Cloud security represents a spectrum of capabilities that you can tailor to your needs
|BY DERICK TOWNSEND|
IT professionals frequently develop unwarranted security concerns regarding cloud computing primarily because cloud environments are dynamic and enable new levels of workload portability that are very different from what they're familiar with. In cloud environments, application workloads can be moved to totally different physical infrastructure or service providers from one deployment to the next. The underlying application data can move even more frequently, depending on the type of instance and persistent storage options you've selected.
This means your security boundaries have to be dynamic too. They have to move with the workload and the data, and self-configure themselves in new environments in a consistent and automated manner.
Taking Cloud Security for a Spin
A simple analogy can be made between securing cloud workloads and securing a car. When you park your car in your home garage, typically you just close the garage door and that's it. You assume your car is safe inside your garage along with your other belongings, so you typically don't worry about locking your car doors or taking other precautions.
However, when you park your car somewhere else, you typically lock the doors to secure it. There are several ways you can do this. The door locks could be activated by a remote, a keypad on the door, or the proximity of an RFID tag in the key fob. You may decide to upgrade your security by adding a factory alarm system, steering wheel lock, LOJACK tracking system, or other security system depending on the car's value. Finally, you can also decide where to park your car depending upon your risk tolerance. For example, you may accept your favorite restaurant's offer of valet parking in a monitored lot instead parking down a secluded street.
The point is that you can create a portable security boundary around your car that can be equal to or even more secure than your garage. Cloud security is similar in concept where portable cloud workloads offer a wide range of options to establish a very effective portable security boundary. In fact, cloud workload security has an additional important benefit over the car analogy, which is that security configurations can be completely automated and policy-driven. Using the car analogy, this means you no longer have to worry about forgetting to lock your door or arming your alarm system in the parking lot, because the car will automatically do it for you.
Under the Hood: Cloud Security Options
This new approach to securing a moving workload is a big departure for many IT groups that are used to working in more static and controlled environments (similar to the home garage). These IT groups are used to working with physical data center infrastructure, traditional firewalls, mostly static networks, and familiar resources that they own and control. The idea of moving workloads in and out of new environments they don't control is a big concern, especially knowing they've expended tremendous time and attention manually configuring their own environment.
However, today a broad range of proven technologies can deliver consistent, automated security for portable cloud workloads. They include virtual private networks, encrypted data storage, host intrusion detection systems, hypervisor-based firewalls, and federated identity management systems. These systems can complement each other to provide an end-to-end security solution that encompasses instances, data, network, and role-based access as desired.