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Tony Pearson is a Master Inventor and Senior IT Specialist for the IBM System Storage product line at the
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The technology industry is full of trade-offs. Take for example solar cells that convert sunlight to electricity. Every hour, more energy hits the Earth in the form of sunlight than the entire planet consumes in an entire year. The general trade-off is between energy conversion efficiency versus abundance of materials:
Get 9-11 percent efficiency using rare materials like indium (In), gallium (Ga) or cadmium (Cd).
Get only 6.7 percent efficiency using abundant materials like copper (Cu), tin (Sn), zinc (Zn), sulfur (S), and selenium (Se)
A second trade-off is exemplified by EMC's recent GeoProtect announcement. This appears similar to the geographic dispersal method introduced by a company called [CleverSafe]. The trade-off is between the amount of space to store one or more copies of data and the protection of data in the event of disaster. Here's an excerpt from fellow blogger Chuck Hollis (EMC) titled ["Cloud Storage Evolves"]:
"Imagine a average-sized Atmos network of 9 nodes, all in different time zones around the world. And imagine that we were using, say, a 6+3 protection scheme.
The implication is clear: any 3 nodes could be completely lost: failed, destroyed, seized by the government, etc.
-- and the information could be completely recovered from the surviving nodes."
For organizations worried about their information falling into the wrong hands (whether criminal or government sponsored!), any subset of the nodes would yield nothing of value -- not only would the information be presumably encrypted, but only a few slices of a far bigger picture would be lost.
Seized by the government?falling into the wrong hands? Is EMC positioning ATMOS as "Storage for Terrorists"? I can certainly appreciate the value of being able to protect 6PB of data with only 9PB of storage capacity, instead of keeping two copies of 6PB each, the trade-off means that you will be accessing the majority of your data across your intranet, which could impact performance. But, if you are in an illicit or illegal business that could have a third of your facilities "seized by the government", then perhaps you shouldn't house your data centers there in the first place. Having two copies of 6PB each, in two "friendly nations", might make more sense.
(In reality, companies often keep way more than just two copies of data. It is not unheard of for companies to keep three to five copies scattered across two or three locations. Facebook keeps SIX copies of photographs you upload to their website.)
ChuckH argues that the governments that seize the three nodes won't have a complete copy of the data. However, merely having pieces of data is enough for governments to capture terrorists. Even if the striping is done at the smallest 512-byte block level, those 512 bytes of data might contain names, phone numbers, email addresses, credit cards or social security numbers. Hackers and computer forensics professionals take advantage of this.
You might ask yourself, "Why not just encrypt the data instead?" That brings me to the third trade-off, protection versus application performance. Over the past 30 years, companies had a choice, they could encrypt and decrypt the data as needed, using server CPU cycles, but this would slow down application processing. Every time you wanted to read or update a database record, more cycles would be consumed. This forced companies to be very selective on what data they encrypted, which columns or fields within a database, which email attachments, and other documents or spreadsheets.
An initial attempt to address this was to introduce an outboard appliance between the server and the storage device. For example, the server would write to the appliance with data in the clear, the appliance would encrypt the data, and pass it along to the tape drive. When retrieving data, the appliance would read the encrypted data from tape, decrypt it, and pass the data in the clear back to the server. However, this had the unintended consequences of using 2x to 3x more tape cartridges. Why? Because the encrypted data does not compress well, so tape drives with built-in compression capabilities would not be able to shrink down the data onto fewer tapes.
(I covered the importance of compressing data before encryption in my previous blog post
[Sock Sock Shoe Shoe].)
Like the trade-off between energy efficiency and abundant materials, IBM eliminated the trade-off by offering compression and encryption on the tape drive itself. This is standard 256-bit AES encryption implemented on a chip, able to process the data as it arrives at near line speed. So now, instead of having to choose between protecting your data or running your applications with acceptable performance, you can now do both, encrypt all of your data without having to be selective. This approach has been extended over to disk drives, so that disk systems like the IBM System Storage DS8000 and DS5000 can support full-disk-encryption [FDE] drives.
