VM Security Tags with NSX Firewall

This post will walk through virtual machine security tags; how we can create tags, automatically add virtual machines with tags to a specific security group, and build associated NSX firewall rules. As a bonus we’ll also apply a security tag to a vRA blueprint, allowing vRA provisioned machines to automatically receive a security tag and apply any corresponding NSX firewall rules.

Security tags and groups allow us to identify virtual machines with a common value, such as business department, support group, workloads, and so on. By applying security tags to virtual machines, and/or adding virtual machines to security groups, we can control security at a custom defined level, independent of the underlying infrastructure. Virtual machines can have multiple tags, allowing administrators to identify different values upon which to act. Many third party anti-virus solutions with NSX integration use security tags to protect and quarantine virtual machines depending on their health status.

The steps below assume that NSX is installed and working, for more information on installing the required components see the following series of posts.

NSX Install Guide Part 1 – Mgmt and Control Planes

NSX Install Guide Part 2 – Data Plane

NSX Install Guide Part 3 – Edge and DLR

Creating Security Tags and Groups

From the vSphere web client browse to Networking & Security, click NSX Managers, and select the appropriate NSX Manager. Open the Manage tab, then Security Tags. Existing security tags are listed, some third part plugins such as AV may also add and use security tags. To create a new security tag click the New Security Tag icon. Enter a name for the security tag, and a description if required, then click Ok.

Tags1

Security tags can be applied to virtual machines manually in the page referenced above, or through an automatic provisioning solution such as vRealize Automation.

Next, select the Grouping Objects page. Under Security Groups, click the Add New Security Group icon. Enter a name and description if required.

Group1

Go to the third option: Select objects to include. Change the Object Type in the drop-down to Security Tag. Select the new security tag we created earlier.

Group2

Review the details on the summary page and click Finish.

Group3

The security group has now been created, and any virtual machines that use the security tag we included are automatically added to the group. You can create multiple security tags and groups for different departments, applications, or however you want to segregate these out.

Group4

Creating NSX Firewall Rules

Our new security group / tag setup can be used to configure NSX firewall rules. Still under Networking & Security in the vSphere web client; select Firewall.

If you have already configured NSX firewall rules you’ll be familiar with this page, and likely have a number of sections and rules already configured. You can edit an existing rule or create a new one in the relevant section. To create a new section use the Add Section (folder) icon. Click the green plus icon to add a new rule, or the edit icon to edit an existing rule.

Firewall1

When configuring the rule you can set the source, destination, or both to use a security group. Change the Object Type drop-down to Security Group, and select the new security group we created earlier.

Firewall2

Remember to click Publish Changes when you’re done. For assistance with creating NSX firewall rules see this section of the NSX Documentation Center.

Adding Tags to vRA Blueprints

The use of security tags with blueprints requires NSX to be integrated with vRA. If you haven’t already done so you can follow the steps outlined in the VMware post Part 1 of Integrating NSX with vRealize Automation. You’ll also need an understanding of how to create blueprints, again there is more information on this in the VMware post Part 2 of Integrating NSX with vRealize Automation if you need it.

To add a security tag to a virtual machine provisioned by vRA we must add it to the appropriate blueprint. After adding security tags and/or groups to NSX Manager we need to run a data collection so that vRA is showing up to date information. From the vRA portal browse to the Infrastructure tab, select Compute Resources, Compute Resources. Move the mouse cursor over the compute resource and click Data Collection. Scroll down to Network and Security Inventory and click Request now. The sync will take a couple of minutes, you can leave the page during this time.

vra1

Next open the Design tab and select Blueprints. We can add a security tag to an existing blueprint, or create a new one. In the design canvas click Network & Security from the list of categories. Locate Existing Security Tag and drag this onto the canvas. Alternatively you can use a security group at this stage if you’d prefer.

vra2

Select the security tag from the list of existing tags. From the design canvas select the virtual machine and open the Security tab. Tick the referenced security tag to associate it with the virtual machine. Click Save and Finish to save the changes to the blueprint. Any virtual machines provisioned from this blueprint are now tagged with the security tag (or group) selected.

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