Article | May 18, 2023
It’s an impactful release focused on significant NSX Security enhancements
Putting a hard shell around a soft core is not a recipe for success in security, but somehow legacy security architectures for application protection have often looked exactly like that: a hard perimeter firewall layer for an application infrastructure that was fundamentally not built with security as a primary concern. VMware NSX Distributed Firewall pioneered the micro-segmentation concept for granular access controls for cloud applications with the initial launch of the product in 2013. The promise of Zero Trust security for applications, the simplicity of deployment of the solution, and the ease of achieving internal security objectives made NSX an instant success for security-sensitive customers.
Our newest release — NSX-T 3.2 — establishes a new marker for securing application infrastructure by introducing significant new features to identify and respond to malware and ransomware attacks in the network, to enhance user identification and L7 application identification capabilities, and, at the same time, to simplify deployment of the product for our customers.
Modern day security teams need to secure mission-critical infrastructure from both external and internal attacks. By providing unprecedented threat visibility leveraging IDS, NTA, and Network Detection and Response (NDR) capabilities along with granular controls leveraging L4-L7 Firewall, IPS, and Malware Prevention capabilities, NSX 3.2 delivers an incredible security solution for our customers“
Umesh Mahajan, SVP, GM (Networking and Security Business Unit)
Distributed Advanced Threat Prevention (ATP)
Attackers often use multiple sophisticated techniques to penetrate the network, move laterally within the network in a stealthy manner, and exfiltrate critical data at an appropriate time. Micro-segmentation solutions focused solely on access control can reduce the attack surface — but cannot provide the detection and prevention technologies needed to thwart modern attacks. NSX-T 3.2 introduces several new capabilities focused on detection and prevention of attacks inside the network. Of critical note is that these advanced security solutions do not need network taps, separate monitoring networks, or agents inside each and every workload.
Distributed Malware Prevention
Lastline’s highly reputed dynamic malware technology is now integrated with NSX Distributed Firewall to deliver an industry-first Distributed Malware Prevention solution. Leveraging the integration with Lastline, a Distributed Firewall embedded within the hypervisor kernel can now identify both “known malicious” as well as “zero day” malware
Distributed Behavioral IDS
Whereas earlier versions of NSX Distributed IDPS (Intrusion Detection and Prevention System) delivered primarily signature-based detection of intrusions, NSX 3.2 introduces “behavioral” intrusion detection capabilities as well. Even if specific IDS signatures are not triggered, this capability helps customers know whether a workload is seeing any behavioral anomalies, like DNS tunneling or beaconing, for example, that could be a cause for concern.
Network Traffic Analysis (NTA)
For customers interested in baselining network-wide behavior and identifying anomalous behavior at the aggregated network level, NSX-T 3.2 introduces Distributed Network Traffic Analysis (NTA). Network-wide anomalies like lateral movement, suspicious RDP traffic, and malicious interactions with the Active Directory server, for example, can alert security teams about attacks underway and help them take quick remediation actions.
Network Detection and Response (NDR)
Alert overload, and resulting fatigue, is a real challenge among security teams. Leveraging advanced AI/ML techniques, the NSX-T 3.2 Network Detection and Response solution consolidates security IOCs from different detection systems like IDS, NTA, malware detection. etc., to provide a ”campaign view” that shows specific attacks in play at that point in time. MITRE ATT&CK visualization helps customers see the specific stage in the kill chain of individual attacks, and the ”time sequence” view helps understand the sequence of events that contributed to the attack on the network.
Key Firewall Enhancements
While delivering new Advanced Threat Prevention capabilities is one key emphasis for the NSX-T 3.2 release, providing meaningful enhancements for core firewalling capabilities is an equally critical area of innovation.
Distributed Firewall for VDS Switchports
While NSX-T has thus far supported workloads connected to both overlay-based N-VDS switchports as well as VLAN-based switchports, customers had to move the VLAN switchports from VDS to N-VDS before a Distributed Firewall could be enforced. With NSX-T 3.2, native VLAN DVPGs are supported as-is, without having to move to N-VDS. Effectively, Distributed Security can be achieved in a completely seamless manner without having to modify any networking constructs.
