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Tag Archives: security

The Next Horizon for Cloud Networking & Security

VMware NSX has been around for more than two years now, and in that time software-defined networking and network virtualization have become VMware Networking Expert Guido Appenzellerinextricably integrated into modern data center architecture. It seems like an inconceivable amount of progress has been made. But the reality is that we’re only at the beginning of this journey.

The transformation of networking from a hardware industry into a software industry is having a profound impact on services, security, and IT organizations around the world, according to VMware’s Chief Technology Strategy Officer for Networking, Guido Appenzeller.

“I’ve never seen growth like what we’ve found with NSX,” he says. “Networking is going through a huge transition.” Continue reading

Distributed Firewall ALG

In the last post, VMware NSX™ Distributed Firewall installation and operation was verified. In this entry, the FTP (file transfer protocol) ALG (Application Level Gateway) is tested for associating data connections with originating control connections – something a stateless ACL (access control list) can’t do.

An added benefit over stateless ACLs – most compliance standards more easily recognize a stateful inspection-based firewall for access control requirements. Continue reading

Getting Started with VMware NSX Distributed Firewall – Part 2

In Part 1, I covered traditional segmentation options. Here, I introduce VMware NSX Distributed Firewall for micro-segmentation, showing step-by-step how it can be deployed in an existing vSphere environment.

Now, I have always wanted a distributed firewall. Never understood why I had to allow any more access to my servers than was absolutely necessary. Why have we accepted just network segmentation for so long? I want to narrow down allowed ports and protocols as close to the source/destination as I can.

Which brings me to my new favorite tool – VMware NSX Distributed Firewall. Continue reading

Getting Started with VMware NSX Distributed Firewall – Part 1

Who saw it coming that segmentation would be a popular term in 2015?!? Gartner analyst StartGreg Young was almost apologetic when he kicked off the Network Segmentation Best Practices session at the last Gartner Security Summit.

As a professional with a long history in the enterprise firewall space, I know I found it odd at first. Segmentation is such a basic concept, dovetailing with how we secure networks – historically on network boundaries. Network segmentation is the basis for how we write traditional firewall rules – somehow get the traffic TO the firewall, and policy can be executed. How much more can we say about network segmentation? Continue reading

Organizations Can Be Twice As Secure at Half the Cost

Last week at VMworld, Pat Gelsinger made a statement that got folks buzzing. During his Cyber-Security-King_Blogkeynote, he said that integrating security into the virtualization layer would result in organizations being twice as secure at half the cost. As a long-time security guy, statements like that can seem a little bold, but VMware has data, and some proven capability here in customer environments.

We contend that the virtualization layer is increasingly ubiquitous. It touches compute, network, and storage – connects apps to infrastructure – and spans data center to device. More importantly, virtualization enables alignment between the things we care about (people, apps, data) and the controls that can protect them (not just the underlying infrastructure).

Let me speak to the statement from the data center network side with some real data. VMware has a number of VMware NSX customers in production that have deployed micro-segmentation in their data centers.  Here’s what we found:

  1. 75% of data center network traffic is East-West, moving VM to VM regardless of how convoluted the path may be.
  2. Nearly all security controls look exclusively at North-South traffic, which is the traffic moving into and out of the data center; 90% of East-West traffic never sees a security control.
  3. Micro-segmentation with NSX enables full inspection of East-West traffic by logical network isolation, stateful firewalling, and with partners, even more sophisticated security controls can be implemented (next-generation firewalls, intrusion prevention systems, etc).

By my math using the above data, we’ve enabled organizations to move from security controls that only cover one third of their data center traffic to a much higher percentage – in some customer environments, they’ve deployed security controls to 100% of the traffic (full micro-segmentation, 100% of East-West traffic).  That’s actually better than twice as secure.

Now, the “half the cost” aspect of the statement we’ve proven many times over. We’ve seen enough customer business cases that demonstrate doing micro-segmentation with hardware firewalls is three times the cost of doing it with VMware NSX. Never mind the fact that it is operationally infeasible to do this. You can read about that here in our whitepaper.

So, in a sense, Pat was being conservative in my view. It’s actually more like three times as secure at one-third the cost.  Either way, it’s a huge improvement.

Here are just a few stories of real world customers that are starting to reap the benefits of using virtualization and micro-segmentation to improve the effectiveness and economics of security.

