Welcome!

Containers Expo Blog Authors: Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White, Zakia Bouachraoui

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

@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.


IoT & Smart Cities Stories
The deluge of IoT sensor data collected from connected devices and the powerful AI required to make that data actionable are giving rise to a hybrid ecosystem in which cloud, on-prem and edge processes become interweaved. Attendees will learn how emerging composable infrastructure solutions deliver the adaptive architecture needed to manage this new data reality. Machine learning algorithms can better anticipate data storms and automate resources to support surges, including fully scalable GPU-c...
Machine learning has taken residence at our cities' cores and now we can finally have "smart cities." Cities are a collection of buildings made to provide the structure and safety necessary for people to function, create and survive. Buildings are a pool of ever-changing performance data from large automated systems such as heating and cooling to the people that live and work within them. Through machine learning, buildings can optimize performance, reduce costs, and improve occupant comfort by ...
The explosion of new web/cloud/IoT-based applications and the data they generate are transforming our world right before our eyes. In this rush to adopt these new technologies, organizations are often ignoring fundamental questions concerning who owns the data and failing to ask for permission to conduct invasive surveillance of their customers. Organizations that are not transparent about how their systems gather data telemetry without offering shared data ownership risk product rejection, regu...
René Bostic is the Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America. Enjoying her career with IBM during the modern millennial technological era, she is an expert in cloud computing, DevOps and emerging cloud technologies such as Blockchain. Her strengths and core competencies include a proven record of accomplishments in consensus building at all levels to assess, plan, and implement enterprise and cloud computing solutions. René is a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and a m...
Poor data quality and analytics drive down business value. In fact, Gartner estimated that the average financial impact of poor data quality on organizations is $9.7 million per year. But bad data is much more than a cost center. By eroding trust in information, analytics and the business decisions based on these, it is a serious impediment to digital transformation.
Digital Transformation: Preparing Cloud & IoT Security for the Age of Artificial Intelligence. As automation and artificial intelligence (AI) power solution development and delivery, many businesses need to build backend cloud capabilities. Well-poised organizations, marketing smart devices with AI and BlockChain capabilities prepare to refine compliance and regulatory capabilities in 2018. Volumes of health, financial, technical and privacy data, along with tightening compliance requirements by...
Predicting the future has never been more challenging - not because of the lack of data but because of the flood of ungoverned and risk laden information. Microsoft states that 2.5 exabytes of data are created every day. Expectations and reliance on data are being pushed to the limits, as demands around hybrid options continue to grow.
Digital Transformation and Disruption, Amazon Style - What You Can Learn. Chris Kocher is a co-founder of Grey Heron, a management and strategic marketing consulting firm. He has 25+ years in both strategic and hands-on operating experience helping executives and investors build revenues and shareholder value. He has consulted with over 130 companies on innovating with new business models, product strategies and monetization. Chris has held management positions at HP and Symantec in addition to ...
Enterprises have taken advantage of IoT to achieve important revenue and cost advantages. What is less apparent is how incumbent enterprises operating at scale have, following success with IoT, built analytic, operations management and software development capabilities - ranging from autonomous vehicles to manageable robotics installations. They have embraced these capabilities as if they were Silicon Valley startups.
As IoT continues to increase momentum, so does the associated risk. Secure Device Lifecycle Management (DLM) is ranked as one of the most important technology areas of IoT. Driving this trend is the realization that secure support for IoT devices provides companies the ability to deliver high-quality, reliable, secure offerings faster, create new revenue streams, and reduce support costs, all while building a competitive advantage in their markets. In this session, we will use customer use cases...