You Can’t Secure The Cloud…

That’s right. You can’t secure “The Cloud” and the real shocker is that you don’t need to.

You can and should, however, secure your assets and the elements within your control that are delivered by cloud services and cloud service providers, assuming of course there are interfaces to do so made available by the delivery/deployment model and you’ve appropriately assessed them against your requirements and appetite for risk.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy, cheap or agile, and lest we forget, just because you can “secure” your assets does not mean you’ll achieve “compliance” with those mandates against which you might be measured.

Even if you’re talking about making investments primarily in solutions via software thanks to the abstraction of cloud (and/or virtualization) as well adjusting processes and procedures due to operational impact, you can generally effect compensating controls (preventative and/or detective) that give you security on-par with what you might deploy today in a non-Cloud based offering.

Yes, it’s true. It’s absolutely possible to engineer solutions across most cloud services today that meet or exceed the security provided within the walled gardens of your enterprise today.

The realities of that statement come crashing down, however, when people confuse possibility with the capability to execute whilst not disrupting the business and not requiring wholesale re-architecture of applications, security, privacy, operations, compliance, economics, organization, culture and governance.

Not all of that is bad.  In fact, most of it is long overdue.

I think what is surprising is how many people (or at least vendors) simply suggest or expect that the “platform” or service providers to do all of this for them across the entire portfolio of services in an enterprise.  In my estimation that will never happen, at least not if one expects anything more than commodity-based capabilities at a cheap price while simultaneously being “secure.”

Vendors conflate the various value propositions of cloud (agility, low cost, scalability, security) and suggest you can achieve all four simultaneously and in equal proportions.  This is the fallacy of Cloud Computing.  There are trade-offs to be found with every model and Cloud is no different.

If we’ve learned anything from enterprise modernization over the last twenty years, it’s that nothing comes for free — and that even when it appears to, there’s always a tax to pay on the back-end of the delivery cycle.  Cloud computing is a series of compromises; it’s all about gracefully losing control over certain elements of the operational constructs of the computing experience. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s a painful process for many.

I really enjoy the forcing function of Cloud Computing; it makes us re-evaluate and sharpen our focus on providing service — at least it’s supposed to.  I look forward to using Cloud Computing as a lever to continue to help motivate industry, providers and consumers to begin to fix the material defects that plague IT and move the ball forward.

This means not worrying about securing the cloud, but rather understanding what you should do to secure your assets regardless of where they call home.


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  1. Seb Fontain
    May 1st, 2010 at 03:10 | #1

    Aren't you hedging your bets in this post a little?

  2. November 8th, 2010 at 21:03 | #3

    Just discovered this. Now things are making sense!

  1. May 20th, 2010 at 13:19 | #1
  2. July 7th, 2010 at 08:44 | #2
  3. October 17th, 2010 at 17:49 | #3
  4. November 23rd, 2010 at 04:30 | #4