Securing traditional datacenters used to be all about installing perimeter defenses, such as firewalls, to keep threats away from internal networks. While that was enough a decade ago, today’s next-generation datacenters are prone to advanced attacks from malware and hackers aiming to infiltrate and remain undetected for as long as possible.
Network segmentation using firewalls to protect data and users from cross-contamination can be extremely complicated in large infrastructures and environments. Any form of micro-segmentation increases in complexity as more endpoints are added to a network. Plus, this would require hardware that is not application-aware, and eventually create bottlenecks and performance problems as the network becomes more complicated.
Hyperconverged infrastructures (HCI) that describe software defined datacenters (SDDC) cannot rely on legacy security methods. They need a security model that’s just as flexible as the infrastructure it’s built on. The difference in securing traditional multi-dimensional infrastructures versus converged architectures is that the latter needs a more policy-based approach, intertwining security with applications. Instead of applying a network-based security model, hyperconverged infrastructures require application-based security policies that allow computing instances to communicate with each other, across network segments.
Application-based policies in hyperconverged infrastructures can help reduce complexity and allow security to focus on workloads instead of managing ports, virtual networks and access control lists. Individual computing instances, such as servers, users and workloads, can have security policies that describe their behavior throughout their entire lifecycle. With homogenous software configured for networking, storage and computing running equally across an entire cluster, it’s vital to always know your system’s state and configure alerts for when it changes.
Using more than one hyperconverged vendor helps reduce zero-day exploitation risks that could leave the entire infrastructure vulnerable. Limiting access to control planes for the entire hyperconverged infrastructure is also mandatory, as it helps deny attackers full access to all HCI clusters.
The next-generation datacenter requires new security practices, but that doesn’t mean everything we learned about datacenter security becomes obsolete. Firewalls are still great for securing a datacenter’s network perimeter and network segregation is still recommended. However, these new hyperconverged infrastructures require much more than that, as reducing systems to a single dimension comes with security challenges that need to be addressed.