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Archive for April, 2011

On Stacked Turtles & the AWS Outage…

April 29th, 2011 2 comments

The best summary I could come up with:

On the CA/Ponemon Security of Cloud Computing Providers Study…

April 29th, 2011 4 comments
CA Technologies

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CA recently sponsored the second in a series of Ponemon Institute cloud computing security surveys.

The first, released in May, 2010 was focused on responses from practitioners: “Security of Cloud Computing Users – A Study of Practitioners in the US & Europe

The latest titled “Security of Cloud Computing Providers Study (pdf),” released this week, examines “cloud computing providers'” perspectives on the same.  You can find the intro here.

While the study breaks down the  survey in detail in Appendix 1, I would kill to see the respondent list so I could use the responses from some of these “cloud providers” to quickly make assessments of my short list of those to not engage with.

I suppose it’s not hard to believe that security is not a primary concern, but given all the hype surrounding claims of “cloud is more secure than the enterprise,” it’s rather shocking to think that this sort of behavior is reflective of cloud providers.

Let’s see why.

This survey qualifies those surveyed as such:

We surveyed 103 cloud service providers in the US and 24 in six European countries for a total of 127 separate providers. Respondents from cloud provider organizations say SaaS (55 percent) is the most frequently offered cloud service, followed by IaaS (34 percent) and PaaS (11 percent). Sixty-five percent of cloud providers in this study deploy their IT resources in the public cloud environment, 18 percent deploy in the private cloud and 18 percent are hybrid.

…and offers these most “salient” findings:

  • The majority of cloud computing providers surveyed do not believe their organization views the security of their cloud services as a competitive advantage. Further, they do not consider cloud computing security as one of their most important responsibilities and do not believe their products or services substantially protect and secure the confidential or sensitive information of their customers.
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  • The majority of cloud providers believe it is their customer’s responsibility to secure the cloud and not their responsibility. They also say their systems and applications are not always  evaluated for security threats prior to deployment to customers.
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  • Buyer beware – on average providers of cloud computing technologies allocate 10 percent or less of their operational resources to security and most do not have confidence that  customers’ security requirements are being met.
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  • Cloud providers in our study say the primary reasons why customers purchase cloud  resources are lower cost and faster deployment of applications. In contrast, improved security  or compliance with regulations is viewed as an unlikely reason for choosing cloud services. The majority of cloud providers in our study admit they do not have dedicated security  personnel to oversee the security of cloud applications, infrastructure or platforms.

  • Providers of private cloud resources appear to attach more importance and have a higher  level of confidence in their organization’s ability to meet security objectives than providers of  public and hybrid cloud solutions.
    _
  • While security as a “true” service from the cloud is rarely offered to customers today, about  one-third of the cloud providers in our study are considering such solutions as a new source  of revenue sometime in the next two years.

Ultimately, CA summarized the findings as such:

“The focus on reduced cost and faster deployment may be sufficient for cloud providers now, but as organizations reach the point where increasingly sensitive data and applications are all that remains to migrate to the cloud, they will quickly reach an impasse,” said Mike Denning, general manager, Security, CA Technologies. “If the risk of breach outweighs potential cost savings and agility, we may reach a point of “cloud stall” where cloud adoption slows or stops until organizations believe cloud security is as good as or better than enterprise security.”

I have so much I’d like to say with respect to these summary findings and the details within the reports, but much of it I already have.  I don’t think these findings are reflective of the larger cloud providers I interact with which is another reason I would love to see who these “cloud providers” were beyond the breakdown of their service offerings that were presented.”

In the meantime, I’d like to refer you to these posts I wrote for reflection on this very topic:

/Hoff

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Bye, Bye My Clustered AMIs…A Cloud Tribute to Don McLean

April 23rd, 2011 1 comment

Sung to the tune of Don McLeans “American Pie

A long, long time ago…
I could launch an instance
How that AMI used to make me smile
And I knew if I needed scale
that I’d avoid that fail whale
though I knew that I was in denial

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But April 20 made me shiver
Amazon did not deliver
Bad news – oh what a mess
auto-cloning E B S…

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I can’t remember if I cried
when the status dashboard said East had died
Tried to take my VMs back inside
The day…Amazon died

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So bye-bye, my clustered AMIs
I tried to launch one
it just sat there, much to my surprise
And them angry devs were telling stories and lies
Singin’ “this public cloud I now despise
“this public cloud, I now despise.”

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The CFO’s got a look of love,
and his faith, all-in, with the clouds above,
Buy less servers, Werner tells you so…

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Do you believe in infinite scale
Can the cloud save your ass when it goes to hell
and can you teach me how to plan to fail?

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Well I know that ….you’re in love with scrum
that agile, mobile are your rules of thumb
You tried, those VMs to move
but with no RDS, you’re screwed…

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I was a lonely sysadmin with nothin’ to prove
until the cloud done fail, now the devs are screwed
and they didn’t know what quite to do..
the day…Amazon died…

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I started singin’
bye-bye, my clustered AMIs
I tried to launch one
it just sat there, much to my surprise
And them angry devs were telling stories and lies
Singin’ “this public cloud I now despise
“this public cloud, I now despise.”

