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From the X-Files – The Cloud in Context: Evolution from Gadgetry to Popular Culture

November 27th, 2009 4 comments

apple1984Below is an article I wrote many months ago prior to all the Nicholas Carr “electricity ain’t Cloud” discussions.  The piece was one from a collection that was distributed to “…the Intelligence Community, the DoD, and Congress” with the purpose of giving a high-level overview of Cloud security issues.

The Cloud in Context: Evolution from Gadgetry to Popular Culture

It is very likely that should one develop any interest in Cloud Computing (“Cloud”) and wish to investigate its provenance, one would be pointed to Nicholas Carr’s treatise “The Big Switch” for enlightenment. Carr offers a metaphoric genealogy of Cloud Computing, mapped to, and illustrated by, a keenly patterned set of observations from one of the most important catalysts of a critical inflection point in modern history: the generation and distribution of electricity.

Carr offers an uncannily prescient perspective on the evolution and adaptation of computing by way of this electric metaphor, describing how the scale of technology, socioeconomic, and cultural advances were all directly linked to the disruptive innovation of a shift from dedicated power generation in individual factories to a metered utility of interconnected generators powering distribution grids feeding all. He predicts a similar shift from insular, centralized, private single-function computational gadgetry to globally-networked, distributed, public service-centric collaborative fabrics of information interchange.

This phenomenon will not occur overnight nor has any other paradigm shift in computing occurred overnight; bursts of disruptive innovation have a long tail of adoption. Cloud is not the product or invocation of some singular technology, but rather an operational model that describes how computing will mature.

There is no box with blinking lights that can be simply pointed to as “Cloud” and yet it is clearly more than just timesharing with Internet connectivity. As corporations seek to drive down cost and gain efficiency force-multipliers, they have ruthlessly focused on divining what is core to their businesses, and expensive IT cost-centers are squarely in the crosshairs for rigorous valuation.

To that end, Carr wrote another piece on this very topic titled “IT Doesn’t matter” in which he argued that IT was no longer a strategic differentiator due to commoditization, standardization, and cost. This was followed by “The End of Corporate Computing” wherein he suggested that IT will simply subscribe to IT services as an outsourced function. Based upon these themes, Cloud seems a natural evolutionary outcome motivated primarily by economics as companies pare down their IT investment — outsourcing what they can and optimizing what is left.

Enter Cloud Computing

The emergence of Cloud as cult-status popular culture also has its muse anchored firmly in the little machines nestled in the hands of those who might not realize that they’ve helped create the IT revolution at all: the consumer. The consumer’s shift to an always-on, many-to-many communication model with unbridled collaboration and unfettered access to resources, sharply contrasts with traditional IT — constrained, siloed, well-demarcated, communication-restricted, and infrastructure-heavy.

Regardless of any value judgment on the fate of Man, we are evolving to a society dedicated to convenience, where we are not tied to the machine, but rather the machine is tied to us, and always on. Your applications and data are always there, consumed according to business and pricing models that are based upon what you use while the magic serving it up remains transparent.

This is Cloud in a nutshell; the computing equivalent to classical Greek theater’s Deus Ex Machina.

For the purpose of this paper, it is important that I point out that I refer mainly to so-called “Public Cloud” offerings; those services provided by parties external to the data owner who provides an “outsourced” service capability on behalf of the consumer.

This graceful surrender of control is the focus of my discussion. Private Clouds — those services that may operate on the corporation’s infrastructure or those of a provider but managed under said corporation’s control and policies, offers a different set of benefits and challenges but not to the degree of Public Cloud.

There are also hybrid and brokered models, but to keep focused, I shall not address these directly.