Chris King

Cross vCenter Networking & Security with VMware NSX

NSX 6.2 was released on August 20, 2015. One of the key features in NSX 6.2 is Cross vCenter Networking and Security. This new capability scales NSX vSphere across vCenter boundaries. Now, one can span logical networking and security constructs across vCenter boundaries irrespective of whether the vCenters are in adjacent racks or across datacenters (up to 150ms apart). This enables us to solve a variety of use cases including:

  • Capacity pooling across vCenters
  • Simplifying data center migrations
  • Cross vCenter and long distance vMotion
  • Disaster recovery

With Cross vCenter Networking & Security one can extend logical switches (VXLAN networks) across vCenter boundaries enabling a layer 2 segment to span across VCs even when the underlying network is a pure IP / L3 network. However, the big innovation here is that with NSX we can also extend distributed routing and distributed firewalling seamlessly across VCs to provide a comprehensive solution as seen in the figure below. Continue reading

Using VMware NSX, Log Insight, and vRealize Orchestator to Improve Security

This post was written by Hadar Freehling, Security & Compliance Systems Engineer Specialist at VMware. The post originally appeared here on the dfudsecurity blog


There is a lot of power in having security controls in software.  This is what I tell my customer, not just because I work for VMware. Why is that? The reason I find it so powerful is that I can now automate a lot of the security actions that use to be very manual. No more opening tickets to get a SPAN setup on the switch. No more waiting for a firewall change window to lock down a port. Not only that, I have visibility into the VM, like what apps are running and who started them, and what’s on the wire. I can protect different assets with different policies, and these polices can be dynamic.

With the help of my good friend John Dias (vRealize Orchestrator master), we created the follow video to show some of the potential of having everything in software.

Here is the scenario of the workflow.  You are a security person and want to stop all server admins and users from launching a putty session once they have RDPed into a server since they should only be doing this from approved jump boxes or desktops. Basically, I want to stop all intra-data center putty ssh sessions. I am actually looking for putty, the application, not just ssh. This could be any application or port, but I wanted to target a specific application for this demo. Continue reading

VCDX-NV Interview: Ron Flax On The Importance Of Network Virtualization

Ron Flax is the Vice President of August Schell, a reseller of VMware products and IT services company that specializes in delivering services to commercial accounts and the federal government, particularly intelligence and U.S. Department of Defense. RonFlaxRon is a VCDX-NV certified network virtualization professional and a VMware vExpert. We spoke with Ron about network virtualization and the NSX career path.


The most exciting thing about network virtualization, I think, is the transformative nature of this technology. Networks have been built the same way for the last 20 to 25 years. Nothing has really changed. A lot of new features have been built, a lot of different technologies have come around networks, but the fundamental nature of how networks are built has not changed. But VMware NSX, because it’s a software-based product, has completely altered everything. It enables a much more agile approach to networks: the ability to automate the stand-up and tear-down of networks; the ability to produce firewalling literally at the virtual network interface. And because things are done at software speed, you can now make changes to the features and functions of networking products at software speed. You no longer have to deal with silicon speed. It’s very, very exciting. With a software-based approach, you can just do so much more in such a small amount of time.

What we’re hearing from customers, at this point, is that they’re very interested to learn more. They’re at a phase where they’re ready to get their hands dirty, and they really want to understand it better. What’s driving a lot of adoption today is security, it is our foot in the door. When you speak with customers about the security aspects, the micro-segmentation capabilities, you may not even have to get to a virtual network discussion. Once you get the security aspect deployed, customers will see it in action and then a few weeks later will say, ‘Hey, you know, can you show me how the new router works?’ or ‘Can you show me how other features of NSX work?’ That’s when you can start to broaden your approach. So these compelling security stories like micro-segmentation or distributed firewalling get you in and get the deployment started, but ultimately it’s the flexibility of being able to deliver networks at speed, in an agile way, through software, through automation, that’s the home run. Continue reading

Automating a Multi-Action Security Workflow with VMware NSX

This post was written by VMware’s John Dias, (VCP-DCV), Sr. Systems Engineer, Cloud Management Solutions Engineering Team, and Hadar Freehling, Security & Compliance Systems Engineer Specialist


Through a joint effort with Hadar Freehling, one of my esteemed peers here at VMware, we co-developed a proof-of-concept workflow for a network security use case.  Hadar created a short video showing and explaining the use case, but in summary this is a workflow that reacts to and remediates a security issue flagged by third-party integration with VMware NSX. In the video, TrendMicro is used but it could be any other partner integration with vShield Endpoint.

Here’s what happens:

  • A virus is detected on a VM and is quarantined by the AV solution
  • The AV solution tags the VM with an NSX security tag
  • VMware NSX places the VM in a new Security Group, whose network policies steer all VM traffic through an intrusion prevention system (IPS)
  • vCenter Orchestrator (vCO) monitors the security group for changes and when a VM is added
    • a snapshot of the VM is taken for forensic purposes
    • a vSpan session (RSPAN) is set up on the Distributed Virtual Switch to begin capturing inbound/outbound traffic on the VM
    • once the VM has been removed from the security group, the vSpan session is removed

Watch the video below for a walk-through by Hadar:

You will note that there is a portion of the workflow that is handled natively by VMware NSX (Security Tag reaction, Security Group policy) but the snapshot and RSPAN are done via vCO workflow.

If you are interested in exploring this capability, I have provided the vCO workflow package for download. This is provided as-is and you should fully test it (and modify as needed) before using in your environment.