Distributed Firewall workflows in vCenter
With NSX-T 3.2, we are introducing the ability to create and modify Distributed Firewall rules natively within vCenter. For small- to medium-sized VMware customers, this feature simplifies the user experience by eliminating the need to leverage a separate NSX Manager interface.
Advanced User Identification for Distributed and Gateway Firewalls
NSX supported user identity-based access control in earlier releases. With NSX-T 3.2, we’re introducing the ability to directly connect to Microsoft Active Directory to support user identity mapping. In addition, for customers who do not use Active Directory for user authentication, NSX also supports VMware vRealize LogInsight as an additional method to carry out user identity mapping. This feature enhancement is applicable for both NSX Distributed Firewall as well as NSX Gateway Firewall.
Enhanced L7 Application Identification for Distributed and Gateway Firewalls
NSX supported Layer-7 application identification-based access control in earlier releases. With NSX-T 3.2, we are enhancing the signature set to about 750 applications. While several perimeter firewall vendors claim a larger set of Layer-7 application signatures, they focus mostly on internet application identification (like Facebook, for example). Our focus with NSX at this time is on internal applications hosted by enterprises. This feature enhancement is applicable for both NSX Distributed Firewall as well as Gateway Firewalls.
NSX Intelligence is geared towards delivering unprecedented visibility for all application traffic inside the network and enabling customers to create micro-segmentation policies to reduce the attack surface. It has a processing pipeline that de-dups, aggregates, and correlates East-West traffic to deliver in-depth visibility.
Scalability enhancements for NSX Intelligence
As application infrastructure grows rapidly, it is vital that one’s security analytics platform can grow with it. With the new release, we have rearchitected the application platform upon which NSX Intelligence runs — moving from a stand-alone appliance to a containerized micro-service architecture powered by Kubernetes. This architectural change future-proofs the Intelligence data lake and allows us to eventually scale out our solution to n-node Kubernetes clusters.
Large Enterprise customers that need visibility for application traffic can confidently deploy NSX Intelligence and leverage the enhanced scale it supports.
NSX Gateway Firewall
While NSX Distributed Firewall focuses on east-west controls within the network, NSX Gateway Firewall is used for securing ingress and egress traffic into and out of a zone.
Gateway Firewall Malware Detection
NSX Gateway Firewall in the 3.2 release received significant Advanced Threat Detection capabilities. Gateway Firewall can now identify both known as well as zero-day malware ingressing or egressing the network. This new capability is based on the Gateway Firewall integration with Lastline’s highly reputed dynamic network sandbox technology.
Gateway Firewall URL Filtering
Internal users and applications reaching out to malicious websites is a huge security risk that must be addressed. In addition, enterprises need to limit internet access to comply with corporate internet usage policies. NSX Gateway Firewall in 3.2 introduces the capability to restrict access to internet sites. Access can be limited based on either the category the URL belongs to, or the “reputation” of the URL. The URL to category and reputation mapping is constantly updated by VMware so customer intent is enforced automatically even after many changes in the internet sites themselves.
Virtual Desktop Strategies, Server Hypervisors
Article | April 27, 2023
Why Should Companies Care about Data Virtualization?
Data is everywhere. With each passing day, companies generate more data than ever before, and what exactly can they do with all this data? Is it just a matter of storing it? Or should they manage and integrate their data from the various sources? How can they store, manage, integrate and utilize their data to gain information that is of critical value to their business?
As they say, knowledge is power, but knowledge without action is useless. This is where the Denodo Platform comes in. The Denodo Platform gives companies the flexibility to evolve their data strategies, migrate to the cloud, or logically unify their data warehouses and data lakes, without affecting business. This powerful platform offers a variety of subscription options that can benefit companies immensely.
For example, companies often start out with individual projects using a Denodo Professional subscription, but in a short period of time they end up adding more and more data sources and move on to other Denodo subscriptions such as Denodo Enterprise or Denodo Enterprise Plus. The upgrade process is very easy to establish; in fact, it can be done in less than a day once the cloud marketplace is chosen (Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform (GCP). In as little as six weeks companies can realize real business benefits from managing and utilizing their data effectively.