Cloud Reference Model

Cloud Reference Model

A service is generally considered to be “Cloud-based” should it meet the following characteristics and provide for:

  • The abstraction of infrastructure from the resources that deliver them
  • The democratization of those resources as an elastic pool to be consumed
  • Services-oriented, rather than infrastructure or application-centric
  • Enabling self-service, scale on-demand elasticity and dynamism
  • Employs a utility-like model of consumption and allocation

Cloud exacerbates the issues we have faced for years in the information security, assurance, and survivability spaces and introduces new challenges associated with extreme levels of abstraction, mobility, scale, dynamism and multi-tenancy. It is important that one contemplate the “big picture” of how Cloud impacts the IT landscape and how given this “service- centric” view, certain things change whilst others remain firmly status quo.

Cloud also provides numerous challenges to the way in which computing and resources are organized, operated, governed and secured, given the focus on:

  • Automated and autonomic resource provisioning and orchestration
  • Massively interconnected and mashed-up data sources, conduits and results
  • Virtualized layers of software-driven, service-centric capability rather than infrastructure or application- specific monoliths
  • Dynamic infrastructure that is aware of and adjusts to the information, applications and services (workloads) running over it, supporting dynamism and abstraction in terms of scale, policy, agility, security and mobility

As a matter of correctness, virtualization as a form of abstraction may exist in many forms and at many layers, but it is not required for Cloud. Many Cloud services do utilize virtualization to achieve scale and I make liberal use of this assumptive case in this paper. As we grapple with the tradeoffs between convenience, collaboration, and control, we find that existing products, solutions and services are quickly being re-branded and adapted as “Cloud” to the confusion of all.keep focused, I shall not address these directly.

Modeling the Cloud

There exist numerous deployment, service delivery models and use cases for Cloud, each offering a specific balance of integrated features, extensibility/ openness and security hinged on high levels of automation for workload distribution.

Three archetypal models generally describe cloud service delivery, popularly referred to as the “SPI Model,” where “SPI” refers to Software, Platform and Infrastructure (as a service) respectively.

NIST - Visual Cloud Model

NIST - Visual Cloud Model

Using the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) draft working definition as the basis for the model:

Software as a Service (SaaS)

The capability provided to the consumer is to use the provider’s applications running on a cloud infrastructure and accessible from various client devices through a thin client interface such as a Web browser (e.g., web-based email).

The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure, network, servers, operating systems, storage, or even individual application capabilities, with the possible exception of limited user-specific application configuration settings.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

The capability provided to the consumer is to deploy onto the cloud infrastructure consumer-created applications using programming languages and tools supported by the provider (e.g., Java, Python, .Net). The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure,

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

The capability provided to the consumer is to rent processing, storage, networks, and other fundamental computing resources where the consumer is able to deploy and run arbitrary software, which can include operating systems and applications. The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure but has control over operating systems, storage, deployed applications, and possibly select networking components (e.g., firewalls, load balancers).

Understanding the relationship and dependencies between these models is critical. IaaS is the foundation of all Cloud services with PaaS building upon IaaS, and SaaS — in turn — building upon PaaS. We will cover this in more detail later in the document.

Peanut Butter & Jelly — Making the Perfect Cloud Sandwich

Infostructure/Metastructure/Infrastructure

Infostructure/Metastructure/Infrastructure

To understand how Cloud will affect security, visualize its functional structure in three layers:

  • The Infrastructure layer represents the traditional compute, network and storage hardware and operating systems familiar to us all. Virtualization platforms also exist at this layer and expose their capabilities northbound.
  • The Infostructure layer represents the programmatic components such as applications and service objects that produce, operate on or interact with the content, information and metadata.
  • Sitting in between Infrastructure and Infostructure is the Metastructure layer. This layer represents the underlying set of protocols and functions with layers such as DNS, BGP, and IP address management, which “glue” together and enable the applications and content at the Infostructure layer to in turn be delivered by the Infrastructure.

Certain areas of Cloud Computing’s technology underpinnings are making progress, but those things that will ultimately make Cloud the ubiquitous and transparent platform for our entire computing experience remain lacking.

