Data Security & Fabric Management|
|Security and information storage systems
||When the word "security" is
used in association with information storage systems in storage area networks
(SANs), the first thought that comes to mind is of computer hackers infiltrating
those information storage systems and causing problems. Unauthorized human
access to information storage systems is a big concern, but there is yet another
security issue that must also be addressed and that is technology containment.
For example, in an environment where technologies are not contained, Windows NT
server(s) would see every available LUN and try to take ownership of them all.
In brief, technology containment keeps the servers from gaining unauthorized
access or accidental access to certain resources in the SAN.
|SAN design and management security
||A basic advantage of SAN technology over storage
systems that were previously captive or directly attached to their associated
hosts, is that SANs make possible networked any-to-any connectivity. In a SAN,
storage systems are de-coupled from their hosts and shared on a network where
many hosts can potentially access them; making security an essential component
in the design and management of storage systems based on SAN architectures.
|SAN data integrity and fabric management
||Open systems offer many different file systems,
volume management and disk management formats and software, demanding that
security be considered and implemented in the SAN for the following reasons:
- Data access and integrity
following discussion poses questions concerning data access and integrity,
fabric management and protection; then presents technologies and methodologies
that provide answers to those questions.
- Fabric management and protection from outside threats
|Data integrity security concerns|
|Data access and integrity
||The first concern when implementing a SAN is to
provide a higher level of data access and data integrity than direct-attached
storage systems provide. This requires new technologies and security methods
over those typically available for direct-attached storage systems. Frequently,
multiple technologies and security methodologies are applied to any single SAN
implementation to maximize data access and integrity. For example, a shared
RAID-array is a system that presents logical disks or LUNs to hosts on the SAN
for use. Without security measures, any host on the SAN fabric would be able to
see those LUNs and potentially write data to them; in a scenario where data
would be stored on those LUNs, data corruption or data loss would occur.
|Questions concerning data access and
||Concerning data access and integrity on a SAN,
consider the following questions: |
How can we segregate operating
systems at the port level on the SAN fabric?
How can we segregate different
application types on the fabric?
- It is undesirable to have Windows NT and Sun Solaris systems accessing the
same RAID-array port on the fabric; due to Windows NT's practice of attempting
to write disk signatures to new disks it finds attached to the fabric. That
creates the need for a network-fabric enforced way of segregating ports into
logical groups of visibility.
How can we isolate any single logical unit (LUN)
on an array, permitting only a certain host(s) access to that LUN and no others?
- For example, it may be necessary to ensure that finance systems on the SAN
cannot access the data owned by engineering systems, or web systems. That
creates the need for a fabric-enforced way of grouping ports on the fabric into
zones of visibility, which could be based on application, function, or
How can we, from the host side, ensure that hosts see their
storage ports and LUNs consistently as new storage is added, and after each
- A basic advantage of a SAN is that a large number of hosts can share
expensive storage resources. As it concerns RAID, this demands that multiple
hosts have access to the disk storage LUNs through a single-shared port on the
array. Security methods must be employed to ensure that LUNs behind a port are
accessible only to the intended hosts. Without special software and
architectures to manage multi-host block-level read/write access (when multiple
systems access the same LUN concurrently), data corruption or data loss would
- In the world of fibre-channel SANs, the assignment of SCSI target IDs is
moved from the storage side to the host/fiber channel (FC) host bus adapter
(HBA) side. Thus, target IDs can be dynamically reassigned as new storage is
added to an individual host via the SAN. Since this feature is a fundamental
advance of SAN, the assignment of target IDs must be managed to ensure their
consistency across storage devices, fabrics, and after host configuration
|Fabric management security
||When implementing a SAN, a fundamental level of
fabric security is required; especially when adding switches to the fabric and
configuration management of that fabric. This level of security more closely
resembles the common security concerns in traditional TCP/IP networks. This same
level of security is also very important in co-location environments, where
multiple SAN fabrics are used and owned by multiple organizations that are in
close proximity to each other.
|Questions concerning fabric-level security
||Concerning fabric-level security on a SAN,
consider the following questions:
How is switch-to-switch security managed on the fabric; also, how can
we enforce policies that prohibit non-authorized switches or hosts from
attaching to the fabric?
How can security
and configuration be centrally managed on a fabric?
- In early SAN environments, additional switches (configured with a default
password and login) could be easily attached to an existing operating fabric,
and that new non-secure switch could be used as a single point of configuration
administration for the entire fabric. Technologies are needed that enforce
access control at the fabric level, and ensure that only authorized and
authenticated switches can be added to the fabric.
How can we ensure that only authorized hosts are allowed to connect to
the fabric, and to a specific port designated by the administrator?
