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Accelerating and automating data center security – findings from VMworld 2018

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I recently attended VMworld 2018 in Las Vegas, an impressive conference attended by 25,000 IT professionals. The four-day event showcased VMware’s latest innovations and updates to its core product portfolio, and featured hundreds of sessions on the latest hot digital infrastructure topics.

It was a highly successful event for us, with many visitors to our booth catching our rolling presentations and finding out more about the alignment and synergy between AlgoSec’s and VMware’s solutions. It also provided an excellent forum to network with other vendors and users of VMware’s solutions to discuss how they utilize the technology, the benefits they realize and the challenges they face. One of the key takeaways is that VMware is continuing to expand beyond the enterprise private cloud sector, which it currently leads.

With organizations increasingly using hybrid cloud environments, with applications working across both, VMware is recognizing that the distinctions between private and public clouds are blurring. As Chris Wolf, VP & CTO, Global Field and Industry for VMware stated: “Cloud does not have to be a statement of where, but more of an operational model in which virtualization becomes a natural way to run an aggregate of cloud services, containers, traditional applications, and whatever is necessary to meet business requirements.”

This fluid approach to how the cloud is utilized and delivered was reinforced in a keynote session with SVP Tom Gillis, who spoke about how forward thinking organizations are embracing the vision of a Virtual Cloud Network as a blueprint to a simplified, agile network that provides consistent connectivity, branch optimization, and security across their entire infrastructure. Gillis stated that this: “enables organizations to respond to new opportunities and threats, create new business models, and deliver services to all applications and data, wherever they are located.”

Combining clouds
This recognition of ‘meeting business requirements’ and create “new business models” was reflected throughout the show, with several announcements around extending VMware’s integrations with other virtualization vendors and cloud services. This includes integrations with Amazon AWS and Cisco ACI, enabling VMware workloads to operate on these vendors’ platforms.

While this operational model has great potential, it adds further complexity to already-complex hybrid environments. So it is critical that security management processes, which offer visibility, governance, automation and consistency across all environments, are orchestrated across the entire environment. Supporting this requires a network security policy management (NSPM) solution that can holistically manage private cloud and virtualized security alongside on-premise firewalls and public cloud security controls. This will unify security across all your environments – no matter which tools and technologies you end up deploying.

Improving application security
In addition to integrations into other virtualized environments, in a separate session VMware discussed how it is working to enforce zero-touch security within the data centre. The presentation outlined that application security review processes tend to be long and cumbersome, leading VMware to identify a need for application centric security.

To achieve this the presenter explained that there is a need to understand the application context – such as the workload, whitelisting, etc – and develop a solution that recognises that applications constantly change and deliver security that supports that flexibility.

As a result, VMware is expanding its security range with a new version of its virtualization software that has security capabilities built into it. This will see AppDefense, VMware’s data centre endpoint security solution, integrate seamlessly with VMware’s native security capabilities. This marks a shift away from point security tools, and towards security that is embedded in the infrastructure.

Business-driven security across all environments
This application-centric approach is very much aligned with AlgoSec’s own business-driven security focus, which is why we have worked with VMware to develop an integrated solution that takes full advantage of both companies’ capabilities. Our integration with VMware NSX provides application connectivity visualization as well as intelligent change automation across the entire hybrid network. This gives network and security teams business context for their firewall rules and policies, and for security risks and vulnerabilities. It also extends NSX’s microsegmentation capabilities to all the security devices in the enterprise network – physical or virtual, on-premises or in the cloud – and automatically applies policies to a wide variety of security devices and platforms.

The integrated AlgoSec and VMware solution will then automatically generate the actual security policy, and then push it to the relevant network security devices – on-prem, on private or public clouds, and across multiple vendors in hybrid environments. This enables security teams to manage security tasks with the business impact in mind. It also allows them to verify that the current application connectivity is compliant with organizational and regulatory requirements, and adjust it as needed.

The solution gives network and security teams complete visibility into the VMware NSX security environment, and enables them to extend NSX’s policy-based automation across the enterprise network. If any changes are planned to NSX rules or policies, the teams can then assess how those changes will impact business applications and the rest of the enterprise network – helping to eliminate the risks of misconfigurations and outages.

This approach gives software defined security across organizations’ hybrid environments, enabling them to get maximum value from their investments in all networks, whether on-premise, private or public cloud.

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