Unsurprisingly, most of the deficient categories of technology or capabilities are those that need to be delivered from standards and consensus-driven action; things that have always posed challenges such as management, governance, provisioning, orchestration, automation, portability, interoperability and security. As security solutions specific to Cloud are generally slow in coming while fast innovating attackers are unconstrained by rules of engagement, it will come as no surprise that we are constantly playing catch up.

Cloud is a gradual adaptation rather than a wholesale re-tooling, and represents another cycle of investment which leaves us to consider where to invest our security dollars to most appropriately mitigate threat and vulnerability:

Typically, we react by cycling between investing in host-based controls > application controls > information controls > user controls > network controls and back again. While our security tools tend to be out of phase and less innovative than the tools of our opposition, virtualization and Cloud may act as much needed security forcing functions that get us beyond solving just the problem du jour.

The need to apply policy to workloads throughout their lifecycle, regardless of state, physical location, or infrastructure from which they are delivered, is paramount. Collapsing the atomic unit of the datacenter to the virtual machine boundary may allow for a simpler set of policy expressions that travel with the VM instance. At the same time, Cloud’s illusion of ubiquity and infinite scale means that we will not know where our data is stored, processed, or used.

Combine mobility, encryption, distributed resources with multiple providers, and a lack of open standards with economic cost pressure and even basic security capabilities seem daunting. Cloud simultaneously re-centralizes some resources while de-perimeterizing trust boundaries and distributing data. Understanding how the various layers map to traditional non-Cloud architecture is important, especially in relation to the Cloud deployment model used; there are significant trade-offs in integration, extensibility, cost, management, governance, compliance, and security.

Live by the Cloud, Die by the Cloud

Despite a tremendous amount of interest and momentum, Cloud is still very immature — pockets of innovation spread out across a long-tail of mostly-proprietary infrastructure-, platform-, and software-as-a-service offerings that do not provide for much in the way of or workload portability or interoperability.

Cloud is not limited to lower cost “server” functionality. With the fevered adoption of netbooks, virtualization, low-cost storage services, fixed/mobile convergence, the proliferation of “social networks,” and applications built to take advantage of all of this, Cloud becomes a single pane of glass for our combined computing experience. N.B., these powers are not inherently ours alone; the same upside can be used for wrongdoing.

In an attempt to whet the reader’s appetite in regards to how Cloud dramatically impacts the risk modeling, assumptions, and security postures of today, I will provide a reasonably crisp set of examples, chosen to bring pause:

Organizational and Operational Misalignment

The way in which most enterprise IT organizations are structured — in functional silos optimized to specialized, isolated functions — is diametrically opposed to the operational abstraction provided by Cloud.

The on-demand, elastic and self-service capabilities through simple interfaces and automated service layers abstract away core technology and support staff alike.

Few IT departments are prepared for what it means to apply controls, manage service levels, implement and manage security capabilities, and address compliance when the IT department is operationally irrelevant in that process. This leaves huge gaps in both identifying and managing risk, especially in outsourced models where ultimately the operational responsibility is “Cloudsourced” but the accountability is not.

The ability to apply specific security controls and measure compliance in mass-marketed Public Cloud services presents very real barriers to entry for enterprises who are heavily regulated, especially when balanced against the human capital (expertise) built-up by organizations.

Monoculture of Operating Systems, Virtualized Components, and Platforms

The standardization (de facto and de jure) on common interfaces to Cloud resources can expose uniform attack vectors that could affect one consumer, or, in the case of multi-tenant Public Cloud offerings, affect many. This is especially true in IaaS offerings where common sets of abstraction layers (such as hypervisors,) prototyped OS/application bundles (usually in the form of virtual machines) and common sets of management functions are used — and used to extend and connect the walled garden internal assets of enterprises to the public or semi-public Cloud environments of service providers operating infrastructure in proxy.