- In the initial phases of SANs evolution and even today, large fibre-channel
fabrics are frequently made up of many 8- or 16-port fibre-channel switch
building blocks. Each switch features both in-band and out-of-band management
components [simple network management protocol (SNMP), telnet, etc.], and a
switch-centric security control model. As large SANs evolve, technologies are
needed to centrally control security, regarding the access and management of the
fabric; also, to minimize the number of administrative access and security
control points on the fabric.
How can we ensure that the
management tools used to manage the SAN, and SAN-management requests are coming
from an authorized source?
- Initially, in SAN configurations, a host fiber channel HBA could attach to
any point in a fabric and if the HBA was capable of basic fabric login, that HBA
became a participating member of the fabric. Technologies are needed that allow
a fabric-centric method of access control to govern which hosts can attach to a
specific port or switch on the fabric. This would prevent a rogue attacker with
a NT system and a FC HBA from attaching to a non-secure SAN for the purpose of
configuration changes, or data access.
How can we ensure that configuration changes on the fabric are valid
when there are multiple points of configuration management?
- Multiple in-band and out-of-band methods are used to manage SAN fabric
configurations. A tunnel of communication must exist between SAN management
consoles and frameworks, and the target fabric being managed. That tunnel of
communication must be secure and confirmed as authentic to prevent an attacker
from using a management tool to access a non-secure SAN.
- In early SAN configurations, multiple administrators could log into
different switches on the same fabric and perform fabric-configuration changes
concurrently. After enabling and propagating those configuration changes
fabric-wide, the fabric configuration could become corrupt due to conflicts.
Fabric corruption usually occurs when configuration changes are made through
multiple points on a fabric. Technologies are needed to ensure that fabric
configuration changes are performed through a centralized and secure point in
the SAN, and that those configuration changes do not cause configuration
|Data protection and fabric
||Answers to the previously posed data protection
and fabric management security questions, needs, and concerns are available
today in various technologies. Typically, multiple technologies and
methodologies are used to provide the highest level of security for SANs, and
some of these are the following:
For data access and security:
For fabric management and protection:
The following discussion is about data access and security, and
fabric management and protection technologies and methodologies that provide
security and management for storage area networks.
- Fabric-to-fabric security
- Host-to-fabric security
- Management-to-fabric security
- Configuration integrity
|Data integrity and security |
||SAN implementations make data highly accessible;
as a result, heightened network security and processes optimized for data
transfers are needed. Fabric zoning establishes the way devices in the SAN
interact, establishing a certain level of management and security.
|What is zoning?
||Zoning is a fabric-centric enforced method of
creating barriers on the fabric to prevent set groups of devices from
interacting with each other. SAN architectures provide port-to-port connections
among servers and storage devices through bridges, switches, and hubs. Zoning
sets up efficient methods of managing, partitioning, and controlling pathways to
and from storage devices on the SAN fabric; as a result, storage resources are
maximized, and data integrity and data security are maintained. Additionally,
zoning enables heterogeneous devices to be grouped by operating system, and
further demarcation based on application, function, or department.
|Types of zoning
||There are two types of zoning: Soft zoning and
- Soft zoning uses software to enforce zoning. The zoning process
uses the name server database located in the fibre-channel switch. The name
server database stores port numbers and World Wide Names (WWN) used to identify
devices during the zoning process. When a zone change is made, the devices in
the database receive Registered State Change Notification (RSCN). Each device
must correctly address the RSCN to change related communication paths. Any
device that does not correctly address the RSCN, yet continues to transfer data
to a specific device after a zoning change, that device will be blocked from
communicating with its targeted device.
- Hard zoning uses only WWNs to specify each device for a specific
zone. Hard zoning requires each device to pass through the switch's route table
so that the switch can regulate data transfers by verified zone. For example, if
two ports are not authorized to communicate with each other, the route table for
those ports is disabled, and the communication between those ports is blocked
|Zoning configurations and components
||Zone configurations are based on either the
physical port that the device plugs into or the WWN of the device. Zoning
- Zone sets
- Zone members
||A zone is made up of servers and storage devices
on the SAN fabric that can access each other through managed port-to-port
connections. Devices in the same zone can recognize and communicate with each
other, but not necessarily with devices in other zones unless a device, in that
zone, is configured for multiple zones. Figure 1 shows a three-zone SAN fabric
with both zones sharing the tape library in zone 2.
|Figure 1: Three-Zone SAN
|What is a zone member?
||Zone members are devices within the same assigned
zone. See Figure 2. |
Zone-member devices are restricted to intra-zone
communications, meaning that these devices can only interact with members within
their assigned zone.
