At the heart of the PoC is a hardware "root of trust," which uses Intel's Trusted Execution Technology (TXT), which authenticates each step in the boot process of a system, verifying the hardware configuration, initializing the BIOS, and launching the hypervisor. It basically ensures physical and virtual environments aren't tampered via malware or other malicious activity. Intel's upcoming "Westmere" processor, which will be announced in two weeks, will support this capability, says Kirk Skaugen, vice president of the architecture group and general manager of the data center group at Intel.
The chip, for Xeon-based processors, will come with nine times faster encryption and decryption, and SSL speeds twice previous processors, Skaugen said a press briefing here last night.
"So in the future, if you're not a trusted server, you won't be allowed to run [in the cloud]," he said.
The PoC cloud security architecture would help stop rootkits and BIOS-based attacks, but it's more of a whitelisting approach, says Allwyn Sequeira, CTO for VMware.
Aside from the hardware root of trust, the PoC includes a secure virtualization environment, security information and event management (SIEM), and GRC management software.
Bret Hartman, CTO of RSA, the security division of EMC, says the architecture developed and demonstrated here by RSA, Intel, VMware, and Archer Technologies, now part EMC, is related to the Trusted Computing Group's Trusted Computing Platform (TPM). He says the secure cloud PoC should "help the enterprise customer feel comfortable moving to a cloud platform."
Among the missing links for enterprises to feel confident about moving business-critical apps to the cloud is accountability of the cloud providers, visibility into both physical and virtual machines, more specific controls of policies, and streamlined compliance, the vendors say.
That means things like ensuring a cloud provider isn't hosting the sensitive data of two competitors on the same machine, for instance.
The ability to "achieve visibility to infrastructure as a service, assess the security posture of that service, trust the resulting measurements, and prove compliance to auditors is not just theoretical," said Art Coviello, president of RSA, today in a keynote address. "This morning RSA announced a collaboration and proof-of-concept with Intel, VMWare, and the newest addition to the RSA family, Archer Technologies, demonstrating exactly how this visibility can be accomplished."
Coviello said the PoC provides a milestone: "The hardware and virtualization layers are now [able to report] for compliance [purposes]," he said.
Paul Maritz, CEO of VMware, said in a video statement shown during Coviello's keynote that the work between RSA and VMware should result in new products from VMware and RSA this year.
An RSA Security brief on the topic of cloud infrastructure security and compliance is available for download here.
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