While most attack vectors target applications and information at the Infostructure layer or abuse operating systems and assorted hardware at the Infrastructure layer, the Metastructure layer is beginning to show signs of stress also. Recent attacks against key Metastructure elements such as BGP and DNS indicate that aging protocols do not fare well.

Segmentation and Isolation In Multi-tenant environments

Multi-tenancy in the Cloud (whether in the Public or Private Cloud contexts) brings new challenges to trust, privacy, resiliency and reliability model assertions by providers.  Many of these assertions are based upon the premise that that we should trust — without reliably provable models or evidence — that in the absence of relevant illustration, Cloud is simply trustworthy in all of these dimensions, despite its immaturity. Vendors claim “airtight” information, process, application, and service, but short of service level agreements, there is little to demonstrate or substantiate the claims that software-enabled Cloud Computing — however skinny the codebase may be — is any more (or less) secure than what we have today, especially with commercialized and proprietary implementations.

In multi-tenant Cloud offerings, exposures can affect millions, and placing some types of information in the care of others without effective compensating controls may erode the ROI valuation offered by Cloud in the first place, and especially so as the trust boundaries used to demarcate and segregate workloads of different consumers are provided by the same monoculture operating system and virtualization platforms described above.

Privacy of Data/Metadata, Exfiltration, and Leakage

With increased adoption of Cloud for sensitive workloads, we should expect innovative attacks against Cloud assets, providers, operators, and end users, especially around the outsourcing and storage of confidential information. The uptake is that solutions focused on encryption, at rest and in motion, will have the side effect of more and more tools (legitimate or otherwise) losing visibility into file systems, application/process execution, information and network traffic. Key management becomes remarkably relevant once again — on a massive scale.

Recent proof-of-concepts such as so-called side- channel attacks demonstrate how it is possible to determine where a specific virtual instance is likely to reside in a Public multi-tenant Cloud and allow an attacker to instantiate their own instance and cause it to be located such that it is co-resident with the target. This would potentially allow for sniffing and exfiltration of confidential data — or worse, potentially exploit vulnerabilities which would violate the sanctity of isolated workloads within the Cloud itself.

Further, given workload mobility — where the OS, applications and information are contained in an instance represented by a single atomic unit such as a virtual machine image — the potential for accidental or malicious leakage and exfiltration is real. Legal intercept, monitoring, forensics, and attack detection/incident response are heavily impacted, especially at the volume and levels of traffic envisioned by large Cloud providers, creating blind spots in ways we can’t fathom today.

Inability to Deploy Compensating or Detective Controls

The architecture of Cloud services — as abstract as they ought to be — means that in many cases the security of workloads up and down the stack are still dependent upon the underlying platform for enforcement. This is problematic inasmuch as the constructs representing compute, networking and storage resources — and security — are in many cases themselves virtualized.

Further we are faced with more stealthy and evasive malware that is able to potentially evade detection while co-opting (or rootkitting) not only software and hypervisors, but exploiting vulnerabilities in firmware and hardware such as CPU chipsets.

These sorts of attack vectors are extremely difficult to detect let alone defend against. Referring back to the monoculture issue above, a so-called blue- pilled hypervisor, uniform across tens of thousands of compute nodes providing multi-tenant Cloud services could be catastrophic. It is simply not yet feasible to provide parity in security capabilities between physical and Cloud environments; the maturity of solutions just isn’t there.

These are heady issues and should not be taken lightly when considering what workloads and services are candidates for various Cloud offerings.

What’s old is news again…

Perhaps it is worth adapting familiar attack taxonomies to Cloud.

Botnets that previously required massive malware- originated endpoint compromise in order to function can easily activate in standardized fashion, in apparently legitimate form, and in large numbers by criminals who wish to harness the organized capabilities of Bots without the effort. Simply use stolen credit cards to establish fake accounts using a provider’s Infrastructure-as-a-Service and hundreds or thousands of distributed images could be activated in a very short timeframe.

