What are the clear benefits of implementing virtualization?
The benefits of server virtualization are clear and well-documented throughout IT organizations. From an economic perspective, there are obvious benefits in terms of lower capital investment in hardware by consolidation, lower power consumption and a smaller footprint (or the same footprint for a large server farm). Management benefits are also well-documented. Additional servers are easier to add to the data center, because they are based on pre-configured, pre-installed VM images. Management systems from virtualization vendors enable VMs to be moved when their hosts are low on resources, thereby easing the management burden for administrators.
For line of business applications not dependent on high-performance I/O, server virtualization is almost a no-brainer since it allows the IT organization to maximize utilization.
What are the security risks unique to virtualized environments? What can be done to mitigate those threats?
There are two general areas of attack being discussed by security and virtualization professionals. The first is attacks on the hypervisor itself. I believe that attacks on the hypervisor represent an inflated risk, with the risk being largely inflated by vendors looking for a market. The hypervisor is purpose-built and contains relatively few lines of code – and therefore a small attack surface. In fact, while there are some theoretically possible attacks on the hypervisor, there has yet to be a documented attack.
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