A long time ago, perhaps in the early 1990s, I was an architect on the component known today as DFSMShsm on z/OS mainframe operationg system. One of my job responsibilities was to attend the biannual [SHARE conference to listen to the requirements of the attendees on what they would like added or changed to the DFSMS, and ask enough questions so that I can accurately present the reasoning to the rest of the architects and software designers on my team. One person requested that the DFSMShsm RELEASE HARDCOPY should release "all" the hardcopy. This command sends all the activity logs to the designated SYSOUT printer. I asked what he meant by "all", and the entire audience of 120 some attendees nearly fell on the floor laughing. He complained that some clever programmer wrote code to test if the activity log contained only "Starting" and "Ending" message, but no error messages, and skip those from being sent to SYSOUT. I explained that this was done to save paper, good for the environment, and so on. Again, howls of laughter. Most customers reroute the SYSOUT from DFSMS from a physical printer to a logical one that saves the logs as data sets, with date and time stamps, so having any "skipped" leaves gaps in the sequence. The client wanted a complete set of data sets for his records. Fair enough.
When I returned to Tucson, I presented the list of requests, and the immediate reaction when I presented the one above was, "What did he mean by ALL? Doesn't it release ALL of the logs already?" I then had to recap our entire dialogue, and then it all made sense to the rest of the team. At the following SHARE conference six months later, I was presented with my own official "All" tee-shirt that listed, and I am not kidding, some 33 definitions for the word "all", in small font covering the front of the shirt.
I am reminded of this story because of the challenges explaining complicated IT concepts using the English language which is so full of overloaded words that have multiple meanings. Take for example the word "protect". What does it mean when a client asks for a solution or system to "protect my data" or "protect my information". Let's take a look at three different meanings:
The first meaning is to protect the integrity of the data from within, especially from executives or accountants that might want to "fudge the numbers" to make quarterly results look better than they are, or to "change the terms of the contract" after agreements have been signed. Clients need to make sure that the people authorized to read/write data can be trusted to do so, and to store data in Non-Erasable, Non-Rewriteable (NENR) protected storage for added confidence. NENR storage includes Write-Once, Read-Many (WORM) tape and optical media, disk and disk-and-tape blended solutions such as the IBM Grid Medical Archive Solution (GMAS) and IBM Information Archive integrated system.
The second meaning is to protect access from without, especially hackers or other criminals that might want to gather personally-identifiably information (PII) such as social security numbers, health records, or credit card numbers and use these for identity theft. This is why it is so important to encrypt your data. As I mentioned in my post [Eliminating Technology Trade-Offs], IBM supports hardware-based encryption FDE drives in its IBM System Storage DS8000 and DS5000 series. These FDE drives have an AES-128 bit encryption built-in to perform the encryption in real-time. Neither HDS or EMC support these drives (yet). Fellow blogger Hu Yoshida (HDS) indicates that their USP-V has implemented data-at-rest in their array differently, using backend directors instead. I am told EMC relies on the consumption of CPU-cycles on the host servers to perform software-based encryption, either as MIPS consumed on the mainframe, or using their Powerpath multi-pathing driver on distributed systems.
There is also concern about internal employees have the right "need-to-know" of various research projects or upcoming acquisitions. On SANs, this is normally handled with zoning, and on NAS with appropriate group/owner bits and access control lists. That's fine for LUNs and files, but what about databases? IBM's DB2 offers Label-Based Access Control [LBAC] that provides a finer level of granularity, down to the row or column level. For example, if a hospital database contained patient information, the doctors and nurses would not see the columns containing credit card details, the accountants would not see the columnts containing healthcare details, and the individual patients, if they had any access at all, would only be able to access the rows related to their own records, and possibly the records of their children or other family members.