A Bridging Layer
Data virtualization has been around for quite some time now. Denodo’s founders, Angel Viña and Alberto Pan, have been involved in data virtualization from as far back as the 1990’s. If you’re not familiar with data virtualization, here is a quick summary.
Data virtualization is the cornerstone to a logical data architecture, whether it be a logical data warehouse, logical data fabric, data mesh, or even a data hub. All of these architectures are best served by our principals Combine (bring together all your data sources), Connect (into a logical single view) and Consume (through standard connectors to your favorite BI/data science tools or through our easy-to-use robust API’s).
Data virtualization is the bridge that joins multiple data sources to fuel analytics. It is also the logical data layer that effectively integrates data silos across disparate systems, manages unified data for centralized security, and delivers it to business users in real time.
Economic Benefits in Less Than 6 weeks with Data Virtualization?
In a short duration, how can companies benefit from choosing data virtualization as a data management solution?
To answer this question, below are some very interesting KPI’s discussed in the recently released Forrester study on the Total Economic Impact of Data Virtualization. For example, companies that have implemented data virtualization have seen an 83% increase in business user productivity.
Mainly this is due to the business-centric way a data virtualization platform is delivered. When you implement data virtualization, you provide business users with an easy to access democratized interface to their data needs.
The second KPI to note is a 67% reduction in development resources. With data virtualization, you connect to the data, you do not copy it. This means once it is set up, there is a significant reduction in the need for data integration engineers, as data remains in the source location and is not copied around the enterprise.
Finally, companies are reporting a 65% improvement in data access speeds above and beyond more traditional approaches such as extract, transform, and load (ETL) processes.
A Modern Solution for an Age-Old Problem
To understand how data virtualization can help elevate projects to an enterprise level, we can share a few use cases in which companies have leveraged data virtualization to solve their business problems across several different industries.
For example, in finance and banking we often see use cases in which data virtualization can be used as a unifying platform to help improve compliance and reporting. In retail, we see use cases including predictive analytics in supply chains as well as next and best actions from a unified view of the customer. There are many uses for data virtualization in a wider variety of situations, such as in healthcare and government agencies. Companies use the Denodo Platform to help data scientists understand key trends and activities, both sociologically as well as economically.
In a nutshell, if data exists in more than one source, then the Denodo Platform acts as the unifying platform that connects, combines and allows users to consume the data in a timely, cost-effective manner.
Virtual Desktop Tools, Server Hypervisors
Article | June 8, 2023
2. Software Development and Secure Testing
3. Using VMs in Software Development and Secure Testing
“Testing is an infinite process of comparing the invisible to the ambiguous in order to avoid the unthinkable happening to the anonymous.” —James Bach.
Testing software is crucial for identifying and fixing security vulnerabilities. However, meeting quality standards for functionality and performance does not guarantee security. Thus, software testing nowadays is a must to identify and address
application security vulnerabilities to maintain the following:
Security of data history, databases, information, and servers
Customers’ integrity and trust
Web application protection from future attacks
VMs provide a flexible and isolated environment for software development and security testing. They offer easy replication of complex configurations and testing scenarios, allowing efficient issue resolution. VMs also provide secure testing by isolating applications from the host system and enabling a reset to a previous state. In addition, they facilitate DevOps practices and streamline the development workflow.
2. Software Development and Secure Testing
Software Secure Testing: The Approach
The following approaches must be considered while preparing and planning for security tests:
Architecture Study and Analysis: Understand whether the software meets the necessary requirements.
Threat Classification: List all potential threats and risk factors that must be tested.
Test Planning: Run the tests based on the identified threats, vulnerabilities, and security risks.
Testing Tool Identification: For software security testing tools for web applications, the developer must identify the relevant security tools to test the software for specific use cases.
Test-Case Execution: After performing a security test, the developer should fix it using any suitable open-source code or manually.
