VMworld Cannes: Au Revoir Layer 4

by: Gregory Ness

Last month I blogged that 2008 would become The Year of Virtsec; last week at Cannes VMware (NYSE:VMW) announced their VMsafe initiative; this week the blogs and press are buzzing with what may indeed be the IT industry’s equivalent of the Beatles first appearance on Ed Sullivan. The turnout, the enthusiasm and the security leadership articulated by VMware has set the stage for a substantial shift in data center security.

Since my initial VMworld Cannes Ed Sullivan reference from Rational Survivability was also picked up on the VMware blog I’ll address the significance of what many of us experienced at VMworld Cannes in a bit more detail as I’m not a fan of sound bites. You can also get many of the themes (and more) via my VMworld video interview with Tarry Singh which was recorded last week. It touches on the generation shift in netsec I'm predicting based on the power of virtsec and VMware's new security vision just announced across the pond.

When VMware announced VMsafe at Cannes it marked a major data center security milestone on many levels: 1) it was the first major public statement on virtsec by any virtualization platform vendor; 2) it represented the first glimpse of how virtsec will change the netsec game; and 3) it articulated the key differences between what VMware will protect and what its partners will protect.

That combination of vision and clarity against a backdrop of 20 enlisted security vendors was the equivalent of a high level declaration of independence from the hardware-centric network security appliance model that took off with the emergence of fame-seeking hackers in the late 90s and early 00s. It was also a critical launch component of VMware’s push into the data center. Among the leading security players teaming up with VMware: CheckPoint, McAfee and Symantec.

VMware has taken a bold step to deliver the promise of flexible, dynamic security as a critical case for virtualization of production environments. The company has also clarified what it and its partners will do. VMsafe is a major step forward.

It is fair to note that while the virtualization security (virtsec) market is still in its infancy, it will grow in parallel to VMware’s success in virtualizing production environments. I talked about this growth from a very small market in 2007 with Bambi Francisco at vator.tv in December.

Where Do We Go from Here?

It is clearly in VMware’s interests to articulate a new vision for data center security, unburdened by ASICs and the trappings of tired deep packet inspection (signature-centric) architectures already struggling to keep up with the onslaught of sophisticated, mutating evasions. You can get more of my thoughts on this from the Tarry Singh interview.

The faster that VMware virtualizes the production data center, the faster the virtsec industry will accelerate. Given VMware’s momentum and now its high profile position on security (and the positive reaction of VMworld attendees), it seems likely that upstack (layer 7) server and VM security are about to rock and roll the tired, operationally-intensive layer 4 world of deep packet inspection, signatures and tuning. VMsafe has set in motion a security revolution that will indeed advance the cause of data center security beyond the common expectations of older generation architectures.

Disclosure: Long

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