Climbing the Trusted Stack with Intel CIT 3.0

Enterprises have a love-hate relationship with cloud computing. They love the flexibility. They love the economics. They hate the fact they can't guarantee the infrastructure and applications running their businesses and hosting their corporate data are completely trusted and haven't been tampered with by cyber criminals for nefarious purposes.

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Even if organizations have confidence in the systems deployed in their data centers, in hybrid cloud environments, on premise systems may be instantly and automatically supplemented by capacity from a public provider. How do we know and control where application instances are running? Who attests to their trust? For cloud service providers, how do they demonstrate the platforms they provide are secure and can be verified for compliance purposes? And how do we manage and orchestrate OS, VM, and application integrity across private and public clouds in an OpenStack environment? At Intel, we're developing a solution for hardware-assisted workload integrity and confidentially that can answer those questions and create a platform for trusted cloud computing.

Intel® Xeon® processors offer a hardware-based solution using Intel Trusted Execution Technology (TXT) and Trusted Platform Module (TPM) technology to attest to the integrity and trust of the platform. That lets us assure nothing has been tampered with and that the platform is running the authorized versions of firmware and software. To access and manage this capability, we provide Intel® Cloud Integrity Technology (CIT) 3.0 software.

At the OpenStack Summit in May, we demonstrated how we use Intel CIT 3.0 to verify a chain of trust at boot time from the hardware to the workload in a Linux/Docker and Linux/KVM environment. That includes the hardware, firmware, BIOS, hypervisor, OS, and the Docker engine itself. When integrated with OpenStack, we assure when an application was launched, it is launched in a trusted environment right up through its VM. In addition, VM images can be encrypted to assure their confidentiality. Intel CIT 3.0 provides Enterprise Ownership and Control in clouds through encrypted VM storage and enterprise managed keys.

At DockerCon in San Francisco, we have taken that one step farther. We have extended the chain of trust up through the Docker container image and application itself to assure trusted launch of a containerized application.

For enterprises that need trusted cloud computing, it means:

  • You can assure at boot time that the platform running the Docker daemon or hypervisor has not been tampered with and is running correct versions.

  • You can assure when a VM or container is launched that the container and VM images—including the containerized application—have not been tampered with and are correct versions.

  • You can achieve the above when deploying VMs and containers from the same OpenStack controller to enable trusted compute pools.

VMs and containers can be launched from a dashboard, which also displays their execution and trust status. But the real power of the solution will come as the capabilities are integrated into orchestration software which can launch trusted container transparently on trusted compute pools. And we are continuing our work to address storage and networking workloads like storage controllers, software-defined networking (SDN) controllers, and virtual network functions.

The demonstration at DockerCon is a proof of concept we built using CIT 3.0. We're currently integrating with a select set of cloud service providers and security vendor partners and will announce general availability after that is complete. CIT 3.0 protects virtualized and containerized workloads (Docker containers) running on OpenStack-managed Ubuntu, RHEL, and Fedora systems with KVM/Docker. It also protects non-virtualized (bare metal) environments. If you have one of those environments running on Xeon TXT-enabled servers with TPM activated by the OEM, we invite you to try it out under our beta program.

Integrity and confidentiality assurance is becoming a critical requirement in private, public, and hybrid cloud infrastructures, and cloud service providers must offer trusted clouds to their customers to provide them with the confidence to move sensitive workloads into the cloud. Intel Cloud Integrity Technology 3.0 is the only infrastructure integrity solution in the market that offers complete chain of trust, from the hardware to the application. We think enterprises will be loving cloud computing a lot more.