Virtual Appliances

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Time
9 hours 59 minutes
Difficulty
Intermediate
CEU/CPE
10
Video Transcription
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>> Let's cover appliances and
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challenges of appliances in the Cloud.
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Before diving into the challenges of virtual appliances,
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let's cover what an appliance is anyway.
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Traditionally, these are physical hardware devices
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that come pre-loaded and
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pre-configured with software that are intended
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to serve a specific set of purposes.
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In the virtual world, appliances come
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in form of a virtual machine image.
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That's an image that's pre-loaded with software,
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pre-configured, pre-defined, and possibly tuned.
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Similar to the hardware device,
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this machine image is intended to
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serve a specific set of purposes,
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such as firewalls, VPN gateways,
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data backups, and other examples.
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Appliances have a challenge in the Cloud world.
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The physical appliances assume
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you have physical network access,
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and this really is not usable or
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sustainable in a public Cloud environment.
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Building on that assumption of physical network access,
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these appliances really don't
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understand software defined networks.
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This provides a lack of visibility into
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the virtual networks that you are
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defining in your Cloud environment.
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Moving on, they are often unable to manage
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the rapid amount of change in the Cloud network.
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Remember, we have machines and
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services coming online, coming offline.
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Things are continually evolving in the Cloud landscape.
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These devices are typically incapable of keeping up
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with the Cloud speed of change.
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Finally, the premise around how
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network traffic gets routed through
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these appliance devices is often not applicable or
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very inefficient when working in a Cloud topology.
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Physical appliances just aren't
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a good fit in the Cloud environment.
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But what about virtual appliances?
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Much like physical appliances,
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virtual appliances can become a bottleneck.
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Keep in mind your routing all this traffic
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through the virtual appliance,
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which itself is running on virtual machine.
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This can create congestion if the virtual machine
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gets overload and can't keep up with the traffic,
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and if the machine crashes,
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it can have devastating effects on your virtual network.
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Building on that, the virtual appliance may materially
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increase the Cloud costs
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because of the resource requirements.
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You want performance, so you'll throw horsepower at it.
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You want high availability,
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so you're going to try and set up
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fail-over. These things cost.
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Keep in mind that unlike the physical devices
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which take advantage of
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low-level performance optimizations,
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virtual machines have limitations.
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They run on top of a hypervisor
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that abstracts the underlying hardware.
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In the Cloud sense, they're
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running in a software defined network,
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which also abstracts a lot of
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the traditional network concepts.
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Virtual appliances at the disadvantage
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of working above several layers of
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abstraction and trained to do its job under
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the assumption that the traditional network design.
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Also keep in mind in Cloud,
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you're going to be running across multiple data-centers.
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Consider the number of instances you need to deploy
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all this virtual appliance
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across your entire Cloud infrastructure.
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Not that the physical appliances are cheap,
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but the cost of virtual appliances and deploying
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multiples of them across
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data-centers and all these other factors
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we've just discussed can really add up quickly.
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Another thing to keep in mind with
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the virtual appliances,
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they do need to support that auto-scaling.
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This is the elastic infrastructure,
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so they don't become
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that performance choke-point for you.
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While some virtual appliances
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do support integration with Cloud
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native orchestration to provide
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that elastic scaling, some do not.
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To put a cap on it, you have a high rate of
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network change in the Cloud environment.
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Think about all the machines
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coming and going on the network.
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The velocity of new IP addresses,
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reassigning IP addresses and so forth is very
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high and very different
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than in a traditional network paradigm.
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It's important you read the technical documentation
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for virtual appliances carefully.
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Marketing materials for next-generation appliances
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may be misleading in
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terms of which of
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the different capabilities work in a Cloud setting.
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For example, a vendor may be
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touting that they have a firewall,
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intrusion detection systems,
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and intrusion prevention system.
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Well, you need to make sure that all
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of these capabilities
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support the concept of fail-over and elasticity.
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You may find, and I've come across this myself,
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that of that bullet point list,
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only the firewall capability supports these aspects,
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so that means the other elements really
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aren't a good fit for the Cloud environment.
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Just as we've talked about evaluating capabilities
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of different paths services within a Cloud provider,
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fail-over, regional support,
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data replication, and so forth.
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You'll want to approach evaluating
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virtual appliance capabilities in a similar attitude.
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Just because you loved
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the device with your old data-center,
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doesn't mean you'll love it in the Cloud.
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With all that said,
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these devices can be the least worst option to fill
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any security gaps between where you need to
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be and what the Cloud service provider gives you.
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To recap, we started off covering appliances,
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physical and virtual appliances,
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then discuss the specific challenges
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that both have in the Cloud environment.
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