Underlying these microVMs is the Microvisor, similar to a hypervisor but that generates virtual environments for individual objects rather than entire virtual computers. The goal of VSentry is to protect the operating system from corruption, Banga says.
VSentry is deployed like an application and takes control of some parts of the machine hardware such as CPU and memory, but not the entire machine as would a bare-metal hypervisor. "It's as bare metal as it needs to be, but doesn't need to be in control of the entire machine," Banga says. MicroVM access to memory and cache must go through the Microvisor, for example. But trusted applications have direct access to system resources without going through VSentry.
This access to the hardware is accomplished via virtualization support for virtualization found in certain x86 processors. Devices built on ARM processors can't be served by VSentry until ARM Version 7 comes out sometime next year, Banga says. It will include the necessary support for virtualization.
Because VSentry is tied directly to the hardware, its Microvisor is very secure, says Edward Haletky, president and CEO of The Virtualization Practice. "You'd have to break the hardware," he says, and that is very difficult due to the chips' sensitivity. "If you attacked it, you'd literally fry it."
Businesses should look at VSentry as part of a defense-in-depth strategy, he says, but home users might consider it as their only defense if they start off with a clean machine, Haletky says.
The software is suited to mobile workers who use hotel networks and other publicly accessible networks with unknown security. Users could access a public access point via one microVM and VPN into a corporate network with another, preventing attacks from affecting the laptop being used, he says.
The software incorporates a capability called Live Attack Visualization and Analysis (LAVA), which can view and record any attacks that unfold within a microVM, Banga says. This information can be used to answer requirements of regulators and auditors about what threats a business faced and how it dealt with them.
The initial version of VSentry has some limitations. It only works on Windows 7 machines, but versions for Windows 8 and Mac OSX are in the works, Banga says, as are Android versions suitable for smartphones and tablets.