Protect you workloads with vSphere 6.5 VM Encryption

Security is a strong focus of the vSphere 6.5, you can have your vMotion traffic being encrypted which is very useful for you to migrate a VM cross site thru’ internet network and could be even more useful when later you would have to migrate it into the cloud. We also have the secure boot for UEFI which ensure the boot device is being trusted, as mentioned in the Auto Deploy Blog Series, this is the stuff that stop me booting my nested ESXi from PXE image. So in this blog, I would like to walk thru’ the setup steps and caveats you would have to be aware of. You can refer to the documentation HERE for the detail VM Encryption function supported by vSphere 6.5. But as I would like to let you visualise the setup, thus let me start by the setup procedure.

VM Encryption Setup

While the vCenter, ESXi will be responsible for the actual encrypting mechanism, we need to setup a KMS server for storing the keys which are used for encrypting and decrypting the VM files.

For testing purpose, I have (and would suggest you) following the blog post HERE by William Lam. In the post, we can use a docker container to hold the KMS server. Of course the key will be lost when the docker process is down, but this provides a really handy way for us to test the VM Encryption in this post. You can definitely use any docker host to flag out the container process, but here, I would like to use a Photon OS to do that for me. Followings are the steps I used to setup the KMS:

So first you need to prepare the docker host for running the KMS container, and you can download the Photon OS from the link HERE. I download the OVA with virtual hardware v11 version which fit in my vSphere 6.5 environment

So you can then deploy it as generic photon OS

As you cannot assign a static IP to photon OS thru’ the deployment wizard, you would have to login the VM Console to alter the configuration file under /etc/systemd/network for giving a static IP to the Photon OS.

So following the Post from William, you can run the command:

docker pull lamw/vmwkmip

To pull the image into the docker host, of course, your Photon OS thus has to have internet access for pulling the docker image down. After pulling the image down, you can run the following command to run the KMS docker image.

docker run –rm -it -p 5696:5696 law/vmwkmip

I have to state again, docker based KMS should not be used for production environment as it’s not stateful at all, the key will be lost when the docker process is quitted or down accidentally.

Anyway, as we are just testing the Caveats here, you can  continue the work and go back to the vSphere Web Client. You need to connect the vCenter to the KMS server from the “Configure” tab of the vCenter Object. And hit the “Add KMS Server” with the green plus icon.

You can see the following wizard which would let you entering the KMS server information. The mandatory item will be “Server Address” and “Server port”, while you can give the “Cluster name” and “Server alias” a name you want

Confirm the configuration by clicking “Yes”

The KMIP cert will be prompted to be trusted Manually

On successful configuration, you could see the KMS entry as following:

So after the basic configuration of the KMS server, we can start encrypting the VM

VM Encryption Test

So, far easier than what you think,  you actually just need to change the “VM Polices” of a VM, with the editing in VM Storage Policies when your VM is being powered OFF.

The wizard let you assign the VM Encryption Policy to the VM to encrypt the VM

You can find relevant task and events which are trying to “reconfigure VM” which is actually the encryption task

After the task is done, you can see more information from the VM summary.

  1. the VM logo is with a “Lock” beside it
  2. Encryption Entry under “VM Hardware”
  3. VM storage policy is compliant with Encryption Policy

Well all DONE! Is it simple enough?? And yes this is how you can encrypt your VM with VM encryption as the new feature in vSphere 6.5 environment.



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