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That's where channel partners can most help their customers, Yuan said.
"They are in an excellent position to provide value-added services," he said.
Two smaller vendors, Scotts Valley, Calif.-based Catbird Networks Inc. and Reflex Security Inc. in Atlanta, both came out with virtual security appliances last year. VMware's release of VMsafe in February, and subsequent adoption by Trend Micro, McAfee and others, show that larger vendors are now moving into virtual security -- a market being fueled by growth in the overall virtualization market.
"All of the enterprises that I know of have some sort of virtualization in their environment," Yuan said. "It's bringing a lot of significant business value, and that's how most customers get started."
But many of those customers don't immediately think about security when they implement virtualization, Yuan said. That's why vendors and partners have to educate them, said Todd Thiemann, Trend Micro's director of incubation marketing. Most customers don't think of physical and virtual security separately, so partners have to sell them on overall security solutions, he said.
"Customers are just looking at security," he added. "They want to take advantage of virtualization, and they want to make sure they have adequate levels of security."
Still, virtualization does come with specific security challenges that vendors and channel partners must help customers address, Yuan said. For example, virtual security typically requires software or appliances to take data out of the virtual machine (VM), then return it after an inspection -- a process that gives users little visibility into the VM itself. And a compromised virtual machine can make its hypervisor and then the physical machine vulnerable to attack.
Virtual security should get more attention this year when Microsoft releases its new hypervisor, Hyper-V -- a move some partners and analysts expect to boost the server virtualization market. For now, most security vendors are focusing on virtual security for VMware environments alone, because VMware is far and away the server virtualization market share leader. But Trend Micro, for one, could begin offering its products for other virtualization platforms.
"That's something that's under consideration," Thiemann said.