Reports: Prepare a detailed test report of the security tests performed, containing a list of the vulnerabilities, threats, and issues resolved and the ones that are still pending.
Ensuring the security of an application that handles essential functions is paramount. This may involve safeguarding databases against malicious attacks or implementing fraud detection mechanisms for incoming leads before integrating them into the platform.
Maintaining security is crucial throughout the software development life cycle (SDLC) and must be at the forefront of developers' minds while executing the software's requirements. With consistent effort, the SDLC pipeline addresses security issues before deployment, reducing the risk of discovering application vulnerabilities while minimizing the damage they could cause.
A secure SDLC makes developers responsible for critical security. Developers need to be aware of potential security concerns at each step of the process. This requires integrating security into the SDLC in ways that were not needed before. As anyone can potentially access source code, coding with potential vulnerabilities in mind is essential. As such, having a robust and secure SDLC process is critical to ensuring applications are not subject to attacks by hackers.
3. Using VMs in Software Development and Secure Testing:
Snapshotting: Snapshotting allows developers to capture a VM's state at a specific point in time and restore it later. This feature is helpful for debugging and enables developers to roll back to a previous state when an error occurs. A virtual machine provides several operations for creating and managing snapshots and snapshot chains. These operations let users create snapshots, revert to any snapshots in the chain, and remove snapshots. In addition, extensive snapshot trees can be created to streamline the flow.
Virtual Networking: It allows virtual machines to be connected to virtual networks that simulate complex network topologies, allowing developers to test their applications in different network environments. This allows expanding data centers to cover multiple physical locations, gaining access to a plethora of more efficient options. This empowers them to effortlessly modify the network as per changing requirements without any additional hardware. Moreover, providing the network for specific applications and needs offers greater flexibility. Additionally, it enables workloads to be moved seamlessly across the network infrastructure without compromising on service, security, or availability.
Resource Allocation: VMs can be configured with specific resource allocations such as CPU, RAM, and storage, allowing developers to test their applications under different resource constraints. Maintaining a 1:1 ratio between the virtual machine processor and its host or core is highly recommended. It's crucial to refrain from over-subscribing virtual machine processors to a single core, as this could lead to stalled or delayed events, causing significant frustration and dissatisfaction among users. However, it is essential to acknowledge that IT administrators sometimes overallocate virtual machine processors. In such cases, a practical approach is to start with a 2:1 ratio and gradually move towards 4:1, 8:1, 12:1, and so on while bringing virtual allocation into IT infrastructure. This approach ensures a safe and seamless transition towards optimized virtual resource allocation.
Containerization within VMs: Containerization within VMs provides an additional layer of isolation and security for applications. Enterprises are finding new use cases for VMs to utilize their in-house and cloud infrastructure to support heavy-duty application and networking workloads. This will also have a positive impact on the environment. DevOps teams use containerization with virtualization to improve software development flexibility. Containers allow multiple apps to run in one container with the necessary components, such as code, system tools, and libraries. For complex applications, both virtual machines and containers are used together. However, while containers are used for the front-end and middleware, VMs are used for the back-end.
VM Templates: VM templates are pre-configured virtual machines that can be used as a base for creating new virtual machines, making it easier to set up development and testing environments. A VM template is an image of a virtual machine that serves as a master copy. It includes VM disks, virtual devices, and settings. By using a VM template, cloning a virtual machine multiple times can be achieved. When you clone a VM from a template, the clones are independent and not linked to the template. VM templates are handy when a large number of similar VMs need to be deployed. They preserve VM consistency. To edit a template, convert it to a VM, make the necessary changes, and then convert the edited VM back into a new template.
Remote Access: VMs can be accessed remotely, allowing developers and testers to collaborate more effectively from anywhere worldwide. To manage a virtual machine, follow these steps: enable remote access, connect to the virtual machine, and then access the VNC or serial console. Once connected, full permission to manage the virtual machine is granted with the user's approval. Remote access provides a secure way to access VMs, as connections can be encrypted and authenticated to prevent unauthorized access. Additionally, remote access allows for easier management of VMs, as administrators can monitor and control virtual machines from a central location.
