Welcome!

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Java IoT, Linux Containers, Containers Expo Blog, Cloud Security, @BigDataExpo

@CloudExpo: Article

Mastering the Balancing Act of #Cloud Security and Business Agility

There are three clear control capability areas needed for IT to effectively manage financial, reputation and legal risk

In 2012, an IDG survey of enterprise cloud computing adoption showed that 70 percent of respondents said security was among their top three concerns, and two years later, not much has changed. The Everest Group Enterprise Cloud Adoption Survey released in March of 2014 shows that 70 percent of enterprises prefer private cloud because it offers higher security - a clear indication that security concerns still weigh heavily on the minds of enterprise leaders. Centralizing cloud resource access could prove to be the path through, addressing security concerns while providing the agility cloud computing promises.

It is understandable how cloud security presents itself as a chief IT concern when you consider that cloud computing transfers control from IT to business users and developers. And that adopting cloud entails replacing numerous IT processes with self-service portals.

While there are innumerous benefits to adopting cloud computing, transferring control away from IT does open the business to risk as it diminishes IT's ability to protect the organization's resources and data against unauthorized access and misuse. It also ties IT's hands when it comes to identifying and resolving security issues, and enforcing compliance with industry regulations. These are critical functions that have direct impact on business risk.

Addressing Business Risk via Security Controls
Cloud computing transforms the way infrastructure is provisioned in an organization. It replaces the centralized IT-controlled infrastructure provisioning model where developers make an infrastructure request that IT reviews and then fulfills, with a new, distributed developer-centric infrastructure provisioning process where developers effectively bypass IT. As a result, enterprises adopting cloud find themselves in a paradoxical situation where IT is responsible for the infrastructure security that developers now control.

There are three clear control capability areas needed for IT to effectively manage financial, reputation and legal risk.

  • Preventive capabilities: IT must be able to prevent insecure provisioning requests from being fulfilled, on both a per-user-role and per-environment basis. For example, IT must be able to enforce specific firewall policies for production infrastructure.

    In order to satisfy developer requirements, it is obvious that IT cannot change the way cloud infrastructure is accessed: provisioning must remain self-service. As a result, IT needs transparent and automated policy enforcement. Provisioning requests made to the organization's cloud need to be inspected in real-time and checked against governance policies that are in place. When approved, requests must be forwarded to the relevant cloud API; when denied, the developer that made the request must be immediately informed. Ideally, the developer should be provided with an explanation and an alternate course of action should be suggested.
  • Detective capabilities: IT must have a centralized view of infrastructure to identify vulnerabilities and intrusions; IT must be able to understand the purpose of every resource provisioned by the business. For example, IT must be able to identify the configuration of every deployed resource and the environment to which it belongs. That knowledge can then be used to decide whether an unusual firewall configuration or activity pattern should trigger an alert.


To satisfy these requirements, IT needs a federated view and understanding of all of the business's cloud resources, ensuring visibility over the organization's cloud resources. To do so, IT must ensure that every provisioning request is associated with a legitimate owner and use case (ideally in an automated fashion); that all provisioned resources remain visible throughout their lifecycle; and that metadata regarding their purpose remains accessible.

  • Corrective capabilities: IT must control access to the business's cloud infrastructure.  For example, IT must be able to revoke access for employees that leave the company, and be able to centrally identify and patch affected resources when a vulnerability is identified.

    To do so, IT needs centralized credential management to govern access to cloud resources. IT must ensure that access to cloud resources is controlled by the organization's existing identity management infrastructure, and not by ad-hoc SSH keys or RDP passwords created by developers. Naturally, in order to not hinder developer productivity, IT must ensure that developers can still access the resources for which they have a legitimate use.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road
Cloud security has been an issue since 2006 when cloud emerged with the release of AWS EC2. Back then, all cloud instances were exposed to the Internet, and access was only available with root keys. To address these respective problems, Amazon announced AWS Virtual Private Cloud and AWS Identity and Access Management. Some AWS competitors have also issued access control management, though they remain somewhat limited. Yet, these controls only address IT's preventive needs, are only available on AWS as of this writing, and are often complex to use.

As a result, IT is frequently opting to deploy a cloud management platform (CMP), an often on-premise, web-based application, that sits between end-users and the multiple cloud platforms that they may use. CMPs are extensible platforms that let IT departments customize the CMP's behavior to fit their organization's workflows and policies.  In turn, CMPs enforce those IT policies in a fully transparent and automated fashion, so that developers aren't slowed down by red tape when getting work done. As a result, CMPs ensure that IT is provided the security capabilities it requires, while ensuring developers retain the agility they need.

Most importantly, CMPs play a critical role in addressing all three control capability areas:

  • Preventive: CMPs can provide IT with governance and role-based access control capabilities, and empower IT to secure and control access to cloud resources on a per-user or per-user-group basis. Using a CMP, these policies can be enforced in real-time, so that developers are not slowed by their enforcement. IT can, for example, ensure that specific firewall rules are automatically added for every single instance that is launched, and that instances are automatically launched in secure networks (e.g. a specific AWS Virtual Private Cloud, or VPC).
  • Detective: Because CMPs are used for the provisioning of all the organization's resources, they may automatically keep a precise account of the resources that were provisioned, by whom, and for what purpose. As a result, resource tracking can be performed automatically, and developers won't have to perform extra effort to comply with IT policies.
  • Corrective: CMPs may centralize the creation and use of CMP-controlled credentials and make those available to dev and IT, or automatically configure cloud resources to leverage the company's existing identity management framework instead. For example, with a CMP, IT can enforce developer use of Active Directory credentials to login to their instances.

