Virtualization is one of the greatest aids to physical security—as it applies to computers— since the locking server rack. Implementing all of the prudent physical access controls on dozens of physical servers within an environment can become very difficult and unmanageable. Virtualization allows you to consolidate the management of ten servers into one very robust 2U or 3U server.

You can fit as many as 20 virtual machine hosts in a full-size server rack that could contain roughly 200 virtual machines. That is an entire enterprise of servers safely locked away in a single server rack, protected by as many of the physical access controls as needed or desired. The virtualization concept enables physical protection to be much more manageable.

Server virtualization also provides other inherent physical access controls by placing the server itself within a sandbox, isolated from the physical hardware of the host server itself. Many virtual machine packages allow access to be turned on or off from the virtual machine to the host hardware. If USB access to virtual machines is not desired, disable it. If CD-ROM access is undesired, disable that, too. It essentially adds yet another layer of security and obscurity between the servers being audited or administered and the outside world.

Not only are the additional access controls wonderful, but never before has it been easier to completely back up, move, or restore a server. If a machine becomes compromised, restore the machine from backed-up virtual machine files, patch the vulnerability, back up the virtual machine files once again, and place the server back in service. Some virtual machine technologies even have a snapshot and restore feature to reduce the time to restore a virtual machine to a previous configuration in a matter of seconds.

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