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File Virtualization and Security

One of the key things that I find to be a side benefit of File Virtualization is file/directory level security

Security at Cloud Expo

After George Crump and I played ping-blog - His Storage Switzerland Blog, my blog mentioning it, and his InformationWeek blog, I went to post a comment on his blog and didn’t feel like giving InformationWeek my entire family history just to do so…

So I give you “the comment blog!”

One of the key things that I find to be a side benefit of File Virtualization is file/directory level security and centralization of security management. I personally wouldn’t buy for this reason alone, but I know others, particularly some of my security friends, who would (and are calling me names for saying I wouldn’t in 3,2,1…). I’ll speak here only of our ARX series because I’ve had reason to look into it pretty closely of late and don’t want to misrepresent other vendors, but I presume they have similar functionality.

As I said (at length) in this post, you can enhance your security with a file virtualization appliance. Lock down the NAS boxes so they can’t be accessed except from the IP of the appliance (a good idea anyway, if files are changing and the appliance doesn’t know it, well an ARX can figure it out, but it’s certainly less than optimal in terms of real-time reflection of file status), then open them up to any user, and finally, implement folder and file security on the File Virtualization Appliance. Since most will talk to ADS, there shouldn’t be a huge problem here, and it improves both your file virtualization infrastructure and your security management – because you’re only managing in one place.

But that brings up a thought from the back-and-forth with Mr. Crump. In this scenario, while the ARX is the File Virtualization appliance he mentioned, if for some reason it goes down or you want to remove a NAS from the virtualized directory tree, you’ll have to remember to open up the IP addresses that can access the NAS, otherwise no one will be able to see it unless they’re masquerading as the ARX. Bad mojo, so I thought I’d point it out.

Truth be told though, how often is this likely to be an issue? Well, how often do your mess around with your NAS infrastructure? Most companies I have worked for don’t, except to add new disk and get files and users transferred to the new disk. Since ARX will automate this process for you in a couple of different ways, you won’t even do that when you have one in the building. The other big to-do is security. Stuff that has to be locked down must be… But why keep your NAS security information on a bunch of different boxes, even if you use groups? Why set access for a group on three different NAS racks when you could just do it once on three directories in the ARX? The other possibility is a device failure – rare in a File Virtualization device, but possible since it is a piece of equipment - and your decision to remove some bit of storage from the virtualized tree, or remove the virtualization appliance completely. Hope that never happens, but now you’ve been warned about one check-box you’ll have to complete if that comes about.

But not touching a bunch of different boxes whenever a security policy change comes around… Now that is worth the issue above. Worth it and a lot more, since the issue above is a one-time thing and security policies, well lets just say they’ve been getting a lot of adjustment the last few years, even without the manager that wants his entire staff to have access to every share/mount in the building.

Until next time,


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More Stories By Don MacVittie

Don MacVittie is founder of Ingrained Technology, A technical advocacy and software development consultancy. He has experience in application development, architecture, infrastructure, technical writing,DevOps, and IT management. MacVittie holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Northern Michigan University, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.

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