Existing security threats such as DoS/DDoS attacks, SPAM and phishing will continue to be a prime set of tools for the criminal ecosystem to leverage the distributed and well-connected Cloud as well as targeted attacks against telecommuters using both corporate and consumerized versions of Cloud services.

Consider a new take on an old problem based on ecommerce: Click-fraud. I frame this new embodiment as something called EDoS — economic denial of sustainability. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are blunt force trauma. The goal, regardless of motive, is to overwhelm infrastructure and remove from service a networked target by employing a distributed number of attackers. An example of DDoS is where a traditional botnet is activated to swarm/overwhelm an Internet connected website using an asynchronous attack which makes the site unavailable due to an exhaustion of resources (compute, network, or storage.)

EDoS attacks, however, are death by a thousand cuts. EDoS can also utilize distributed attack sources as well as single entities, but works by making legitimate web requests at volumes that may appear to be “normal” but are done so to drive compute, network, and storage utility billings in a cloud model abnormally high.

An example of EDoS as a variant of click fraud is where a botnet is activated to visit a website whose income results from ecommerce purchases. The requests are all legitimate but purchases are never made. The vendor has to pay the cloud provider for increased elastic use of resources but revenue is never recognized to offset them.

We have anti-DDoS capabilities today with tools that are quite mature. DDoS is generally easy to spot given huge increases in traffic. EDoS attacks are not necessarily easy to detect, because the instrumentation and business logic is not present in most applications or stacks of applications and infrastructure to provide the correlation between “requests” and “ successful transactions.” In theexample above, increased requests may look like normal activity. Many customers do not invest in this sort of integration and Cloud providers generally will not have visibility into applications that they do not own.

Ultimately the most serious Cloud concern is presented by way of the “stacked turtles” analogy: layer upon layer of complex interdependencies at the Infastructure, Metastructure and Infostructure layers, predicated upon fragile trust models framed upon nothing more than politeness. Without re-engineering these models, strengthening the notion of (id)entity management, authentication and implementing secure protocols, we run the risk of Cloud simply obfuscating the fragility of the supporting layers until something catastrophic occurs.

Combined with where and how our data is created, processed, accessed, stored, and backed up — and by whom and using whose infrastructure — Cloud yields significant concerns related to on-going security, privacy, compliance and resiliency.

Moving Forward – Critical Areas of Focus

The Cloud Security Alliance (http://www. cloudsecurityalliance.org) issued its “Guidance for Critical Areas of Focus” related to Cloud Computing Security and defined fifteen domains of concern:

  • Cloud Architecture
  • Information lifecycle management
  • Governance and Enterprise Risk Management
  • Compliance & Audit
  • General Legal
  • eDiscovery
  • Encryption and Key Management
  • Identity and Access Management
  • Storage
  • Virtualization
  • Application Security
  • Portability & Interoperability
  • Data Center Operations Management
  • Incident Response, Notification, Remediation
  • “Traditional” Security impact (business continuity, disaster recovery, physical security)

The sheer complexity of the interdependencies between the Infrastructure, Metastructure and Infostructure layers makes it almost impossible to recommend focusing on only a select subset of these items since all are relevant and important.

Nevertheless, those items in boldface most deserve initial focus just to retain existing levels of security, resilience, and compliance while information and applications are moved from the walled gardens of the private enterprise into the care of others.

Attempting to retain existing levels of security will consume the majority of Cloud transition effort.  Until we see an expansion of available solutions to bridge the gaps between “traditional” IT and dynamic infrastructure 2.0 capabilities, any company can only focus on the traditional security elements of sound design, encryption, identity, storage, virtualization and application security. Similarly, until a standardized set of methods allow well-defined interaction between the Infrastructure, Metastructure and Infostructure layers, companies will be at the mercy of industry for instrumenting, much less auditing,

Cloud elements — yet, as was already stated, the very sameness of standardization creates shared risk. As with any change of this magnitude, the potential of Cloud lies between its trade-offs. In security terms, this “big switch” surrenders visibility and control so as to gain agility and efficiency. The question is, how to achieve a net positive result?

