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Virtual network firewall for data centres

Altor Networks : 18 March, 2008  (New Product)
Analyser and firewall for virtualised data centres from Altor Networks provides high levels of vulnerability protection.
Altor Networks has announced the launch of the industry's first virtual switch traffic analyser and Virtual Network Firewall. Each system supports multi-vendor virtual platforms and is purpose-built to make virtualised data centres more secure than their physical counterparts.

Altor's Virtual Network Security Analyser (VNSA) and Virtual Network Firewall (VNF) provide unprecedented visibility into virtual switch traffic and control over virtual machines (VMs) being deployed by enterprises, government agencies and organizations in regulated industries. Altor's VNSA and VNF solutions enable network administrators and security professionals to apply security best practices for virtual networks and help companies meet increasingly stringent HIPAA, PCI and SOX regulatory compliance requirements—at a fraction of the cost of legacy security products.

"One of the key drivers for virtualising our data centre is operational agility," said Nicholas Portolese, senior manager, data centre operations, with Nielsen Mobile, the world's largest provider of syndicated consumer research to the telecom and mobile media markets. "Altor Networks' Virtual Network Security Analyser provides us, for the first time, with crucial insight into our virtual switch traffic with real-time and historical monitoring and analysis capabilities. This enables us to weed out, analyse and report on network bottlenecks caused by a number of sources including unwanted protocols, multicast and broadcast service announcements."

"Most people don't realise security Virtualisation has lagged far behind Virtualisation of storage, networking, and servers," said Andreas Antonopoulos, senior vice president and founding partner at Nemertes Research. "The lack of suitable security is actually thwarting more widespread adoption of Virtualisation in some cases. Ironically, traditional static security solutions are subverting some of the operational return-on-investment offered by Virtualisation such as live migration."

This "security gap" can be traced to the shortcomings of traditional security solutions that include legacy firewalls, intrusion detection/prevention systems, operating system firewalls and VLANs. Aging firewalls and IDS/IPSs that were designed to defend static, perimeter-based physical networks have no visibility into VM traffic and control over virtual networks—nor do they integrate easily with virtual network management systems. VLANs lack virtual switch traffic inspection capabilities, are complex to manage, and restrict usage of VM migration tools like VMotion. And OS firewalls suffer from lack of central management, inconsistency across differing operating systems and poor support for legacy OSes.

"Virtualisation, as with any emerging technology, will be the target of new security threats," according to Neil MacDonald, security & privacy vice president and Gartner Fellow, in a March 6, 2007, Gartner research note titled, "Security Considerations and Best Practices for Securing Virtual Machines." Added MacDonald: "Many organisations mistakenly assume that their approach for securing VMs will be the same as securing any operating system (OS) and thus plan to apply their existing configuration guidelines and standards. While this is a start, simply applying the technologies and best practices for securing physical servers won't provide sufficient protection for VMs. Several areas are often overlooked completely … Because of the rush to adopt Virtualisation for server consolidation efforts, many of the[se] issues are overlooked, [and] best practices aren't applied, or in some cases, the tools and technologies for addressing some of the security issues with Virtualisation are immature or nonexistent."

Given the increasing adoption rates of virtualisation, data centre administrators must be capable of discovering inter-VM traffic for auditing, security and regulatory compliance. Altor's VNSA delivers on these requirements by providing real-time visibility and historical views of virtual switch traffic though a centrally managed, comprehensive dashboard that integrates with existing Virtualisation management systems to import network, host and event information. The VNSA can also analyse virtual network traffic to track and organise VMs by network usage and create user-defined groups.

Unlike network security and monitoring solutions that are completely "blind" to inter-VM communications, Altor's VNSA can alert data centre administrators to security vulnerabilities and operational problems through the discovery of:.

• Port scans, tunnelling, insecure and unwanted protocols.
• Configuration anomalies due to external DNS and NTP access and DHCP auto-configuration errors.
• Multicast and broadcast service announcements that can erode network performance.
• Optimise VMotion/DRS by grouping VMs based on network usage.
• User defined and automated groups to monitor access to business-critical resources.
• Report generation for regulatory compliance.

Specifically built to secure inter-VM communications in highly dynamic virtual network environments, Altor's first-of-its-kind Virtual Network Firewall uniquely enforces granular security policies that remain "attached" to individual VMs, even as they move about the data centre. Centrally managed, the VNF supports and enforces roles-based security policies per-VM.

Altor's VNF is built from the ground up for multi-vendor platform support which will include Virtualisation servers from VMware, Citrix, Microsoft, Oracle, Sun and others.

"As more servers are virtualised on multi-core systems capable of hosting dozens of VMs, CIOs and CSOs are beginning to recognise that securing the new access layer—the virtual switch— is a strategic imperative," said Amir Ben-Efraim, CEO and founder of Altor Networks. "In view of the soaring adoption rates of Virtualisation in production data centres, we have a unique and considerable market opportunity to cost-effectively improve the security posture of organisations across a broad spectrum of industries."

Enterprise licenses for the Virtual Network Security Analyser, (VNSA) start at $500 US per physical server, supporting an unlimited number of virtual machines. A single Altor Centre management system supporting unlimited VNSA agents is available for $1,500 US. Annual maintenance and support licenses are also available. Release 1.0 of the Virtual Network Security Analyser is generally available now. Free demo versions of the Altor agent and Altor Centre can be downloaded from the Altor Networks web site.
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