The third meaning is to protect against the unexpected. There are lots of ways to lose data: physical failure, theft or even incorrect application logic. Whatever the way, you can protect against this by having multiple copies of the data. You can either have multiple copies of the data in its entirety, or use RAID or similar encoding scheme to store parts of the data in multiple separate locations. For example, with RAID-5 rank containing 6+P+S configuration, you would have six parts of data and one part parity code scattered across seven drives. If you lost one of the disk drives, the data can be rebuilt from the remaining portions and written to the spare disk set aside for this purpose.
But what if the drive is stolen? Someone can walk up to a disk system, snap out the hot-swappable drive, and walk off with it. Since it contains only part of the data, the thief would not have the entire copy of the data, so no reason to encrypt it, right? Wrong! Even with part of the data, people can get enough information to cause your company or customers harm, lose business, or otherwise get you in hot water. Encryption of the data at rest can help protect against unauthorized access to the data, even in the case when the data is scattered in this manner across multiple drives.
To protect against site-wide loss, such as from a natural disaster, fire, flood, earthquake and so on, you might consider having data replicated to remote locations. For example, IBM's DS8000 offers two-site and three-site mirroring. Two-site options include Metro Mirror (synchronous) and Global Mirror (asynchronous). The three-site is cascaded Metro/Global Mirror with the second site nearby (within 300km) and the third site far away. For example, you can have two copies of your data at site 1, a third copy at nearby site 2, and two more copies at site 3. Five copies of data in three locations. IBM DS8000 can send this data over from one box to another with only a single round trip (sending the data out, and getting an acknowledgment back). By comparison, EMC SRDF/S (synchronous) takes one or two trips depending on blocksize, for example blocks larger than 32KB require two trips, and EMC SRDF/A (asynchronous) always takes two trips. This is important because for many companies, disk is cheap but long-distance bandwidth is quite expensive. Having five copies in three locations could be less expensive than four copies in four locations.
Fellow blogger BarryB (EMC Storage Anarchist) felt I was unfair pointing out that their EMC Atmos GeoProtect feature only protects against "unexpected loss" and does not eliminate the need for encryption or appropriate access control lists to protect against "unauthorized access" or "unethical tampering".
(It appears I stepped too far on to ChuckH's lawn, as his Rottweiler BarryB came out barking, both in the [comments on my own blog post], as well as his latest titled [IBM dumbs down IBM marketing (again)]. Before I get another rash of comments, I want to emphasize this is a metaphor only, and that I am not accusing BarryB of having any canine DNA running through his veins, nor that Chuck Hollis has a lawn.)
As far as I know, the EMC Atmos does not support FDE disks that do this encryption for you, so you might need to find another way to encrypt the data and set up the appropriate access control lists. I agree with BarryB that "erasure codes" have been around for a while and that there is nothing unsafe about using them in this manner. All forms of RAID-5, RAID-6 and even RAID-X on the IBM XIV storage system can be considered a form of such encoding as well. As for the amount of long-distance bandwidth that Atmos GeoProtect would consume to provide this protection against loss, you might question any cost savings from this space-efficient solution. As always, you should consider both space and bandwidth costs in your total cost of ownership calculations.
Of course, if saving money is your main concern, you should consider tape, which can be ten to twenty times cheaper than disk, affording you to keep a dozen or more copies, in as many time zones, at substantially lower cost. These can be encrypted and written to WORM media for even more thorough protection.
In my last blog post [Full Disk Encryption for Your Laptop] explained my decisions relating to Full-Disk Encryption (FDE) for my laptop. Wrapping up my week's theme of Full-Disk Encryption, I thought I would explain the steps involved to make it happen.
Last April, I switched from running Windows and Linux dual-boot, to one with Linux running as the primary operating system, and Windows running as a Linux KVM guest. I have Full Disk Encryption (FDE) implemented using Linux Unified Key Setup (LUKS).