Well-established enterprise security teams who optimize their security spend on managing risk versus purely threat, should not be surprised by Cloud. To these organizations, adapting their security programs to the challenges and opportunities provided by Cloud is business as usual. For organizations unprepared for Cloud, the maturity of security programs they can buy will quickly be outmoded.

Summary

The benefits of Cloud are many. The challenges are substantial. How we deal with these challenges and their organizational, operational, architectural, and technical impacts will fundamentally change the way in which we think about assessing and assuring the security of our assets.

Apologizing In Advance: I’ll Be On PaulDotCom 11/27…

November 24th, 2009 No comments

This won’t end well.

Day after Thanksgiving: Hoff Friday

By Mike Perez on November 24, 2009 12:00 PM | Permalink- Paul, Carlos, Mick, Larry, John, & Darren.

What better way to emerge from your (Wild) Turkey stupor than to join the PDC crew and guest Christofer Hoff live at 20:30 EST on Friday November 27th for Episode 177 of PaulDotCom Security Weekly! We promise not to ask you to pass the gravy or overstay our welcome in exchange for your agreement to not Hassle the Hoff.

log-hoff.jpg

As a special treat, the PDC crew will be recording from Larry’s barn! At least, Larry told us it’s his barn (Social Engineering paranoia sets in after a while & we begin to question just about everything these days).

The live stream should be active around 8:30 EST, Friday night. Please keep in mind that the recording start time is dependent on the amount of tryptophan in our blood streams.

For bonus effect, join the IRC channel during the stream – we can take live comments and discussion from the channel! Find us on IRC at irc.freenode.net #pauldotcom.

When active, the live stream(s) can be found at:

PaulDotCom Livestream – All new with Video and Chat!

PaulDotCom Icecast Radio

Please join us, enjoy the show live, and thanks for listening!

Categories: Jackassery, Podcasts Tags:

The Cloud & eHarmony’s 29 Dimensions Of Compatability…

November 23rd, 2009 7 comments

I speak to many customers — large companies in numerous verticals and service providers —  who are for the reasons we are all very well aware of, engaging in projects large and small focused on Cloud adoption.

On the enterprise side, the dialog almost inevitably goes like this:

We’re working on taking applications and data which are not heavily regulated/compliance scoped, business critical or contain sensitive information and move them to a public cloud provider like AWS — we’re also considering virtual private clouds to use public cloud infrastructure in private ways.

We’ve had great success with low-hanging fruit and grid-like utility offerings, but we’re having a bear of a time with real “applications” — taking them as they run today internally and making them run the same way on someone elses’ kit.  It’s not always the application, either, but rather the attendant dependencies on other critical IT-centric functions that cause the issues (Ed: “metastructure”)

In parallel we’re engaging in building private clouds for critical applications that either have complex development and support/integration issues that are not ready for running on others’ infrastructure and/or have compliance and regulatory requirements that prevent us from moving them off our infrastructure.

We’re continuing to invest and optimize our internal virtualization deployments; we’re reducing footprint but really increasing compute, network and storage density.  Don’t let the smaller physical space fool you, we’re getting bigger in more efficient floor plans.  We’ve standardized on VMware. We’re figuring out how vSphere and vCloud intersect and what that means in the long term and how that impacts our choice of Cloud providers.

We understand that using the same vendor we use for virtualization to ultimately deliver our private cloud should yield easier portability and workload interoperability, but we’re worried about vendor lock-in…sort of.

We’d really like to be able to move workloads/applications/information in and out of private clouds to public/virtual public offerings and support workloads/applications/information that were born in the cloud on our private cloud, too.  These present a whole host of security and lifecycle management issues.