| A zone member interacting with devices outside
its assigned zone is not permitted, unless that device is configured for
||Figure 2: Zone Members|
|Zone member identification
||Zone members are recognized by port number or
World Wide Name (WWN). A WWN is a 64-bit number that uniquely identifies zone
|What is a zone set?
||A zone set is a group of zones that function
together on the fabric. Each zone set can accommodate up to 256 zones. All
devices in a zone see only devices assigned to their zone, but any device in
that zone can be a member of other zones. In Figure 3, all 4 zones see member A.
|Figure 3: Zone Set|
||LUN masking is a RAID system-centric enforced
method of masking multiple LUNs behind a single port. LUN masking is configured
at the RAID-array level, using World Wide Port Names (WWPNs) of server HBAs. See
Figure 4. LUN masking allows disk storage resource sharing across multiple
independent servers. With LUN masking, a single large RAID device can be
sub-divided to serve a number of different hosts that are attached to the RAID
through the SAN fabric. Each LUN (disk slice, portion, unit) inside the RAID
device can be limited so that only one or a limited number of servers can see
LUN masking can be done either at the server HBA or at the RAID device
(behind the RAID port). It is more secure to mask LUNs at the RAID device, but
not all RAID devices have LUN masking capability; therefore, some HBA vendors
allow persistent binding at the driver-level to mask LUNs.
|Figure 4: LUN Masking
||Persistent binding is a host-centric enforced way
of directing an operating system to assign certain SCSI target IDs and LUNs. For
example, where a specific host will always assign SCSI ID 3 to the first router
it finds, and LUNs 0, 1, and 2 to the three-tape drives attached to the router.
See Figure 5.
Operating systems and upper-level applications (such as backup
software) typically require a static or predictable SCSI target ID for their
storage reliability and persistent binding affords that happening.
|Figure 5: Persistent Binding
|Fabric management and protection
||Fabric-to-fabric security technologies permit
Access Control Lists (ACLs) to allow or deny the addition of a new switch to the
fabric. Access lists filter network traffic by controlling whether routed
packets are forwarded or blocked at the router interface. For example, access
lists can allow one host the right to access a certain part of the network and
deny another host that same access. Access control lists provide a basic level
of security for accessing the network.
Public Key Infrastructures (PKI) technology can be applied as a
mechanism for authenticating the identity of a new switch.
Additionally, fabric-wide security databases help to ensure that all
new authorized switches added to the fabric inherit fabric-wide security
policies, so that a new, out-of-the-box switch does not become a non-secured
|Host-to-fabric security technologies
||Host-to-fabric security technologies can apply
ACLs at the port-level of the fabric to allow or deny a particular host's FC HBA
from attaching to a specific port. This would prevent an unauthorized intruder
host from attaching to the fabric via any port. The host's ability to log into
the fabric is explicitly defined and is allowed with this model.
||Management-to-fabric technologies can use PKI and
other encryption (such as md5) technologies to ensure that a trusted and secure
management console-to-fabric communications layer exists. PKI and other
encryption help ensure that the management console or framework used to control
the fabric is authentic and authorized. In addition, encryption methodologies
can restrict the number of switches on the fabric from which management and
configuration changes are propagated to the rest of the fabric. That will create
a SAN with a minimal number of security control points.
|Configuration integrity technologies
||Configuration integrity refers to technologies
that ensure propagated fabric configuration changes only come from one location
at a time, and are correctly propagated to all switches in the fabric with
integrity. A distributed lock manager is one way of ensuring that a serial and
valid configuration change is enabled on the fabric.
||SAN implementations make data highly
available by delivering shared storage in open, non-proprietary environments via
any-to-any connectivity. The advantage of any-to-any connectivity can be a
liability unless well thought out security policies are put into place to manage
how devices interact within the SAN. Shared storage in a SAN environment
requires safeguards to ensure data integrity, and to prevent unwanted access
from unauthorized systems and users. This discussion briefly explored some of
the technologies and their associated methodologies used to ensure data
integrity, and to protect and manage the fabric. Each technology has advantages
and disadvantages; and each must be considered based on a well thought out SAN
security strategy, developed during the SAN design phase.
Moreover, to expect that the required level of security can be
achieved from any one of the previously discussed technologies, independent of
all others, is unwise. The astute information storage architect clearly
understands that in a heterogeneous SAN environment, with diverse operating
systems and vendor storage devices, that some combination or all of the
aforementioned technologies could be required to ensure that the SAN is secure
from unauthorized systems and users.
Finally, the SAN security strategy must be periodically addressed as
the SAN infrastructure evolves and as new technologies emerge; this will ensure
that the proper level of security is maintained and the SAN fabric is properly