Here were the steps involved for encrypting my Thinkpad T410:
Step 0: Backup my System
Long-time readers know how I feel about taking backups. In my blog post [Separating Programs from Data], I emphasized this by calling it "Step 0". I backed up my system three ways:
Backed up all of my documents and home user directory with IBM Tivoli Storage Manager.
Backed up all of my files, including programs, bookmarks and operating settings, to an external disk drive (I used rsync for this). If you have a lot of bookmarks on your browser, there are ways to dump these out to a file to load them back in the later step.
Backed up the entire hard drive using [Clonezilla].
Clonezilla allows me to do a "Bare Machine Recovery" of my laptop back to its original dual-boot state in less than an hour, in case I need to start all over again.
Step 1: Re-Partition the Drive
"Full Disk Encryption" is a slight misnomer. For external drives, like the Maxtor BlackArmor from Seagate (Thank you Allen!), there is a small unencrypted portion that contains the encryption/decryption software to access the rest of the drive. Internal boot drives for laptops work the same way. I created two partitions:
A small unencrypted partition (2 GB) to hold the Master Boot Record [MBR], Grand Unified Bootlloader [GRUB], and the /boot directory. Even though there is no sensitive information on this partition, it is still protected the "old way" with the hard-drive password in the BIOS.
The rest of the drive (318GB) will be one big encrypted Logical Volume Manager [LVM] container, often referred to as a "Physical Volume" in LVM terminology.
Having one big encrypted partition means I only have to enter my ridiculously-long encryption password once during boot-up.
Step 2: Create Logical Volumes in the LVM container
I create three logical volumes on the encrypted physical container: swap, slash (/) directory, and home (/home). Some might question the logic behind putting swap space on an encrypted container. In theory, swap could contain sensitive information after a system [hybernation]. I separated /home from slash(/) so that in the event I completely fill up my home directory, I can still boot up my system.
Step 3: Install Linux
Ideally, I would have lifted my Linux partition "as is" for the primary OS, and a Physical-to-Virtual [P2V] conversion of my Windows image for the guest VM. Ha! To get the encryption, it was a lot simpler to just install Linux from scratch, so I did that.
Step 4: Install Windows guest KVM image
The folks in our "Open Client for Linux" team made this step super-easy. Select Windows XP or Windows 7, and press the "Install" button. This is a fresh install of the Windows operating system onto a 30GB "raw" image file.
(Note: Since my Thinkpad T410 is Intel-based, I had to turn on the 'Intel (R) Virtualization Technology' option in the BIOS!)
There are only a few programs that I need to run on Windows, so I installed them here in this step.
Step 5: Set up File Sharing between Linux and Windows
In my dual-boot set up, I had a separate "D:" drive that I could access from either Windows or Linux, so that I would only have to store each file once. For this new configuration, all of my files will be in my home directory on Linux, and then shared to the Windows guest via CIFS protocol using [samba].
In theory, I can share any of my Linux directories using this approach, but I decide to only share my home directory. This way, any Windows viruses will not be able to touch my Linux operating system kernels, programs or settings. This makes for a more secure platform.
Step 6: Transfer all of my files back
Here I used the external drive from "Step 0" to bring my data back to my home directory. This was a good time to re-organize my directory folders and do some [Spring cleaning].
Step 7: Re-establish my backup routine
Previously in my dual-boot configuration, I was using the TSM backup/archive client on the Windows partition to backup my C: and D: drives. Occasionally I would tar a few of my Linux directories and storage the tarball on D: so that it got included in the backup process. With my new Linux-based system, I switched over to the Linux version of TSM client. I had to re-work the include/exclude list, as the files are different on Linux than Windows.
One of my problems with the dual-boot configuration was that I had to manually boot up in Windows to do the TSM backup, which was disruptive if I was using Linux. With this new scheme, I am always running Linux, and so can run the TSM client any time, 24x7. I made this even better by automatically scheduling the backup every Monday and Thursday at lunch time.
