VMware has announced a new security technology that it claimed can protect applications running in virtual machines in ways previously not possible in physical environments.

VMsafe operates as a sub-system, or protection engine, in the hypervisor, VMware ESX Server, and monitors all traffic in and out of each virtual machine. It can also examine the state of the CPU and the disk. VMware said that security products built on VMsafe technology are able to stop malware before it harms a machine or steals data, including the latest generation of rootkits, Trojans and viruses, which are undetectable on physical machines.

At VMworld this week, company co-founder and chief scientist Mendel Rosenblum demonstrated the product's ability to halt malware before a single instruction had been executed. "Everyone we talked to in the security industry said this is great and that they could build products on top of it," said Rosenblum.

VMware said the product's inclusion of open APIs allowed security vendors to develop anti-malware products on top of VMsafe. The company also claimed that 20 security vendors are building products around it. VMware said that this makes the virtual environment "unmatched in the level of security and protection it provides compared to physical systems."

“VMware already has the most trusted virtualisation platform for running applications, and we are now raising the bar on security in ways that physical systems simply cannot match,” said Raghu Raghuram, vice president of datacentre products and solutions. “The industry has come out in full force to support VMware VMsafe technology with plans for a whole new class of security products that offer customers new advantages to running applications in virtual machines.”