The Bromium technology causes all I/O operations, all system resources to be redirected through a "narrow API," so that "any interaction between that code and the outside world will cross this very narrow [system], which is highly secure by design," Crosby says.
Bromium's hypervisor-based security product will consist of about 10,000 lines of code, rather than the millions of lines of code in systems like Windows, Crosby says. Instead of black-listing suspicious programs, Bromium won't allow anything through without explicit permission.
"Our view is no code can be trusted. Anything could be an attack," Crosby says. "All you can do is get granular control over execution. We are using virtualization technology to dramatically reshape the boundaries in terms of trust around code."
Bromium is trying to reduce the question of deciding which processes can be trusted to a math problem, making calculations based on a form of calculus to decide if code comes from an attacker or a legitimate source.
Crosby says the technology will be aimed at service providers, rather than consumers, and promises it can apply to any type of system from mobile devices to Windows or Mac desktops and cloud services.
But, of course, the technology's success will depend both on its ability to distinguish between attacks and legitimate code, and to run across platforms. Given Bromium executives' background, it stands to reason the company's hypervisor is based on the open source Xen. But Crosby says the company isn't revealing whether that's true. While he says "the technology would apply to any appropriately modified hypervisor," the ability of Bromium to work with competing virtualization products would depend on cooperation from VMware, a rival to Citrix.
Crosby is leaving Citrix in a strong position. The vendor was just named the leader in the desktop virtualization market by analyst firm IDC. Rackspace is powering at least one of its cloud services with Citrix Xenserver and the open source version of Xen -- which Citrix does not profit from -- is used by Amazon for its Elastic Compute Cloud.
Citrix's failure is losing the enterprise server virtualization market to VMware, which owns the vast majority of customers in the Fortune 1000. But Crosby contends Citrix's success in the public cloud market will eventually overshadow VMware's success in helping businesses build private clouds.
When Citrix bought XenSource, "we thought we were competing with VMware in enterprise server virtualization," Crosby says. Now, the goal is to use server virtualization to build public cloud services that will be used by enterprises.
"The public cloud model is growing way faster than the private cloud model," Crosby says. "Where we find ourselves is building these enormous clouds, such as the Rackspace cloud, and learning how to drive the cost of infrastructure down."
Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.