While cloud momentum continues to grow, so does concern - rightfully so - for cloud security. While IaaS providers have taken steps to address these concerns within their systems, they do not currently address the spectrum of capabilities needed to fully address business risk. CMPs are an effective option that can be deployed in a way that addresses IT, business, and developer needs.

More Stories By Sebastian Stadil

Sebastian Stadil is founder and CEO of Scalr. He has been a Cloud developer since 2004, starting with web services for e-commerce and then for computational resources. He founded the Silicon Valley Cloud Computing Group, a user group of over 8000 members that meets monthly to present the latest developments in the industry. As if that weren't enough, Sebastian founded Scalr as an open source project in 2007. Sebastian is a frequent lecturer on cloud computing at Carnegie Mellon University, and sits on the Google Cloud Advisory Board. When he is not working on Scalr, Sebastian likes to make sushi and play rugby.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Latest Stories
One of the hottest areas in cloud right now is DRaaS and related offerings. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Dale Levesque, Disaster Recovery Product Manager with Windstream's Cloud and Data Center Marketing team, will discuss the benefits of the cloud model, which far outweigh the traditional approach, and how enterprises need to ensure that their needs are properly being met.
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017 at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with the 20th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. @ThingsExpo New York Call for Papers is now open.
WebRTC has had a real tough three or four years, and so have those working with it. Only a few short years ago, the development world were excited about WebRTC and proclaiming how awesome it was. You might have played with the technology a couple of years ago, only to find the extra infrastructure requirements were painful to implement and poorly documented. This probably left a bitter taste in your mouth, especially when things went wrong.
Up until last year, enterprises that were looking into cloud services usually undertook a long-term pilot with one of the large cloud providers, running test and dev workloads in the cloud. With cloud’s transition to mainstream adoption in 2015, and with enterprises migrating more and more workloads into the cloud and in between public and private environments, the single-provider approach must be revisited. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Yoav Mor, multi-cloud solution evangelist at Cloudy...
When you focus on a journey from up-close, you look at your own technical and cultural history and how you changed it for the benefit of the customer. This was our starting point: too many integration issues, 13 SWP days and very long cycles. It was evident that in this fast-paced industry we could no longer afford this reality. We needed something that would take us beyond reducing the development lifecycles, CI and Agile methodologies. We made a fundamental difference, even changed our culture...
The proper isolation of resources is essential for multi-tenant environments. The traditional approach to isolate resources is, however, rather heavyweight. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Igor Drobiazko, co-founder of elastic.io, drew upon his own experience with operating a Docker container-based infrastructure on a large scale and present a lightweight solution for resource isolation using microservices. He also discussed the implementation of microservices in data and application integrat...
All organizations that did not originate this moment have a pre-existing culture as well as legacy technology and processes that can be more or less amenable to DevOps implementation. That organizational culture is influenced by the personalities and management styles of Executive Management, the wider culture in which the organization is situated, and the personalities of key team members at all levels of the organization. This culture and entrenched interests usually throw a wrench in the work...
Containers have changed the mind of IT in DevOps. They enable developers to work with dev, test, stage and production environments identically. Containers provide the right abstraction for microservices and many cloud platforms have integrated them into deployment pipelines. DevOps and containers together help companies achieve their business goals faster and more effectively. In his session at DevOps Summit, Ruslan Synytsky, CEO and Co-founder of Jelastic, reviewed the current landscape of Dev...
In his General Session at DevOps Summit, Asaf Yigal, Co-Founder & VP of Product at Logz.io, will explore the value of Kibana 4 for log analysis and will give a real live, hands-on tutorial on how to set up Kibana 4 and get the most out of Apache log files. He will examine three use cases: IT operations, business intelligence, and security and compliance. This is a hands-on session that will require participants to bring their own laptops, and we will provide the rest.
IoT is at the core or many Digital Transformation initiatives with the goal of re-inventing a company's business model. We all agree that collecting relevant IoT data will result in massive amounts of data needing to be stored. However, with the rapid development of IoT devices and ongoing business model transformation, we are not able to predict the volume and growth of IoT data. And with the lack of IoT history, traditional methods of IT and infrastructure planning based on the past do not app...
"LinearHub provides smart video conferencing, which is the Roundee service, and we archive all the video conferences and we also provide the transcript," stated Sunghyuk Kim, CEO of LinearHub, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"We're bringing out a new application monitoring system to the DevOps space. It manages large enterprise applications that are distributed throughout a node in many enterprises and we manage them as one collective," explained Kevin Barnes, President of eCube Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with 20th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry p...
@DevOpsSummit at Cloud taking place June 6-8, 2017, at Javits Center, New York City, is co-located with the 20th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long developm...
Updating DevOps to the latest production data slows down your development cycle. Probably it is due to slow, inefficient conventional storage and associated copy data management practices. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Dhiraj Sehgal, in Product and Solution at Tintri, will talk about DevOps and cloud-focused storage to update hundreds of child VMs (different flavors) with updates from a master VM in minutes, saving hours or even days in each development cycle. He will also...