There is no Linux support for my Maxtor BlackArmor external USB drive, but it is simple enough to LUKS-encrypt any regular external USB drive, and rsync files over. In fact, I have a fully running (and encrypted) version of my Linux system that I can boot directly from a 32GB USB memory stick. It has everyting I need except Windows (the "raw" image file didn't fit.)
I can still use Clonezilla to make a "Bare Machine Recovery" version to restore from. However, with the LVM container encrypted, this renders the compression capability worthless, and so takes a lot longer and consumes over 300GB of space on my external disk drive.
Backing up my Windows guest VM is just a matter of copying the "raw" image file to another file for safe keeping. I do this monthly, and keep two previous generations in case I get hit with viruses or "Patch Tuesday" destroys my working Windows image. Each is 30GB in size, so it was a trade-off between the number of versions and the amount of space on my hard drive. TSM backup puts these onto a system far away, for added protection.
Step 8: Protect your Encryption setup
In addition to backing up your data, there are a few extra things to do for added protection:
Add a second passphrase. The first one is the ridiculously-long one you memorize faithfully to boot the system every morning. The second one is a ridiculously-longer one that you give to your boss or admin assistant in case you get hit by a bus. In the event that your boss or admin assistant leaves the company, you can easily disable this second passprhase without affecting your original.
Backup the crypt-header. This is the small section in front that contains your passphrases, so if it gets corrupted, you would not be able to access the rest of your data. Create a backup image file and store it on an encrypted USB memory stick or external drive.
If you are one of the lucky 70,000 IBM employees switching from Windows to Linux this year, Welcome!
Earlier this year, IBM mandated that every employee provided a laptop had to implement Full-Disk Encryption for their primary hard drive, and any other drive, internal or external, that contained sensitive information. An exception was granted to anyone who NEVER took their laptop out of the IBM building. At IBM Tucson, we have five buildings, so if you are in the habit of taking your laptop from one building to another, then encryption is required!
The need to secure the information on your laptop has existed ever since laptops were given to employees. In my blog post [Biggest Mistakes of 2006], I wrote the following:
"Laptops made the news this year in a variety of ways. #1 was exploding batteries, and #6 were the stolen laptops that exposed private personal information. Someone I know was listed in one of these stolen databases, so this last one hits close to home. Security is becoming a bigger issue now, and IBM was the first to deliver device-based encryption with the TS1120 enterprise tape drive."
Not surprisingly, IBM laptops are tracked and monitored. In my blog post [Using ILM to Save Trees], I wrote the following:
"Some assets might be declared a 'necessary evil' like laptops, but are tracked to the n'th degree to ensure they are not lost, stolen or taken out of the building. Other assets are declared "strategically important" but are readily discarded, or at least allowed to [walk out the door each evening]."
Unfortunately, dual-boot environments won't cut it for Full-Disk Encryption. For Windows users, IBM has chosen Pretty Good Privacy [PGP]. For Linux users, IBM has chosen Linux Unified Key Setup [LUKS]. PGP doesn't work with Linux, and LUKS doesn't work with Windows.
For those of us who may need access to both Operating Systems, we have to choose. Select one as the primary OS, and run the other as a guest virtual machine. I opted for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 as my primary, with LUKS encryption, and Linux KVM to run Windows as the guest.
I am not alone. While I chose the Linux method voluntarily, IBM has decided that 70,000 employees must also set up their systems this way, switching them from Windows to Linux by year end, but allowing them to run Windows as a KVM guest image if needed.
Let's take a look at the pros and cons:
LUKS allows for up to 8 passphrases, so you can give one to your boss, one to your admin assistant, and in the event they leave the company, you can disable their passphrase without impacting anyone else or having to memorize a new one. PGP on Windows supports only a single passphrase.
Linux is a rock-solid operating system. I found that Windows as a KVM guest runs better than running it natively in a dual-boot configuration.
Linux is more secure against viruses. Most viruses run only on Windows operating systems. The Windows guest is well isolated from the Linux operating system files. Recovering from an infected or corrupted Windows guest is merely re-cloning a new "raw" image file.
