DSI: A New Architecture for Secure Carrier-Class Linux Clusters
Editor's note: This is the full version of the article "DSI: Secure Carrier-Class Linux" found in the July 2002 print edition of Linux Journal.
The telecommunication industry's interest in clustering originates from the fact that clusters address carrier-class characteristics such as guaranteed service availability, reliability and scaled performance, using cost-effective hardware and software. These carrier-class characteristics have evolved with time to include requirements for advanced levels of security. However, few efforts exist to build a coherent distributed framework to provide advanced security levels in clustered systems.
At Ericsson Research, our work targets soft real-time distributed applications running on large-scale carrier-class Linux clusters. These clusters must operate non-stop, regardless of hardware or software errors, and must allow operators to upgrade hardware and software during operation, without disturbing the application that run on them. In such clusters, software and hardware configurations are under the tight control of administrators. Communications between the nodes inside the cluster to computers external to the cluster are restricted.
In this article, we present the rationale behind developing a new architecture named the Distributed Security Infrastructure (DSI). We describe the main elements of this architecture and discuss our preliminary results.
DSI supports different security mechanisms to address the needs of telecom application servers running on Linux clusters. DSI provides applications running on clustered systems with distributed mechanisms for access control services, authentication services, integrity of communications and auditing services.
Many security solutions exist for clustered servers ranging from external solutions, such as firewalls, to internal solutions, such as integrity checking software. However, there is no solution dedicated for clusters. The most commonly used security approach is to package several existing solutions. Nevertheless, the integration and management of these different packages is complex, and often results in the absence of interoperability between different security mechanisms. Additional difficulties also arise when integrating these many packages, including the decreased ease of system maintenance and upgrades and the difficulty of keeping up with numerous security patches and upgrades.
Carrier-class clusters have tight restrictions on performance and response time. Therefore, much pressure is put on the system designer while designing security solutions. In fact, many security solutions cannot be used due to their high resource consumption. The currently implemented security mechanisms are based on user privileges and do not support authentication checks for interactions between two processes belonging to the same user (even if the processes are created on remote processors). However, for carrier-class applications, there are only a few users running the same application for a long period without any interruption.
Applying the above concept will grant the same security privileges to all processes created on different nodes. This would lead to no security checks for many actions through the distributed system. The granularity of the basic entity for the above security control is the user. For carrier-class applications, this granularity is not sufficient. Therefore, DSI is based on a more fine-grained basic entity: the individual process.
As part of a carrier-class cluster, DSI must comply with carrier-class requirements, such as reliability, scalability and high availability. Furthermore, DSI supports the following requirements:
Coherent framework: Security must be coherent through different layers of heterogeneous hardware, applications, middleware, operating systems and networking technologies. All mechanisms must fit together to prevent any exploitable security gap in the system. Therefore, DSI aims at integrating together different security solutions and adapting them to soft real-time applications.
Process level approach: DSI is based on a fine-grained basic entity, the individual process.
Maximum performance: The introduction of security features must not impose high performance penalties. Performance can be expected to degrade slightly during the first establishment of a security context; however, the impact on subsequent accesses must be negligible.
Pre-emptive security: Any changes in the security context will be reflected immediately on the running security services. Whenever the security context of a subject changes, the system will re-evaluate its current use of resources against this new security context.
Dynamic security policy: It must be possible to support runtime changes in the distributed security policy. Carrier-class server nodes must provide continuous and long-term availability, and it is thus impossible to interrupt the service to enforce a new security policy.
Transparent key management: Cryptographic keys are generated in order to secure connections. This results in numerous keys that must be securely stored and managed.
Fast/Flexible Linux OS Recovery
On Demand Now
In this live one-hour webinar, learn how to enhance your existing backup strategies for complete disaster recovery preparedness using Storix System Backup Administrator (SBAdmin), a highly flexible full-system recovery solution for UNIX and Linux systems.
Join Linux Journal's Shawn Powers and David Huffman, President/CEO, Storix, Inc.
Free to Linux Journal readers.Register Now!
|Fancy Tricks for Changing Numeric Base||May 29, 2016|
|Working with Command Arguments||May 28, 2016|
|Secure Desktops with Qubes: Installation||May 28, 2016|
|CentOS 6.8 Released||May 27, 2016|
|Secure Desktops with Qubes: Introduction||May 27, 2016|
|Chris Birchall's Re-Engineering Legacy Software (Manning Publications)||May 26, 2016|
- Tips for Optimizing Linux Memory Usage
- Working with Command Arguments
- Secure Desktops with Qubes: Introduction
- Secure Desktops with Qubes: Installation
- Download "Linux Management with Red Hat Satellite: Measuring Business Impact and ROI"
- CentOS 6.8 Released
- Fancy Tricks for Changing Numeric Base
- The Italian Army Switches to LibreOffice
- Linux Mint 18
- Chris Birchall's Re-Engineering Legacy Software (Manning Publications)
Until recently, IBM’s Power Platform was looked upon as being the system that hosted IBM’s flavor of UNIX and proprietary operating system called IBM i. These servers often are found in medium-size businesses running ERP, CRM and financials for on-premise customers. By enabling the Power platform to run the Linux OS, IBM now has positioned Power to be the platform of choice for those already running Linux that are facing scalability issues, especially customers looking at analytics, big data or cloud computing.
￼Running Linux on IBM’s Power hardware offers some obvious benefits, including improved processing speed and memory bandwidth, inherent security, and simpler deployment and management. But if you look beyond the impressive architecture, you’ll also find an open ecosystem that has given rise to a strong, innovative community, as well as an inventory of system and network management applications that really help leverage the benefits offered by running Linux on Power.Get the Guide