The Check Point VPN-1 VE (Virtual Edition) is the first release of the company’s security gateway delivered as a virtual appliance for deployment in VMware ESX and ESXi environments.
VPN-1 VE runs on the same Check Point SecurePlatform as a physical VPN-1 software appliance and can easily be integrated into existing Check Point security management consoles. VPN-1VE provides strong protection for virtual machines that would otherwise have to route network traffic to an external firewall/IPS device.
My tests showed that using the VPN-1 in VMware ESX installation can significantly mitigate security risks while taking advantage of the consolidation benefits of virtualization. However, taking full advantage of VPN-1 VE requires more than knowing how to configure a Check Point firewall. IT managers will need to engage consulting services or have staff on hand who are fluent in both security and VMware ESX setup.
While alternative security solutions are worth looking at for protecting virtual machines, none that I’ve seen is significantly easier to configure than the VPN-1 VE. Plus, for shops that already have Check Point solutions in place, benefits derived from unified management and security policy creation are hard to beat.
With that said, however, the VPN-1 VE that I tested, which included VPN-1 UTM, costs $7,500 to secure five virtual machines and $15,000 to secure an unlimited number of virtual machines. VPN-1 VE licenses can be used only on VMware ESX or ESXi servers. The VPN-1 VE unlimited license is designed to use as many as four virtual cores.
A 15-day trial of VPN-1 VE, which became available Sept. 15, can be downloaded from the VMware Virtual Appliance Marketplace (look for the “certified production ready” section). This is where you’ll also find several competitive products, including Stonesoft’s StoneGate Virtual Firewall/VPN and Virtual IPS, Vyatta’s Linux-based firewall/VPN, StillSecure’s Cobia Unified Network Platform, BlueLane’s VirtualShield for VMware ESX Server 3, Reflex Security’s Reflex VSA and Astaro’s Security Gateway.
Virtual Protection Only
The Check Point VPN-1 VE virtual appliance is used only inside the virtualized environment. It doesn’t protect the physical VMware ESX host systems. An external firewall, which would likely be a Check Point VPN-1, is required for that duty.
The VPN-1 VE is a Check Point NGX R65 that provides identical security capabilities as are found in physical VPN-1 gateways. The VPN-1 VE enabled me to securely connect through the virtual gateways to shared resources inside my virtualized environment, including Web and application servers and other infrastructure, such as the DNS server. Using the VPN-1 VE, I was able to allow these resources to interact with each other and the outside Internet while maintaining standard security policies.
It was easy for me to manage the VPN-1 VE using the same SmartDashboard interface to create security rules and to carry out all administrative functions that are already used to manage physical VPN-1 gateways.
I used SmartDashboard to create and manage firewall rules that I then installed to my VPN-1 VE gateway. The SmartDashboard can be used to deploy policies to single VPN-1VE and physical gateways or to groups of firewalls.
What it does not do is associate VMs and VPN-1 VE gateways in such a way that if VMs move to a new host using VMotion, the VPN-1 VE gateways move, too. Check Point has started down the road of gaining a basis for this functionality by participating in VMware’s VMsafe partner program. It’s worth noting that the competitive products noted earlier are also participants in the VMsafe program.
Once the VPN-1 VE gateway was installed in my ESX environment, it was just a matter of implementing security policies as in any other firewall. There are no policies or rules for the virtual appliance that differ from the physical Check Point system.
Except for initial startup, when the virtual appliance spiked to 50 percent of CPU utilization, the VPN-1 VE was a well-behaved guest in my VMware ESX cluster. I’ll keep the appliance around for the next several months to see how it affects performance with various workloads.
The VPN-1 VE basic resource requirements are quite modest. By default the system uses a Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3 for the OS (included in the license), one virtual CPU, 512MB of RAM and a 12GB hard disk.
eWEEK Labs Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at [email protected]