DevOps Integration: DevOps is a collection of practices, principles, and tools that allow a team to release software quickly and efficiently. Virtualization is vital in DevOps when developing intricate cloud, API, and SOA systems. Virtual machines enable teams to simulate environments for creating, testing, and launching code, ultimately preserving computing resources.
While commencing a bug search at the API layer, teams find that virtual machines are suitable for test-driven development (TDD). Virtualization providers handle updates, freeing up DevOps teams, to focus on other areas and increasing productivity by 50 –60%. In addition, VMs allow for simultaneous testing of multiple release and patch levels, improving product compatibility and interoperability.
The outlook for virtual machine applications is highly promising in the development and testing fields. With the increasing complexity of development and testing processes, VMs can significantly simplify and streamline these operations. In the future, VMs are expected to become even more versatile and potent, providing developers and testers with a broader range of tools and capabilities to facilitate the development process.
One potential future development is integrating machine learning and artificial intelligence into VMs. This would enable VMs to automate various tasks, optimize the allocation of resources, and generate recommendations based on performance data. Moreover, VMs may become more agile and lightweight, allowing developers and testers to spin up and spin down instances with greater efficiency.
The future of VM applications for software development and security testing looks bright, with continued innovation and development expected to provide developers and testers with even more powerful and flexible tools to improve the software development process.
Virtual Desktop Strategies
Article | June 7, 2022
With cloud computing on the path to becoming the mother of all transformations, particularly in IT's ways of development and operations, we are once again confronted with the problem of conversion errors, this time a hundredfold higher than previous moves to dispersed computing and the web.
While the issue is evident, the remedies are not so obvious. Cloud complexity is the outcome of the fast acceleration of cloud migration and net-new innovation without consideration of the complexity this introduces in operations.
Almost all businesses are already working in a multi-cloud or hybrid-cloud environment. According to an IDC report, 93% of enterprises utilize multiple clouds. The decision could have stemmed from a desire to save money and avoid vendor lock-in, increase resilience, or businesses might have found themselves with several clouds as a result of the compounding activities of different teams. When it comes to strategic technology choices, relatively few businesses begin by asking, "How can we secure and control our technology?"
Must-Follow Methods for Multi-Cloud and Hybrid Cloud Success
Data Analysis at Any Size, from Any Source:
To proactively recognize, warn, and guide investigations, teams should be able to utilize all data throughout the cloud and on-premises.
Insights in Real-Time:
Considering the temporary nature of containerized operations and functions as a service, businesses cannot wait minutes to determine whether they are experiencing infrastructure difficulties. Only a scalable streaming architecture can ingest, analyze, and alert rapidly enough to discover and investigate problems before they have a major impact on consumers.
Analytics That Enables Teams to Act:
Because multi-cloud and hybrid-cloud strategies do not belong in a single team, businesses must be able to evaluate data inside and across teams in order to make decisions and take action swiftly.
How Can VMware Help in Solving Multi-Cloud and Hybrid-Cloud Complexity?
VMware made several announcements indicating a new strategy focused on modern applications. Their approach focuses on two VMware products: vSphere with Kubernetes and Tanzu.
Since then, much has been said about VMware's modern app approach, and several products have launched. Let's focus on VMware Tanzu.
Tanzu is a product that enables organizations to upgrade both their apps and the infrastructure that supports them. In the same way that VMware wants vRealize to be known for cloud management and automation, Tanzu wants to be known for modern business applications.
Tanzu uses Kubernetes to build and manage modern applications.
In Tanzu, there is just one development environment and one deployment process.
VMware Tanzu is compatible with both private and public cloud infrastructures.
The important point is that the Tanzu portfolio offers a great deal of flexibility in terms of where applications operate and how they are controlled. We observe an increase in demand for operating an application on any cloud, and how VMware Tanzu assists us in streamlining the multi-cloud operation for MLOps pipeline. Apart from multi-cloud operation, it is critical to monitor and alarm each component throughout the MLOps lifecycle, from Kubernetes pods and inference services to data and model performance.