EMC Plays Both Sides of the Virtualization Card

As EMC's VMware pushes virtualization, Dennis Hoffman, the chief strategy officer at EMC's RSA unit, sees an opportunity to expand his division's security reach.

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Among the wonders of virtualization, Dennis Hoffman is impressed by the ability to move a virtual machine from one system to another without interrupting its operation.

"It's a communication of a system, a complete system state, a running machine," Hoffman, the vice president and general manager of the data security group and chief strategy officer at EMC's RSA division, recently told eWEEK. "[You] not only have the data, you've got the entire application set, the entire operating system, you've got everything.

"It becomes possible with virtualization not to steal [just] data, you can steal machines over the wire."

And therein lies a new business opportunity for Hoffman and his team. As companies increase virtualization, new security gaps emerge that RSA is eager to plug - particularly with VMware, also owned by EMC, leading the way in the virtualization market.

He spoke about those opportunities and threats as well as the new direction of RSA products in an exclusive interview with eWEEK's Brian Prince. Here is an edited transcription of the conversation.

Where do you see an opportunity for EMC in virtualization security?

Looking at it from the product side, the idea is relatively simple. Virtualization of the endpoint represents an opportunity to redefine the security of the endpoint.

If you think about if you had very strong control over the endpoint, in terms of the ability to sandbox one environment from another, you have the ability to solve a number of security challenges that way. So we're of course going to partner with virtualization companies, and by that I mean everybody from Citrix (Systems) to Microsoft and of course VMware.

There is a lot of opportunity to redefine the way desktop security and to some extent data-centric security is done by using virtualization. The other dimension of course to the question is at one level a virtual machine is nothing more and nothing less than a container. As such, it needs to be a secure container, so we will look to work to use our technologies that we use to secure EMC products to help secure virtualization products.

I'll give you a very simple example. One of the neat things that you can do with a virtual machine is you can actually move it from one system to another without interrupting its operation.

VMware for example calls this VMotion. I know VMware is incredibly focused on continuing to lead the industry on the security of virtual machines, the container.

So at RSA we've really got two plays. One is the question of using our technology to help people that make virtual machines make more secure ones, and the other dimension is the opportunity to really redefine elements of the security stack because of virtualization.