Assuming you have VMware NSX, vShield Endpoint and some third party integration already set up, you will need the following:

  • vCO 5.5.2
  • The NSX plugin for vCO (installed and configured)
  • The REST plugin with your NSX manager added as a REST host
  • vCenter plugin configured

The workflow package includes a good number of “helper” workflows which you will not need to run directly. The master workflow is in the root folder Security Reaction and is named “Set up VM Forensics RUN THIS” (just in case you had any doubt as to which one to run).

Multi-Site Security

The Security Reaction Master Workflow

Running the master workflow will prompt you for three items:

  • The NSX Security Group to monitor – This is why the NSX plugin is required, so that you can browse the vCO managed objects and locate the desired Security Group.
  • A time to sleep in seconds – The master workflow will run continuously until manually stopped and will use a REST call to NSX to get the current membership for the Security Group.  We have no recommendation on this poll time, although in testing we used 5-10 seconds.  It would have been better to use some external event to kick off the vCO workflow but we could not find a way to do this from NSX.  It may be possible to do via the partner solution, but we wanted this workflow package to be “partner neutral.”
  • Destination IPv4 address – This is the destination for the RSPAN (or vSpan session in vSphere API terms).  The vSpan session is created with some defaults (for example sampling rate, normal traffic allowed, etc).  If you want to change any of those properties, you will need to modify the Helper workflow named “Configure encapRemoteMirrorSource vSpan Session on DVS” (modify the “Create Port Mirror” script task).

Also note that this workflow doesn’t support VMs with multiple vNICs. Specifically, it will only create an RSPAN that includes the first vNIC found on a VM.  You can modify the Helper workflow “Implement Forensics” and adjust the script task “Prep for Mirror Creation” so that the additional NICs (if any) are added to the sourcePorts array. It’s something we intended to fix but forgot about until after our final testing and video production – so as they say in the textbooks “this is left as an exercise for the reader.”

Of course, there are many other actions that can be taken besides setting up an RSPAN and getting a snapshot. This solution can be extended to practically any task required during such an event such as creating a ticket in your service desk software, spinning up additional workloads to replace the compromised VM, sending emails, guest OS file system operations…all of these and more can be accomplished using vCO in conjunction with NSX.


A Customer Perspective: VMware NSX, Micro-Segmentation & Next-Generation Security

VMware NSX and Palo Alto Networks are transforming the data center by combining the Columbia-S12_WTR_MGHI_564fast provisioning of network and security services with next-generation security protection for East-West traffic. At VMworld, John Spiegel, Global IS Communications Manager for Columbia Sportswear will take the stage to discuss their architecture, their micro-segmentation use case and their experience. This is session SEC1977 taking place on Tuesday, Aug 26, 2:30-3:30 p.m.

Micro-segmentation is quickly emerging as one of the primary drivers for the adoption of NSX. Below, John shares Columbia’s security journey ahead of VMworld


When I started at Columbia, we were about a $500 million company. Now we’re closing in on $2 billion and hoping to get to $3 billion rather quickly. So as you can imagine, our IT infrastructure has to scale with the business. In 2009, we embarked on a huge project to add a redundant data center for disaster recovery. As part of the project, we partnered with VMware and quickly created a nearly 100% virtualized datacenter.  It was a huge success. But something was missing; a security solution that matched our virtualized data center. There just wasn’t a great way to insert security in order to address east-west traffic between VMs, nor have the security tied to the applications as they moved around dynamically.

 We set out looking for a solution to bridge that gap.

To address our security needs in the data center, we looked at several different strategies and at that time, there really weren’t any good solutions. Many of the solutions were physical in nature. They required us to do some crazy configurations to apply security. We looked at the Cisco 6500 firewall blades, Juniper’s virtual solution and a few other lightweight security offerings, but they just didn’t have what we needed. The solutions at the time didn’t have what we needed. We kept looking.

At VMworld last year, we were introduced to VMware NSX. I saw the power of the platform, and it all started to click. And when Palo Alto Networks (our perimeter firewall vendor) announced they were a major partner, and that their technology integrated with NSX to give us an additional level of security, things really came together for us. The ability to drive security down into the infrastructure, down to the kernel level, and then take advantage of Palo Alto Networks next generation security was very attractive. Doing micro-segmentation with NSX, and then having the option of inserting next generation firewalling services from Palo Alto Networks in those areas of the business that require them, will really help us improve our overall security posture. A solution like this is where we need to be. These tools give us the ability to manage both physical and virtual security policies centrally with Palo Alto Networks management tool Panorama. I know that when workloads move the security and policies follow the workloads.

To me, that’s what it is about – advanced security inside the data center, plus automation via software that’s completely independent of the underlying physical infrastructure. With solutions such as NSX and the integration with Palo Alto Networks to provide advanced security services, we are going put security back in the data center, the right way.=


John Spiegel
Columbia Sportswear