Thursday, June 26, 2014

Web Application Firewalling – Great in Theory, Poor in Execution

One of the biggest issues in network security is securing web applications and sites.  According to a 2014 Gartner study, 70% of ALL threats are at the Web Application Layer.  In the past, traditional stateful firewalls and signature-based Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS)/ Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) were the primary means of protecting your network-based applications. 

Today’s Next-Generation Firewalls (NGFW) attempt to improve on those protection mechanisms by adding Layer 7 Application Firewalling, Content Filtering, and enhancements to IPS / IDS.  Even adding in a dedicated Web Application Firewall (WAF) does very little to prevent Web Application Attacks.  Sure, the level of protection increases with each layer, but how much are you actually increasing the security level by building on a poor foundation?  That “poor” foundation is based on a set of flawed premises. 

The biggest of these flaws is that IPS / WAF are signature-based.  Signature-based protection is completely reactive when it comes to dealing with threats.  The entire process for a signature to be published is time consuming, not to mention that the vulnerable system is exposed or taken offline until that process is complete.  

The fact is most IPS and WAF implementations are running in “monitor only” mode due to the high level of false positives.  To avoid blocking legitimate users and potential clients, these devices might be configured to alert or simply log anything considered suspicious and nothing more.  This leaves your web applications exposed and vulnerable.  It also puts your security in a reactive state. 

Juniper’s WebApp Secure (JWAS) changes the game by being proactive in dealing with threats to web applications.  The concept is simple - Intrusion Deception.  Provide false information that a normal user is either not going to see or is going to ignore, but that an attacker can’t resist.  The moment they act on that false information, the attackers are classified and finger-printed. From there, they can have various levels of counter-measures applied to them, up to and including blocking.  JWAS deals with Bots and automated attacks as well by providing false information.  The goal is to make hacking a site or application so time consuming and cost prohibitive that attackers will simply move on.

Enter Juniper’s Spotlight Secure.  Spotlight is an online repository of attackers that have been finger-printed and classified.  JWAS uploads this information to Spotlight where other JWAS users can retrieve this information and automatically classify known attackers based on their fingerprint.  So even if the attacker moves on to another site or web application, every JWAS implementation subscribing to Spotlight can proactively take action against them at their first connection to a protected system, up to and including implementing a “block” action immediately if configured.

In conclusion, while firewalls, NGFWs, IPS and WAF offer protection against known threats and attacks, JWAS and Spotlight Secure take this to a whole new level of protection by proactively mitigating threats, both known and unknown, allowing security professionals to focus on other potential attack vectors.  Security professionals can sleep at night knowing their web applications are protected and secured.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

VMware Introduces vCloud Hybrid Service

VMware recently introduced vCloud Hybrid Service (vCHS), a secure, hybrid cloud service that supports third-party and new application development as well as existing workloads. Providing agility, compatibility, and ease of use, vCloud Hybrid Service allows users to extend their current data center into the public cloud while maintaining control. Built on the foundation of vSphere, vCHS allows users to leverage the same familiar interface, network settings and management tools they have onsite, and migrate virtual machines between their data center and VMware’s cloud infrastructure.

With support for over 5000 applications and over 90 operating systems, vCloud Hybrid Service is a complete Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) platform ideal for high-performance, production workloads, disaster recovery, new application development, and more. vCloud Hybrid Service allows users to leverage their existing tools for a full cloud experience.