In the long term, what we want to do is build a self-service portal (not unlike apps.gov) that depending upon business logic and security/compliance requirements, etc. will allow a business constituent consumer to deploy packaged or bespoke workloads/application/information and not have to care about where it runs.

That would be nice.  We’d like to be able to do that with the thousands of applications we already support today.

We’re investigating cloud brokers currently, but most don’t do what they advertise they do or have severe limitations. While they often plug the gaps between the various cloud providers, we trade one vendor lock-in problem for another with custom orchestration and provisioning frameworks.  We’re trying to roll our own — cobbling together bits and pieces — but it’s an integration nightmare.

The lack of standard APIs and competing implementation semantics with immature sets of management, security, provisioning, orchestration and governance solutions really makes this all very, very difficult.

What should we do?

This story is the same over and over.

It’s literally the Cloud equivalent of eHarmony.com’s 29 dimensions of compatibility; it’s such a multidimensional problem in large enterprises that have a huge number of applications (thousands) and a ton of sunk infrastructure, mature decades-old operational practices, cultural dispositions, and economic pressures that it’s hard to figure out what to do.

For large enterprises (and the service providers who cater to them) Cloud is not a simple undertaking, at least not to those who have to deal with bridging the gap between the “old world” and the new shiny bits glimmering off in the distance.

Consider that the next time you hear a story of cloud successes and scrutinize what that really means.

/Hoff

ENISA launches Cloud Computing Security Risk Assessment Document

November 20th, 2009 1 comment

ENISA-LOGOENISA (the European Network and Information Security Agency) today launched their 124 page report on Cloud Computing Security Risk Assessment.

At first glance it’s an excellent read and will be a fantastic accompaniment to the the CSA’s guidance.  I plan to dig into it more over the weekend.  I really appreciate the risk assessment approach which allows folks to prioritize their efforts on understanding the relevant high-level issues associed with Cloud.

Very well done.  I look forward to seeing how CSA and ENISA can further work together on upcoming projects!  I think the European perspective will help bring some balance and alternative views on Cloud in regards to legal and compliance issues specifically.

You can find the document here.

ENISA, supported by a group of subject matter expert comprising representatives from Industries, Academia and Governmental Organizations, has conducted, in the context of the Emerging and Future Risk Framework project, an risks assessment on cloud computing business model and technologies. The result is an in-depth and independent analysis that outlines some of the information security benefits and key security risks of cloud computing. The report provide also a set of practical recommendations.


Cloud Security: Dilbert Style

November 19th, 2009 1 comment

dilbert-cloudsec

From: http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2009-11-19/

Just A Reflective Bookmark: Microsoft’s Azure…The Dark Horse Emergeth…

November 17th, 2009 3 comments

darkhorseI’ve said it before, I’ll say it again:

Don’t underestimate Microsoft and the potential disruption Azure will deliver.*

You might not get Microsoft’s strategy for Azure. Heck, much of Microsoft may not get Microsoft’s strategy for Azure, but one thing is for sure: Azure will be THE platform for products, solutions and services across all mediums from Redmond moving forward. Ray Ozzie said it best at PDC:

The vision of Azure, said Ozzie, is “three screens and a cloud,” meaning internet-based data and software that plays equally well on PCs, mobile devices, and TVs.

I think the underlying message here is that while we often think of Cloud from the perspective of interacting with “data,” we should not overlook how mobility, voice and video factor into the equation…

According to Ozzie, Azure will become production live on January 1st and “six data centers in North America, Europe, and Asia will come online.” (I wonder when Amazon will announce APAC support…)

Azure will be disruptive, especially for Windows-heavy development shops and the notion of secure data access/integration between public/private clouds is not lost on them, either:

Microsoft also announced another of its city-based code names. Sydney is a security mechanism that lets businesses exchange data between their servers and the Azure cloud. Entering testing next year, Sydney should allow a local application to talk to a cloud application. It will help businesses that want to run most of an application in Microsoft’s data center, but that want to keep some sensitive parts running on their own servers.

