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Security for virtualized datacentres

Zeus Technology is upgrading its Web server technology to guard against application level denial of service (DoS) attacks.

Exploiting concern about the security of Microsoft's IIS Web server, Zeus will today announce the addition of anti-denial of service extensions to Zeus Web Server version 4.

According to Andrew Parker, vice president of corporate strategy at Zeus Technology, organisations can enhance the security of an organisation's web infrastructures by placing Unix boxes running Zeus in front of IIS farms. BT is trialling the technology.

Zeus's technology, which includes load balancing, can be used to rate limit requests to IIS server and throttle CPU-intensive applications, Parker says.

This will guard against the worst effects of recent worms like Nimda and Code Red which take advantage of well-known vulnerabilities in IIS, as well as guarding against more subtle application-level DoS attacks.

It does not protect sites from network-level distributed denial of service attacks, of the kind which floored eBay and Yahoo! last year. Such bandwidth-consuming attacks, commonly generated by a network of Trojaned zombies, need to be defended against before a flood of traffic reaches a Web server, possibly by adaptations to routers or other network hardware. This is notoriously difficult.

The Nimda worm outbreak showed that many organisations were running Web servers they never knew they had. So any hopes that Zeus's Technology eliminates the need to apply security patches are misplaced.

Migration Route

That said, Zeus has an enviable security record and its approach has merits in providing defence in depth from security risks. The firm also gains a useful toe-hold in organisations it is seeking to migrate off IIS.

Web servers are commonly integrated with an organisation's applications and databases, and Zeus has the job of convincing companies to move onto Unix - for its strategy of getting users to migrate long-term to bear fruit.

Also, it will have to convince people who, perhaps motivated by Gartner's recent advice, are considering moving from IIS why they should go with its technology, rather than iPlanet or Apache.

Nonetheless, since the release of the latest version of its Web server (which improves the delivery of dynamic pages and makes Zeus even faster), the firm has broadened its appeal from the niche role it occupied in the web server market to become a more serious contender. ®

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