CloudSQL – Accessing Datastores in the Sky using SQL…
I think this is definitely a precursor of things to come and introduces some really interesting security discussions to be had regarding the portability, privacy and security of datastores in the cloud.
Have you heard of Zoho? No? Zoho is a SaaS vendor that describe themselves thusly:
Today, Zoho announced the availability of CloudSQL which is middleware that allows customers who use Zoho's SaaS apps to "…access their data on Zoho SaaS
applications using SQL queries."
From their announcement:
Zoho CloudSQL allows businesses to connect and integrate the data and applications they have in Zoho with the data and applications they have in house, or even with other SaaS services. Unlike other methods for accessing data in the cloud, CloudSQL capitalizes on enterprise developers’ years of knowledge and experience with the widely‐used SQL language. This leads to faster deployments and easier (read: less expensive) integration projects.
Basically, CloudSQL is interposed between the suite of Zoho applications and the backend datastores and functions as an intermediary receiving SQL queries against the pooled data sets using standard SQL commands and dialects. Click on the diagram below for a better idea of what this looks like.
What's really interesting about allowing native SQL access is the ability to then allow much easier information interchange between apps/databases on an enterprises' "private cloud(s)" and the Zoho "public" cloud.
Further, it means that your data is more "portable" as it can be backed up, accessed, and processed by applications other than Zoho's. Imagine if they were to extend the SQL exposure to other cloud/SaaS providers…this is where it will get really juicy.
This sort of thing *will* happen. Customers will see the absolute utility of exposing their cloud-based datastores and sharing them amongst business partners, much in the spirit of how it's done today, but with the datastores (or chunks of them) located off-premises.
That's all good and exciting, but obviously security questions/concerns immediately surface regarding such things as: authentication, encryption, access control, input sanitation, privacy and compliance…
Today our datastores typically live inside the fortress with multiple
layers of security and proxied access from applications, shielded from
direct access and yet we still have basic issues with attacks such as
SQL injection. Imagine how much fun we can have with this!
The best I could find regarding security and Zoho came from their FAQ which doesn't exactly inspire confidence given the fact that they address logical/software security by suggesting that anti-virus software is the best line of defense ffor protecting your data and that "data encryption" will soon be offered as an "option" and (implied) SSL will make you secure:
Many people ask us this question. And rightly so; Zoho has invested alot of time and money to ensure that your information is secure and private. We offer security on multiple levels including the physical, software and people/process levels; In fact your data is more secure than walking around with it on a laptop or even on your corporate desktops.
Physical: Zoho servers and infrastructure are located in the most secure types of data centers that have multiple levels of restrictions for access including: on-premise security guards, security cameras, biometric limited access systems, and no signage to indicate where the buildings are, bullet proof glass, earthquake ratings, etc.
Hardware: Zoho employs state of the art firewall protection on multiple levels eliminating the possibility of intrusion from outside attacks
Logical/software protection: Zoho deploys anti-virus software and scans all access 24 x7 for suspicious traffic and viruses or even inside attacks; All of this is managed and logged for auditing purposes.
Process: Very few Zoho staff have access to either the physical or logical levels of our infrastructure. Your data is therefore secure from inside access; Zoho performs regular vulnerability testing and is constantly enhancing its security at all levels. All data is backed up on multiple servers in multiple locations on a daily basis. This means that in the worst case, if one data center was compromised, your data could be restored from other locations with minimal disruption. We are also working on adding even more security; for example, you will soon be able to select a "data encryption" option to encrypt your data en route to our servers, so that in the unlikely event of your own computer getting hacked while using Zoho, your documents could be securely encrypted and inaccessible without a "certificate" which generally resides on the server away from your computer.
Fun times ahead, folks.