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The value of a virtual security gateway in the data center

Matthew Pascucci discusses virtual security gateway appliances and whether they are a virtual data center necessity or just an overhyped product.

What's your take on virtual gateway products? Are they becoming necessary for organizations that use virtualization extensively in the data center, or are traditional gateway vendors adding virtualization security features to standard gateway products?

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Enterprises of many different sizes are embracing virtualization technology to cut costs and increase fault tolerance. This requires the installation of powerful virtual host servers in data centers, each of which may service dozens or hundreds of guest operating systems. Security administrators must consider the ways these devices interact with traditional security controls and plan for the increased use of virtualization in their environments.

One emerging approach is the use of virtual security gateways that are aware of the virtualization context and can regulate activity between virtual machines. Systems such as the Cisco Virtual Security Gateway and the Checkpoint Security Gateway Virtual Edition are able to reach directly into the virtual host's hypervisor and mediate the connections between systems to enforce your organization's security requirements.

The primary function a virtual security gateway serves is to segment virtual guests into security zones, similar to the manner that a network firewall separates physical servers into zones inside of a traditional data center. This is an especially important control in mixed-environment virtualization farms that commingle systems of differing sensitivity levels and/or belonging to different customers. If you're running a multi-tenant virtual environment, this technology is practically a must-have.

The bottom line? If you're looking to achieve increased control over the segmentation of virtual hosts, a virtual security gateway may be an excellent addition to your environment.

Editor's note: SearchSecurity.com expert Mike Chapple contributed to this article.

This was last published in May 2013

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