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Symantec Analyst Relations

Keeping One Step Ahead of the Virtualisation Curve

Created: 21 Sep 2012 • Updated: 25 Jun 2013
Neal Watkins's picture
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As head of the Field Technology Sales organisation for Symantec in EMEA, I find myself in some extraordinarily interesting meetings. None more so than a recent half-day workshop with our technology peers at VMware down at Frimley in Camberley.

It was a meeting of minds from a group of extremely passionate individuals — and an ideal opportunity to brainstorm big ideas to resolve some of the challenges that are stopping our customers from virtualising more of their physical infrastructure.  Two of the greatest challenges right now: Regulatory compliance and the cloud, which resulted in two great use cases, which we can solve today.

The first major use cases to emanate from the workshop was the whole issue of security in a virtualised environment. Talk turned to the retail sector. Retailers large and small need to establish a security baseline across their virtual IT environment that protects payment card information, in order to meet the requirements of the PCI DSS standard. 

The requirement is challenging since the retail outlets are highly distributed across geographic areas and typically have light weight IT outposts to support them, so it’s not as easy as you might think. Retailers have complex environments between centralised and distributed IT operations with IT assets in a variety of places and those assets needing to comply to security standards.

As retailers transform to a virtual infrastructure they need to be protected from top to bottom using a three layer approach—including the guest, the hypervisor and management server.

Server hardening solutions which provide intrusion detection and prevention must operate across the physical and virtual infrastructure to ensure those assets are compliant which gives level one protection. 

As we expand out across the infrastructure level two protection is gained from the proactive monitoring of logs, events and alerts across all virtual machines, hypervisors, servers and appliances.  This allow correlation and prioritisation of vulnerability, threats or any malicious activity. 

The third level of protection then comes from utilising a global security intelligence feed to allow the retailer to proactively manage any events or threats which are on the horizon from across the global coupled with a 24x7 remote monitoring and management services that provides a laser focus protection capability – allowing the retailers to sleep at night knowing the cyber threat analysts are monitoring their operations around the clock.

The second use case was the insatiable demand for protecting virtualised environments as they start to become hosted in the Cloud. The evolution from on-premise virtualised to off-premise in the cloud is driving a whole new realm of Cloud-based data protection challenges—from the multi-tenancy aspect of ring fencing operations to self-service recovery options for users and operational staff, to automating every step of the backup/restore process based on defined workflows.  As customers try to capture the benefits of Cloud based computing these challenges become real and IT really does need to become a competitive advantage.

To make the most of the virtualised Cloud infrastructure, organisations need to adopt a standardised approach, which is automated, provides orchestrated recovery of their multi-tiered applications running on different operating systems and virtualisation platforms.   This needs to span physical and virtual worlds to give economies of scale and provide a holistic approach rather than reverts back to the silo days of the past.

These are just two of the ideas, which resulted from the meeting of the minds session with VMware and I am sure they will be talking points at VMworld in Barcelona during the month of October.