Available in three service models, vCloud Hybrid Service has an offering to fit any need:
  • The Virtual Private Cloud is a logically isolated, fully private networking service that lets users scale up and down as demands change. Starting with 20 GB vRAM, 5 GHz vCPU, and 2 TB standard or SSD accelerated storage, The Virtual Private Cloud offering is a multi-tenant hybrid cloud solution that is cost-effective and delivers expandability, value and performance. The Virtual Private Cloud offering also offers 10 Mbps of internet bandwidth with bursts to 50 Mbps, and two public IP addresses. Ideal use cases for Virtual Private Cloud include applications that are non-critical and highly variable test and development workloads. 
  • As a single-tenant, private cloud instance, the Dedicated Cloud offering is physically isolated and is ideal for security and high compliance workloads, as well as mission-critical applications. The Dedicated Cloud starts with 120 GB vRAM and 30 GHz CPU, Dedicated Cloud starts at 6 TB standard or SSD accelerated storage with internet bandwidth of 50 Mbps with bursts to 1 Gbps and three public IP addresses.  Dedicated Cloud also has the ability to allow demands to match the supply by growing and then scaling back down as needed. 
  • With recovery as a service, the Disaster Recovery Cloud offers a minimum size of 20 GB vRAM and 10 GHz vCPU and contains 1 TB of standard storage. Offering 10 Mbps of internet bandwidth and two IP addresses, the Disaster Recovery Cloud is logically isolated and delivers native cloud-based disaster recovery capabilities for VMware vSphere virtual environments. By protecting on-premises cloud infrastructures through self-service recovery options, Disaster Recovery Cloud also provides automated failover testing, planned migrations, and recovery. 
vCloud Hybrid Service allows users to build new environments in the cloud or expand existing clouds when necessary. Some key features include broadest operating system and application support, high-performance, security and compliance, seamless network integration, manageability and reliability, lower cost of ownership and low risk, and a comprehensive ecosystem and best-in-class support. Some optional features of vCHS include data protection, direct connect, offline data transfer and application catalog.

As many enterprises are looking to move into cloud-based solutions, vCloud Hybrid Service is an ideal solution for those already employing virtualization in their existing infrastructure. vCloud Hybrid Service enables you to extend your private infrastructure seamlessly into the cloud, resulting in improved efficiencies, coverage, and cost-savings.

For more information, please visit

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Why GLC is Both a Partner and a Customer of Nimble Storage

At Great Lakes Computer (GLC), we provide datacenter solutions. Our focus is in providing better technology at a great value, so it’s important for us to believe in the technology that we sell. This made it especially difficult when we were internally challenged with an inefficient virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI).

Due to performance issues such as inadequate data capture and retention, high datastore latency, and long backup durations, our sales staff experienced productivity loss while waiting for programs and documents to load. This also affected our overall customer experience because information was not readily available for engineers and sales staff during phone consultations. As a result, our sales staff was unexcited to sell VDI to our customers because their personal experience with a VDI environment was negative.

Our sales staff wasn’t alone in their complaints - our internal IT staff wasn't happy either. They were unable to virtualize SQL databases and Exchange mail servers and our backup processes were not being completed during the scheduled timeframes. To fix this issue, our internal IT staff sat down with the engineering staff and crafted a solution that would provide the performance required immediately with the ability to scale-up for future needs.

The biggest factor affecting our VDI performance was an HP EVA 8000 storage array. Having already expanded the EVA 8000 as far as possible, it was clear that we needed a new array. We evaluated several different storage vendors, focusing on how well each array performed as a VDI solution. When evaluating compatibility and optimization regarding VDI, Nimble Storage came out the clear winner. Having recently become a Nimble Storage authorized reseller, our sales staff was thrilled that our IT and engineers’ evaluation supported our decision to adopt Nimble Storage’s line of products.

Our IT and engineers worked together to install a Nimble Storage CS440G array for the storage backend of the server and desktop virtual machines. The implementation of the Nimble Storage array had an immediate impact on our virtual desktop environment. Workforce productivity has improved due to the greatly increased responsiveness of virtual desktops and server actions. The Nimble Storage array also reduced the duration to complete backups by 35% while also improving datastore latency. Consolidating the storage from a 42U rack enclosure and half of another rack enclosure into a single 3U array caused a noticeable reduction in power consumption and heat generated.

