Oracle has acquired mValent, the configuration management vendor. mValent provides an assessment tool to examine the configuration of applications. Actually, they do quite a bit more than that, but I wanted to focus on the value to database security and compliance in this post. This is a really good move on Oracle’s part as it fills a glaring hole that they have had for some time in their security and compliance offerings. I have never understood why Oracle did not provide this as part of OEM as every Oracle event I have been to in the last 5 years has sessions where DBA’s are swapping scripts to assess their database. Regardless, they have finally filled the gap. It provides them with a platform to implement their own best practice guidelines, and gives customers a way to implement their own security, compliance and operational policies around the database and (I assume) other application platforms. Sadly, many companies have not automated their database configuration assessments, and the market remains wide open, and this is a timely acquisition.

While the value proposition for this technology will be spun by Oracle’s marketing team in a few dozen different ways (change management, compliance audits, regulatory compliance, application controls, application audits, compliance automation, etc), don’t get confused by all of the terms. When it comes down to it, this is an assessment of application configuration. And it does provide value in a number of ways: security, compliance and operations management. The basic platform can be used in many different ways all depending upon how you bundle the policy sets and distribute reports.

Also keep in mind that a ‘database audit’ and ‘database auditing’ are two completely different things. Database auditing is about examining transactions. What we are talking about here is how the database is configured and deployed. To avoid the deliberate market confusion on the vendors part, here at Securosis we will stick to the terms Vulnerability Assessment and Configuration Assessment to describe the work that is being performed.

Tenable Network Security has also announced on their blog that they now have the ability to perform credentialed scans of the database. This means that Nessus is no longer just a pen-test style patch level checker, but a credentialed/peer based configuration assessment. By ‘Credentialed’ I mean that the scanning tool has a user name and password with some access rights the database. This type of assessment provides a lot more functionality because there is a lot more information available to you that is not available through a penetration test. This is necessary progression for the product as the ports, quite specifically the database ports, no longer return sufficient information for a good assessment of patch levels, or any of the important information for configuration.

If you want to produce meaningful compliance reports, this is the type of scan you need to provide. While I occasionally rip Tenable Security as this is something they should have done two years ago, it is really a great advancement for them as it opens up the compliance and operation management buying centers. Tenable must be considered a serious player in this space as this is a low cost, high value option. They will continue to win market share as they flesh out the policy set to include many of the industry best practices and compliance tests.

Oracle will represent an attractive option for many customers, and they should be able to immediately leverage their existing relations. While not cutting edge or best-of -breed in this class, I expect many customers will adopt as it will be bundled with what they are already buying, or the investment is considered lower risk as you are going with the worlds largest business software vendors. On the opposite end of the spectrum, companies who do not view this as business critical but still want thorough scans will employe the cost effective Tenable solution. Vendors like Fortinet, with their database security appliance, and Application Security’s AppDetective product, will be further pressed to differentiate their offerings to compete with the perceived top end and bottom ends of the market. Things should get interesting in the months to come.