Layer 7 Virtualizes SOA Security Solution

Virtualization rocketed to the top of the gotta-have-it technology list a few years ago, primarily as a means of consolidating servers. But since that initial resurgence, vendors have been finding other applications for the technologies that provide a layer of abstraction between hardware systems and the software running on them.

A case in point is the virtual appliance, a prebuilt, preconfigured application bundled with an operating system inside a virtual machine. Virtual appliances are being touted by virtualization-market monster VMware and others as a better way to package software demonstrations, proof-of-concept projects and evaluations -- essentially, as a better way to distribute software.

XML security and networking vendor Layer 7 Technologies joined that group last week (June 26) by making its SecureSpan XML Firewall available as a software-instantiated virtual appliance -- what it calls a "soft-appliance" -- running on the VMware Player, Server or ESX products.

Layer 7 is one of the first service-oriented architecture (SOA) security and networking vendors to offer XML firewall functionality through a purpose-built, hardware-accelerated physical appliance. The company's SecureSpan product family, which is aimed at simplifying and securing SOA deployments and Web services, had been available only in these appliances. But hardware has its limitations. By virtualizing its SecureSpan XML Firewall product, Layer 7 has made it possible for its customers to implement identical functionality on any server infrastructure running the VMware Player, VMware Server or VMware ESX systems.

That functionality includes Web services-identity and message-level security to address SOA integration, portal and B2B security challenges. Overall, the soft appliance is designed to provide:

  • Support for multi-tenant data center environments;
  • Full clustering for simplified load scaling;
  • Utility computing over shared server, CPU and memory resources;
  • Broad operating system support; and
  • Interoperability with Layer 7's SecureSpan hardware appliances.

The Layer 7 XML Firewall soft-appliance is now available for a free, 15-day trial on the company's product download page.

The virtual appliance is just one example of how users and vendors are now looking beyond the virtualization basics, VMware's Director of Product Management Srinivas Krishnamurti said in a recent interview.

"First it was the data center, where I had six machines and now I have two that take less power and put out less heat," he said. "But once they begin to work with virtualization, people begin to see its real potential.''

VMware developed the first hypervisor for the x86 architectures in the 1990s, planting the seeds for the virtualization boom. (A hypervisor is the basic software that decouples the operating system and applications from their physical resources.) VMware refers the virtual appliance "an evolutionary step in the software distribution model" and lists more than 300 VMware-based virtual appliances at its Web site, including about 30 commercial offerings from the company's commercial partners.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at [email protected].