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School Taps NAC Appliance for Virtualized Environment

A boarding school in the UK has adopted a new virtual version of a hardware-based NAC appliance for its VMware environment.

A company with a security appliance for network access control has just released a version that runs in virtual environments. ForeScout Technologies, which sells CounterACT in appliance form, is now making the same functionality available as a virtual appliance for VMware.

The hardware-based ForeScout CounterACT monitors network traffic to discover network devices, including virtual guest machines; build an inventory of device characteristics; and enforce policies configured by the security administrator. Because its monitoring is run "out-of-band," as a separate datastream, the problems of network latency and the possibility of turning into a single point of failure are minimized.

According to the company, the virtual appliance performs identically to the physical appliance. Both can operate together and be centrally controlled by ForeScout CounterACT Enterprise Manager, a console management application that can monitor 200,000 devices. The virtual appliance runs as a VMware guest virtual machine on VMware ESX 3.5 and 4.x.

The functionality of both editions of CounterACT includes:

  • Providing visibility to all users, devices, and applications in use on the network;
  • Identifying security gaps;
  • Automating guess user access;
  • Blocking rogue devices and unauthorized programs; and
  • Blocking attacks inside the network.

"Since installation, ForeScout has been doing a fantastic job of automating our guest and pupil network by eliminating endpoint security issues throughout the campus," said Tony Whelton, director of IT services and development at Wellington College, a public boarding and day school in Britain. "We have been consolidating our data center and welcomed the opportunity to extend our CounterACT deployment with the virtual appliance."

To deploy the virtual appliance, Whelton noted, "We simply added computing resources for the virtual appliance. The installation was very straightforward." The result, the IT director said, "will give us more flexibility to allocate capacity as we need it, plus giving us the protection of running such a system within our protected virtual environment."

According to Gartner, by 2015, 40 percent of the security controls used within enterprise data centers will be virtualized. "The move to virtualize security controls reduces barriers to adoption. Rather than [sprinkling] a few physical appliances here and there based on network topology, we can now place controls when and where they are needed, including physical appliances as appropriate," said Neil MacDonald, vice president and Gartner fellow in a November 2010 Gartner report. "Leading security vendors will focus on the security services provided and offer multiple implementation alternatives--physical, virtual, and cloud-based, as well as hybrid combinations that are controllable by a consistent management framework and policies."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.