To better support our new Nimble Storage array, we upgraded the rest of our aging infrastructure with:
  • VMware Horizon View
  • Juniper Networks EX4550 switches 
  • HP BladeSystem c7000 enclosure
  • HP ProLiant BL460c Gen8 blade servers
  • HP Virtual Connect FlexFabric interconnects 

The upgrade of the aging infrastructure to support the Nimble Storage SAN solution enabled the array to perform optimally. The full implementation of the end-to-end solution including storage, switching infrastructure, servers, and virtualization software that future-proofed our data center to scale as we continue to grow and virtualize our business critical applications.

When our staff members were surveyed regarding their experience with the new virtual desktop environment, one account manager stated, “I don’t spend time with a locked-up VM anymore, allowing me to spend my time more effectively and be more responsive to my customers’ needs.” We’re happy to say our sales staff is now excited to talk about VDI, and especially the benefits that Nimble Storage can provide for a VDI environment.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Backups – Are You Using Tape, Disk, or the Cloud?

In a recent survey conducted by Nimble Storage, they asked more than 1,600 IT professionals to share their thoughts and concerns on data protection. The majority reported that they believe businesses need to protect the bulk of their data (which is increasingly generated by virtualized applications), protect the data often (minimum of every six hours) and recover data quickly (in at least six hours). It’s clear to see that most agree that data protection is a necessity, but with many options available such as tape, disk and cloud, what media are most using?

Tape Storage

Tape data storage is far from becoming the storage of the past, according to survey respondents. Results stated that half of respondents still use tape; 59% of large businesses and 32% small businesses surveyed still use tape media for backup. With large sized businesses usually having a well-established data protection infrastructure and process with longer compliance and retention requirements, tape is hard to beat in terms of cost. Although tape is still relevant, it adds complexity to the storage environment and is difficult to manage.

Tape storage is also secure, safely moving private data offline to protect it from potential threats, breaches and viruses. For enterprises that need to store archived data, tape storage is ideal because the average lifespan can exceed twenty years, providing great longevity. Those surveyed reported that they believe other media types will begin to take over the tape market share, with only 13% of large businesses thinking that tape will grow. Either way, it will still be some time before tape is a thing of the past.

Disk Storage

Regardless of business size, the vast majority use disks for their data protection needs. Roughly 70% of respondents stated that they use general disk-based storage including general purpose storage arrays for data protection. Disk-based storage eliminates many of the downfalls tape storage has including cost, easy management, and fast recovery times. With these features being a key need in businesses today, it’s easy to see why disk storage wins the popularity contest.

Backup appliances based on disk are storage appliances whose sole target is data protection and usually have built-in data management technologies such as compression and deduplication. Of those surveyed, 49% use backup appliances and of those 57% were of large businesses, 36% small businesses. Disk use and growth is expected to remain dominant in data protection (with general disk outpacing backup appliances) and 54% of respondents from large enterprises predicting that disk will outgrow and surpass all other media types.

Cloud Storage

Cloud storage works well for some data protection needs such as archiving and long term backup, but it is not so well suited for aggressive data protection. Enterprise-level cloud storage allows data to be stored in virtualized pools and is typically hosted by third party companies. Here, businesses can lease or buy extra storage space that is required from a hosting company and typically only pay for what they use. Businesses are using the cloud for data protection today with 54% of small businesses and 28% of large business reported from survey respondents. Small businesses are attracted to the cloud because it allows them to skip the investment of another storage silo for data protection, and use a pay-as-you-go model.

Due to issues such as compliance, security, and service level agreements, cloud storage can be ill-suited for large businesses. Of those surveyed, 56% expected a growth in usage of cloud storage for data protection. This perspective leans towards the assumption that cloud services are replacing use cases that were previously the domain of tape. Other advantages of cloud storage include the choice of on or offsite storage options and users are provided with immediate access.


From the survey results, we can conclude that disk-based storage dominates data protection today and is expected to in the future, tape storage continues to grow slowly, and over time more businesses will transition to cloud storage. While the need for aggressive data protection will never go away, we will continue to evolve the way we store, back up, and manage data as new and improved methods become available.