It's No Secret: VMware to Develop Secure Systems for NSA
By Scott Ferguson
August 29, 2007
VMware is working with General Dynamics to create workstations that can handle both sensitive and unclassified material.
It's one relationship that the National Security Agency is not keeping secret.
The NSA is working with VMware, which is considered the world's largest provider of virtualization technology, and General Dynamics C4 Systems to develop a workstation platform capable of handling both sensitive and unclassified material within the same PC.
VMware, General Dynamics—the parent company of General Dynamics C4 Systems and one of the country's largest government contractors—and the NSA are announcing the new agreement Aug. 29, said Aileen Black, vice president of federal sales for VMware.
This High-Assurance Platform workstation will use VMware's hypervisor technology—software that allows a single piece of hardware to be divided into several virtual machines—to create a secure PC that is certified by the NSA to handle top secret, secret, classified and unclassified data. Black said the hypervisor supports a range of operating systems, including Microsoft Windows and Red Hat Linux, and will allow up to six virtual machines to run on a single physical workstation.
The VMware hypervisor also works with a host of legacy applications that several intelligence agencies continue to use in their work, Black said.
In the past, intelligence officers and U.S. Department of Defense personnel would have to use separate PCs to handle different levels of classified material. What the NSA contract with General Dynamics and VMware is looking to accomplish is to create a single workstation that can handle different layers of information within the same physical machine.
The other benefit, Black said, is that it will reduce the hardware footprint at several federal agencies by allowing IT administrators to move information from several workstations onto one platform.
General Dynamics has been working on various hardware solutions for these types of security concerns for some time. At a recent demonstration of Intel's new vPro platform, a General Dynamics security engineer showed a workstation that took advantage of the new security and virtualization features that Intel built into the updated version of the platform.
VMware's own history with developing virtualization technology for the NSA goes back to 2000.
General Dynamics and VMware are developing both mobile and desktop workstations that have the NSA certification. In addition to the NSA, several other government agencies will test the new High-Assurance Platform PCs, including the Department of Defense and its Special Operations Command.
"This is a huge win for VMware software because not only does it show that virtualization security can provide an isolated environment for a range of data, but it can also help simplify the operations within the intelligence community," Black said.