Now that we are at the end of the major technology areas covered in the Securosis Guide to the RSA Conference 2010, let’s discuss one of the 3 big themes of the show: Virtualization and Cloud Security.

Virtualization and Cloud Security

The thing about virtualization and ‘cloud’ is that they really cut across pretty much every other coverage area. But given they’re new and shiny – which really means confusing and hype-ridden – we figured it was better to split out this topic, to provide proper context on what you’ll see, what to believe, and what is important.

What We Expect to See

For virtualization and cloud security there are four areas to focus on:

  • Virtualization Security: The tools and techniques for locking down virtual machines and infrastructures. Most virtualization risk today is around improper management configuration and changes to networking, which may introduce new security issues or circumvent traditional network security controls. Focus on virtualization security management tools – especially configuration management that can handle the virtualization configuration, not just the operating system configuration and network security. Be careful when vendors over-promise on network security performance – you can’t simply move a physical appliance into a virtual appliance on shared hardware and expect the same performance.
  • Security as a Service: A variety of new and existing security technologies can be delivered as services via the cloud. Early examples included cloud-based email filtering and DDoS protection, and we now have options for everything from web filtering, to log management, to vulnerability assessment, to configuration management. Many of these are hybrid models, which require some sort of point of presence server or appliance on your network. Security as a Service is especially interesting for mid-sized enterprises, since it’s often able to substantially reduce management and maintenance costs. Although many of these offerings don’t technically meet the definition of cloud computing, don’t tell the marketing departments.
  • Cloud-Powered Security: Some vendors are leveraging cloud-based features to enhance their security product offerings. The product itself isn’t delivered from the cloud or aimed at securing the cloud, but uses the cloud to enhance its capabilities. For example, an anti-malware vendor that leverages cloud technologies to collect malware samples for signature generation. This is where we see the most abuse of the term ‘cloud’, and you should push the vendor on how the technology really works rather than relying on branding vapor.
  • Cloud Security: The tools and techniques for securing cloud deployments. This is what most of us think of when we hear “cloud security”, but it’s what you’ll see the least of on the show floor. We suggest you attend the Cloud Security Alliance Summit on Monday (if you’re reading this before then) or Rich’s presentation with Chris Hoff on Tuesday at 3:40. You can also visit the Cloud Security Alliance in booth 2641.

We guarantee your data center, application, and storage teams are looking hard at, or are already using, cloud and virtualization, so this is one area you’ll want to pay attention to despite the hype.

For those so inclined (or impatient), you can download the entire guide (PDF). Or check out the other posts in our RSAC Guide: Network SecurityData SecurityApplication SecurityEndpoint Security, and Content Security.