Linux has a vibrant community of support. I am very impressed that anytime I need help, I can find answers or assistance quickly from other Linux users. Linux is also supported by our help desk, although in my experience, not as well as the community offers.
Employees that work with multiple clients can have a separate Windows guest for each one, preventing any cross-contamination between systems.
Linux is different from Windows, and some learning curve may be required. Not everyone is happy with this change.
(I often joke that the only people who are comfortable with change are babies with soiled diapers and prisoners on death row!)
Implementation is a full re-install of Linux, followed by a fresh install of Windows.
Not all software required for our jobs at IBM runs on Linux, so a Windows guest VM is a necessity. If you thought Windows ran slowly on a fully-encrypted disk, imagine how much slower it runs as a VM guest with limited memory resources.
In theory, I could have tried the Windows/PGP method for a few weeks, then gone through the entire process to switch over to Linux/LUKS, and then draw my comparisons that way. Instead, I just chose the Linux/LUKS method, and am happy with my decision.
For the past three decades, IBM has offered security solutions to protect against unauthorized access. Let's take a look at three different approaches available today for the encryption of data.
Approach 1: Server-based
Server-based encryption has been around for a while. This can be implemented in the operating system itself, such as z/OS on the System z mainframe platform, or with an applicaiton, such as IBM Tivoli Storage Manager for backup and archive.
While this has the advantage that you can selectively encrypt individual files, data sets, or columns in databases, it has several drawbacks. First, you consume server resources to perform the encryption. Secondly, as I mention in the video above, if you only encrypt selected data, the data you forget to, or choose not to, encrypt may result in data exposure. Third, you have to manage your encryption keys on a server-by-server basis. Fourth, you need encryption capability in the operating system or application. And fifth, encrypting the data first will undermine any storage or network compression capability down-line.
Approach 2: Network-based
Network-based solutions perform the encryption between the server and the storage device. Last year, when I was in Auckland, New Zealand, I covered the IBM SAN32B-E4 switch in my presentation [Understanding IBM's Storage Encryption Options]. This switch receives data from the server, encrypts it, and sends it on down to the storage device.
This has several advantages over the server-based approach. First, we offload the server resources to the switch. Second, you can encrypt all the files on the volume. You can select which volumes get encrypted, so there is still the risk that you encrypt only some volumes, and not others, and accidently expose your data. Third, the SAN32B-E4 can centralized the encryption key management to the IBM Tivoli Key Lifecycle Manager (TKLM). This is also operating system and application agnostic. However, network-based encryption has the same problem of undermining any storage device compression capability, and often has a limit on the amount of data bandwidth it can process. The SAN32B-E4 can handle 48 GB/sec, with a turbo-mode option to double this to 96 GB/sec.
Approach 3: Device-based
Device-based solutions perform the encryption at the storage device itself. Back in 2006, IBM was the first to introduce this method on its [TS1120 tape drive]. Later, it was offered on Linear Tape Open (LTO-4) drives. IBM was also first to introduce Full Disk Encryption (FDE) on its IBM System Storage DS8000. See my blog post [1Q09 Disk Announcements] for details.
As with the network-based approach, the device-based method offloads server resources, allows you to encrypt all the files on each volume, can centrally manage all of your keys with TKLM, and is agnostic to operating system and application used. The device can compress the data first, then encrypt, resulting in fewer tape cartridges or less disk capacity consumed. IBM's device-based approach scales nicely. IBM has an encryption chip is placed in each tape drive or disk drive. No matter how many drives you have, you will have all the encryption horsepower you need to scale up.
Not all device-based solutions use an encryption chip per drive. Some of our competitors encrypt in the controller instead, which operates much like the network-based approach. As more and more disk drives are added to your storage system, the controller may get overwhelmed to perform the encryption.
The need for security grows every year. Enterprise Systems are Security-ready to protect your most mission critical application data.