Even inside the firewall, enterprises won't adopt utility models until they're confident the shared-resource model is secure. "As you virtualize this environment for me, how do I know that nobody else is going to be able to see my data?" asks Vijay Rathnam, Exodus' director of products and technology.
Traditional security is based on creating DMZs between boxes, and controlling root access to those boxes. But in the utility world the DMZs must be created between application instances. HP, for example, is using port-based VLANs (virtual LANs), enforcing security at the packet and switch level. "Only the traffic from a particular service is viewable by that service," says Nigel Cook, chief architect at HP's Utility Data Center. Terraspring and Ejasent are both working on creating fabric-based partitions and barriers that even someone with root access can't breach -- barriers that work, for example, by hiding process IDs and other identifiers. But it is unclear whether these methods will satisfy security-focused IT professionals.
It's still the early days of utility computing. The promise is great, but there are few true utility deployments and thorny problems lie ahead. Standards must be developed for the entire virtualization layer, including provisioning, management, security, performance, measurement, and billing. Furthermore, application vendors must get into the act to enable enterprise apps to share compute resources that can be shared by multiple customers, and hardware vendors must provide more support for one another's platforms. Expect incremental advances rather than breakthroughs. Computing is not as easy as electricity.
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