Trend Micro: Virtualization changing our anti-malware business big time

Virtualization — in particular Trend Micro’s close alliance with VMware — is bringing about a strategic shift in Trend’s anti-malware business as its products become designed for use with VMware’s vShield technology.

Corporate servers are rapidly becoming fully virtualized, with VMware the dominant virtualization software vendor, although Microsoft with Hyper-V and Citrix with Xen are also part of this transformation. However, traditional anti-malware sometimes doesn’t work well in virtualized environments, causing so-called “A/V storms” of performance degradation during the scanning process. To address this, VMware has as part of its overarching vShield technology come up with an agentless approach to scan a server in VSphere. Trend Micro has been the first A/V vendor to show this can work.

In its updated Deep Security 8.0, announced Tuesday, Trend adds agentless file-integrity checking as well in order to take a “snapshot” of a server to monitor changes. The new version also works with Trend’s SecureCloud 2.0, its policy-based encryption key-management product aimed at encrypting data held in cloud computing environments, so that Deep Security and SecureCloud can share security status information.

For example, Deep Security can ensure any server requesting access to encrypted data has up-to-date protection before encryption keys are released, and in an integrity check, if a virtual machine is out-of-date or has been compromised, SecureCloud could flag this violation or block the VM’s data access by denying the encryption key. Deep Security 8.0 supports vSphere 5.0 and vShield Manager 5, with vShield Endpoint Security API 2.0 (plus backward compatibility with vSphere 4.1 and vShield 1.0).

But there are still challenges associated in the agentless vShield approach, such as the fact Deep Security can’t yet remove malware, just scan for it. In fact, Deep Security 8.0 is also available in agent-based form, with a Linux agent now available as well as a Windows-based agent.

John Maddison, executive general manager of Trend’s data center business, says adding malware removal capability is “on the roadmap'” for work with VMware in its vShield initiative.

That partnership — which involves significant investment from Trend — is born from the sense that it’s worth it if there’s the chance to gain ground against larger rivals Symantec and McAfee, which have held back from embracing the vShield approach, which is ultimately controlled by VMware.

McAfee and Symantec have a huge installed base and they’re “wary of losing that,” says Maddison. But Trend more than a year ago decided to take the gamble of working on the agentless approach with VMware. The Deep Security product, which costs $1,000 per server, has reached the point where 40 per cent of the sales are based on the agentless approach, says Maddison.

“Long-term, the agent is broken” as far as virtualization is concerned, he contends. Trend still offers its long-running agent-based OfficeScan software products for file servers, desktops and Macs. But if corporations that have rapidly adopted virtualization also move forward as expected with virtual-desktop infrastructure (VDI), it appears likely that the role of agent-based anti-malware will have primary importance for mobile endpoints in the future, says Maddison. “The endpoint is moving to mobility and security,” he says.

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