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How to Secure vCloud Director and the vCloud API

vCloud Director (vCD) is interesting because it avoids the classic virtualization metaphors

This year’s VMworld conference saw the announcement of VMware’s new vCloud Director product, a culmination of the vision for the cloud computing the company articulated last year and a significant step forward in providing a true enterprise-grade cloud. This is virtualization 2.0—a major rethink about how IT should deliver infrastructure services. VMware believes that the secure hybrid cloud is the future of enterprise IT, and given their success of late it is hard to argue against them.

vCloud Director (vCD) is interesting because it avoids the classic virtualization metaphors rooted in the physical world—hosts, SANs, and networks—and instead promotes a resource-centric view contained with the virtual datacenter (VDC). vCD pools resources into logical groupings that carry an associated cost. This ability to monetize is important not just in public clouds, but for private clouds that implement a charge back to enterprise business units.

Multi-tenancy is a basic assumption in the vCD universe, and the product leverages the new vShield suite to enforce isolation. Management of vCD is through the vCloud API, a technology VMware introduced a year ago, but which has now matured to version 1.0.

The product vision and implementation are impressive; however, a number of security professionals I spoke with expressed disappointment in the rudimentary security and management model for the vCloud API. vCloud is a RESTful API. It makes use of SSL, basic credentials and cookie-based session tokens as a basic security model. While this is adequate for some applications, many organizations demand a more sophisticated approach to governance, buttressed with customized audit for compliance purposes. This is where Layer 7 can help.

Layer 7’s CloudSpan virtual gateways are the ideal solution for protecting and managing the vCloud API, vSphere, and vCloud Director. CloudSpan provides an intuitive, drag-and-drop interface for securing vCloud services and providing the visibility the modern enterprise demands. Do you need to protect the interface with 2-factor authentication? A few simple key clicks and you add this capability instantly—to a single API, or across a group of similar services. The CloudSpan policy language gives administrators the power to customize the access control and management of vCloud to incorporate:

  • Authentication against virtually any security token (SAML, Kerberos, X.509 certificates, OAuth, etc).
  • Cloud single sign-on (SSO).
  • Fine grained authorization to individual APIs.
  • Fully customizable audit.
  • Virtualization and masking of APIs.
  • Versioning of REST and SOAP APIs beyond vCloud basic versioning.
  • Augmentation and extension of existing vCloud functions.
  • Transformation of any GET, POST, DELETE, and PUT content.
  • Orchestration to create new APIs
  • Validation of XML structures such as OVF containers.
  • Threat detection, including threats embedded in XML OVF files.
  • Automatic fail-over between hosts.
  • Mapping between SOAP and REST
  • JSON Schema validation
  • Management of federated relationships.
  • Live dashboard monitoring of API usage.
  • etc

Figure 1: vCloud Director API management and security with CloudSpan from Layer 7.

CloudSpan is the basis of real cloud governance. In contrast to other solutions that run as third party services or attempt to broker security from you own local data center, CloudSpan runs as an integral part of the vCloud Director environment. CloudSpan runs as a VMware virtual image that is easily incorporated into any VMware virtual infrastructure. At Layer 7,we fundamentally believe that the security, monitoring and visibility solution for cloud APIs must reside inside the cloud they are protecting—not off at some other location where the transactions they proxy are subject to attach as they traverse the open Internet. Local integration of the security solution as an integral part of the cloud infrastructure is the only way to properly secure cloud APIs with sophisticated access control and to offer protection against denial-of-service (DoS) attacks.

For more information about how to secure and manage the vCloud API and vCloud Director, please see the cloud solutions page at Layer 7 Technologies.

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More Stories By Scott Morrison

K. Scott Morrison is the Chief Technology Officer and Chief Architect at Layer 7 Technologies, where he is leading a team developing the next generation of security infrastructure for cloud computing and SOA. An architect and developer of highly scalable, enterprise systems for over 20 years, Scott has extensive experience across industry sectors as diverse as health, travel and transportation, and financial services. He has been a Director of Architecture and Technology at Infowave Software, a leading maker of wireless security and acceleration software for mobile devices, and was a senior architect at IBM. Before shifting to the private sector, Scott was with the world-renowned medical research program of the University of British Columbia, studying neurodegenerative disorders using medical imaging technology.

Scott is a dynamic, entertaining and highly sought-after speaker. His quotes appear regularly in the media, from the New York Times, to the Huffington Post and the Register. Scott has published over 50 book chapters, magazine articles, and papers in medical, physics, and engineering journals. His work has been acknowledged in the New England Journal of Medicine, and he has published in journals as diverse as the IEEE Transactions on Nuclear Science, the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow, and Neurology. He is the co-author of the graduate text Cloud Computing, Principles, Systems and Applications published by Springer, and is on the editorial board of Springer’s new Journal of Cloud Computing Advances, Systems and Applications (JoCCASA). He co-authored both Java Web Services Unleashed and Professional JMS. Scott is an editor of the WS-I Basic Security Profile (BSP), and is co-author of the original WS-Federation specification. He is a recent co-author of the Cloud Security Alliance’s Security Guidance for Critical Areas of Focus in Cloud Computing, and an author of that organization’s Top Threats to Cloud Computing research. Scott was recently a featured speaker for the Privacy Commission of Canada’s public consultation into the privacy implications of cloud computing. He has even lent his expertise to the film and television industry, consulting on a number of features including the X-Files. Scott’s current interests are in cloud computing, Web services security, enterprise architecture and secure mobile computing—and of course, his wife and two great kids.

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