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December 2004

Virtualization security futures: Understanding virtualization types

Virtualization is everywhere. In one sense, our entire computing environment is a veritable virtual wonderland. What makes virtualization interesting from a security perspective is its ability to isolate -- it's a tool for separating processes without deploying a cumbersome physical infrastructure. There are three areas where virtualization is becoming commonplace, and each has its place in the security world: Virtual Machines (VMs) emulate an operating system and virtualize the physical hardware environment, allowing multiple OSes to run on a single system. VMs -- such as VMWare or Microsoft VPC -- enable the creation of a virtual appliance to isolate applications and compartmentalize risk by limiting the ability of an exploited application to further compromise the system. The virtual system runs like a normal system; the benefit comes from running other applications on another VM or on the native system. VMs are also useful for testing patches, configuration changes or the effects of new applications without impacting ...

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