zones, which will let companies manage and enforce security policies on several virtual machines and servers, either internally or on multi-tenant infrastructures.

Gilmartin said most companies running Web applications use DMZs and have different security policies for sensitive data stored internally, such as customers’ credit card information.

“Any organization that has Web-facing apps will have different security zones,” Gilmartin said. “Today the only solution is to use physical devices or firewalls or other applications that allow you to physically divide up your infra into little islands.”

The product will be part of VDC-OS, integrated with VMware vCenter Server and be available some time this year. VMware did not give pricing information for vShield.

VMware CEO Paul Maritz, a former Microsoft executive who replaced Diane Green last year, said during his keynote address the company plans to call the operating system vSphere.

The company originally announced its vCloud initiative at VMworld in Las Vegas last September. The intent is to let companies use virtualization to use servers and storage both inside and outside their firewalls, so that if response times are too slow they can outsource to external carriers or partners.

It refers to internal virtualization as a “private cloud,” which lets companies use computing capacity owned by them and by service providers. The vendor claims this lets companies improve efficiency by using more of their existing servers, storage and network resources, and it give better visibility into cost by providing pay as you go service.

VMware is owned by Hopkinton, Mass.-based storage vendor EMC Corp.

“VMware is really serious about pushing internal virtualized utility infrastructures, rebranding that as a private or internal cloud, and then federating that with external cloud providers,” said John Sloan, senior research analyst for the London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group.

“You can have a workload hosted on virtual machines internally but be able to move them to an external cloud provider and be able to manage that federation so that there’s interoperability and that sort of thing.”

The vShield plays into concerns over security.

“One concern with workload mobility internally and hosting stuff in an external third party cloud provider, it always raises questions about security,” Sloan said. “This is an attempt to make the security policies move with the virtual server, where typically the security is hard wired into the hardware.”

But Sloan added the concept of virtual management is nothing new.

“Cloud computing is essentially aggregation and abstraction of computing resources managed by an external provider, but there’s so much buzz and hype around cloud computing that a lot of what’s happening at VMworld right now is a rebranding of that concept,” Sloan said. “From now on they’re not going to talk about utility infrastructures or virtual management, they’ll talk about the private cloud, the internal cloud, because they figure that will resonate more with people because of the interest in cloud computing.”

At VMworld Europe, VMware also announced it is adding a high availability feature called vCenter Server Heartbeat to its central management console vCenter.

Heartbeat will provide a fail-over feature to the vCenter server itself. If something happens to the primary management server, a spare copy will take over without any downtime, said Bogomil Balkansky, VMware’s senior director of product marketing.

The announcements come a week after Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Citrix Systems Inc. announced Citrix Essentials, a set of management tools for Microsoft Corp.’s Hyper V, as part of a 20-year partnership between the two vendors.

“Microsoft definitely sees the more advanced management of virtualization especially to the desktop as something that Citrix can play a role in, so I think that sets them up as a very strong competitor to WMware,” Sloan said. “However VMware still has the advantage of market and mind share.”

With files from Mikael Rickn

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