It will be interesting to see how “Sydney” manifests itself as compared to AWS’s Virtual Private Cloud.

Competitors know the Azure is no joke, either, which is why we see a certain IaaS provider adding .NET framework support as well as Cloud Brokers (bridges) such as RightScale announcing support for Azure. Heck, even GoGrid demo’d “interoperability” with Azure. Many others are announcing support, including the Federal Government via Vivek Kundra who joined Ozzie to announce that the 2009 Pathfinder Innovation Challenge will be hosted on Azure.

Stir in the fact that Microsoft is also extending its ecosystem of supported development frameworks and languages, at PDC Matt Mullenwegg from WordPress (Automattic to be specific) is developing on Azure. This shows how Azure will support things like PHP, MySQL as well as .NET (now called AppFabric Access Control.)

Should be fun.

Hey, I wonder (*wink*) if Microsoft will be interested in participating in the A6 Working Group to provide transparency and visibility that some of their IaaS/PaaS competitors (*cough* Amazon *cough*) who are clawing their way up the stack do not…

/Hoff

*To be fair a year ago when Azure was announced, I don’t think any of us got Azure and I simply ignored it for the most part. Not the case any longer; it makes a ton of sense if they can execute.

The A6 (Audit, Assertion, Assessment, and Assurance API) Working Group is Live. Please join & read the intro.

November 16th, 2009 No comments

For those of you following along at home, the A6 (Audit, Assertion, Assessment, and Assurance API) Working Group is Live.

I’ve setup the Google group so please join & read the introduction here.

Hope to see you there.

/Hoff

Categories: A6 Tags: , , ,

Silent Lucidity: IaaS — Already A Dinosaur? The Evolution of PaaSasaurus Rex…

November 12th, 2009 8 comments

dinosaurSitting in an impressive room at the Google campus in Mountain View last month, I asked the collective group of brainpower a slightly rhetorical question:

How much longer do you feel pure-play Infrastructure-As-A-Service will be a relevant service model within the spectrum of cloud services?

I couched the question with previous “incomplete thoughts*” relating to the move “up-stack” by IaaS providers — providing value-added, at-cost services to both differentiate and soften the market for what I call the “PaaSification” of the consumer.  I also highlighted the move “down-stack” by SaaS vendors building out platforms to support a broader ecosystem and value proposition.

In the long term, I think ultimately the trichotomy of the SPI model will dissolve thanks to commoditization and the need for providers to differentiate — even at mass scale.  We’ll ultimately just talk about service delivery and the platform(s) used to deliver them.  Infrastructure will enable these services, of course, but that’s not where the money will come from.

Just look at the approach of providers such as Amazon, Terremark and Savvis and how they are already clawing their way up the PaaS stack, adding more features and functions that either equalize public cloud capabilities with those of the enterprise or even differentiate from it.  Look at Microsoft’s Azure.  How about Heroku, Engine Yard, Joyent?  How about VMware and Springsource?  All platform plays. Develop, click, deploy.

As I mention in my Cloudifornication presentation, I think that from a security perspective, PaaS offers the potential of eliminating entire classes of vulnerabilities in the application development lifecycle by enforcing sanitary programmatic practices across the derivate works built upon them.  I look forward also to APIs and standards that allow for consistency across providers. I think PaaS has the greatest potential to deliver this.

There are clearly trade-offs here, but as we start to move toward the two key differentiators (at least for public clouds) — management and security — I think the value of PaaS will really start to shine.

Probably just another bout of obviousness, but if I were placing bets, this is where I’d sink my nickels.

You?

/Hoff

* The most relevant “incomplete thought” is the one titled “Incomplete Thought: Virtual Machines Are the Problem, Not the Solution…” in which I kicked around the notion that virtualization-enabled IaaS and the VM containers they enable are simply an ugly solution to an uglier problem…