The Importance of “Role-Based Access control” in a VM Environment

In today’s business world, the need for protecting sensitive data has significantly risen for countless organizations, whether it be a restaurant or a firm that develops software for the military. Moreover, the rapid growth of the Internet has made it easier to access data, which ultimately leads to the misuse of this vital information. Therefore, certain parameters must be set for employees based on their position in the company. Only the necessary information and assets that pertain to their job are at their disposal. In this article, I will discuss the importance of Role-based access control (RBAC) in monitoring and managing a VM environment.

What is RBAC? In short, RBAC is an approach to restricting system access to authorized users. Eligible users can view stats (CPU, usage, IOPs, memory, etc.) or modify configurations for devices in the VM environment based on their roles. Here, user roles change from one organization to another, which can be based on hierarchy, job profile, authority, responsibility, and so forth.

A VM environment in an organization will have many virtual machines hosting Web servers, mail servers, test machines, application servers, etc. It should be noted that organizations might have multiple administrators and users with different roles, like a database admin, QA staff, mail server admin, PHP application admin, and so on. Therefore, all admins won’t have access to all or the same servers in the VM environment. Depending on enterprise-specific security policies, an admin should have access to only those servers that come under his or her responsibilities.

Further, as an organization grows, the number of users also increases, which means more VMs.  Controlling access to and from VM servers will become more complex and costly. For example, security failures can disrupt operations. RBAC helps owners to more efficiently manage and maintain their VM, data, and applications in a manner consistent to their organization’s security policy.

Consider an organization with three specialized admins (database admin, application admin, and mail server admin) as well as an IT Manager, QA staff, and developers. The IT head should have access to all the servers in the network, whereas database, application, and mail server admins need access to only their specific servers. Similarly, the QA staff should have access to only test VM’s, and developers should be limited to their specific machines. These conditions can be implemented with the help of RBAC.


Some advantages of role-based access control are:

  • Managing groups is easier than managing 100’s of users.
  • Flexibility of providing a broad range of authorization options.
  • Easy to create, manage, and assign user privileges.
  • Increases security as only the authorized users are allowed access to the specific servers. And, very few designated users have access to servers with sensitive data.
  • Reduces cost and errors in VM administration.


Organizations contain and manage tons of sensitive and business-critical data. RBAC has become an inevitable part in monitoring and managing a VM environment. Most of the leading vendors, such as SolarWinds, McAfee, Oracle, etc. already support RBAC in their products. So when you choose a product for VM management or event monitoring, choose a product that supports RBAC. This way you can easily remember the complexities in managing 100’s of end-user machines and can ensure that IT security is not compromised.


Praveen Manohar, Head Geek

Praveen is a Head Geek at SolarWinds, a global IT management software provider based in Austin, Texas. He has seven years of IT industry experience in roles such as Support Engineer, Product Trainer, and Technical Consultant, and his expertise lies in technologies including NetFlow, Flexible NetFlow, Cisco NBAR, Cisco IPSLA, WMI, and SNMP. Praveen gives strategic guidance for end-users on applications, networks, and performance monitoring tools. 


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