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Cloud Computing, Open* and the Integrator’s Dilemma

April 11th, 2011 4 comments

My esteemed co-tormentor of Twitter, Christian Reilly (@reillyusa,) did a fantastic job of describing the impact — or more specifically the potential lack thereof — of Facebook’s OpenCompute initiative on the typical enterprise as compared to the real target audience, the service provider and manufacturers of equipment for service providers:

…I genuinely believe that for traditional service providers who are making investments in new areas and offerings, XaaS providers, OEM hardware vendors and those with plans to become giants in the next generation(s) of Systems Integrators that the OpenCompute project is a huge step forward and will be a fantastic success story over the next few years as the community and its innovations grow and tangible benefits emerge.

I think Christian has it dead on; the trickle-down effect with large service providers leveraging innovation in facilities and compute construction looking to squeeze maximum cost efficiencies (based on power, density, cooling, and space efficiency) from their services will be good for everyone, but that it’s quite important to recognize why and how:

…consider that today’s public cloud services and co-location providers are today’s equivalent of commercial airlines, providing their own multi-tenant services, price structures and user experiences on top of just a handful of airframe and engine manufacturers. OpenCompute has the potential to influence the efficiency and effectiveness of those manufacturers by helping to contribute towards ideas and potentially standards that can be adopted across the industry.

Specific to the adoption of OpenCompute as an enterprise blueprint, he widened the bifurcation between “private clouds operated by service providers as public clouds” (my words) and “private clouds operated by enterprises for their own use” with a telling analog:

Bottom line ? To today’s large corporate IT shops; those who either have, or will continue to operate on-premise or co-located “private cloud” environments, the excitement levels around the OpenCompute project (if anyone actually hears of it at all) will be all-to-familiarly low as sadly, to wake some of these sleeping giants, it will take more than a poke from the very same company who’s website their IT teams are trying to prevent employees from accessing.

This is the point of departure for OpenCompute — it’s not framed for or designed for enterprise consumption.  In an altogether fascinating description of why Facebook open-sourced its data center design, the Huffington Post summarized it thus:

“[The Open Compute Project] really is a big deal because it constitutes a general shift in terms of what how we look at technology as a competitive advantage,” O’Grady said. “For Facebook, the evidence is piling up that they don’t consider technology to be a competitive advantage. They view their competitive advantage in the marketplace to be their users.”

Here we see the general abstraction of technology in line with Nick Carr’s premise that “IT Doesn’t Matter:”

“Sharing its blueprints may gain Facebook not only free manpower, but cheaper equipment. The company’s bet, analysts say, is that giving away intellectual property will help it foster an ecosystem of competing vendors that will drive down the cost of parts.”

With that in mind, I am just as worried about the fate of OpenStack and its enterprise versus service provider audience and how it’s being perceived as they watch the mad scramble by tech companies to add value and get a seat at the table.

Each of these well-intentioned projects are curated by public cloud operators and technology vendors and are indirectly positioned for the benefit of enterprises, but not really meant for their consumption — at least not if they don’t end up putting enterprises right back where they were trying to escape from in the first place with cloud computing: the integrator’s dilemma.

If you look at the underlying premise of OpenStack — it’s modularity, flexibility and open design — what you get is the ability to craft a solution finely tuned to an operating environment of your design. Integrate solutions into the stack as you see fit.  Contribute code.  Develop an ecosystem. Integrate, manage, maintain…

This is as much a problem as it is a solution for an enterprise.  This is why, in many cases, enterprises choose to use a single vendor with a single neck to choke in order to avoid having to act as an integrator in the first place or simply look to outsource to one or more public cloud providers and avoid this in the first place.

Chances are, most are realistically caught up somewhere in the nether-regions in between the two.

I wish to make it clear that I am very much a proponent of Open* but I realize that the lack of direct enterprise involvement in standards bodies, “open” initiatives and a lack of information sharing and experience for fear of losing competitive advantage is what drives enterprises to Closed* in the first place; they want to lessen their developmental and integration burdens and the Lego erector-set approach in many ways scares conservative, risk-averse CxO’s away from projects like this.

I think this is where we’ll see more of these “clouds in a box” being paired with managed services to keep it all humming, regardless of where it lives. [See infrastructure solutions from: Dell, VCE, HP, Oracle, etc. paired with “Cloud” distributions layered atop]

Let’s hope we see enterprise success stories built on leveraging OpenCompute and OpenStack…it will be good for all of us.

/Hoff

Update: I just saw that my colleague, James Urquhart, wrote a blog titled “Cloud disrupts, creates channel opportunities” in which he details the channel’s role in this integration challenge. Spot on.

Related articles

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OpenFlow & SDN – Looking forward to SDNS: Software Defined Network Security

April 8th, 2011 3 comments

As facetious as the introductory premise of my Commode Computing presentation is, the main message — the automation of security capabilities up and down the stack — really is something I’m passionate about.

Ultimately, I made the point that “security” needs to be as programmatic/programmable, agile, scaleable and flexible as the workloads (and stacks) it is designed to protect. “Security” in this contexts extends well beyond the network, but the network provides such a convenient way of defining templated containers against which we can construct and enforce policies across a wide variety of deployment and delivery models.

So as I watch OpenFlow (and Software Defined Networking) mature, I’m really, really excited to recognize the potential for a slew of innovative ways we can leverage and extend this approach to networking [monitoring and enforcement] in order to achieve greater visibility, scale, agility, performance, efficacy and reduced costs associated with security.  The more programmatic and instrumented the network becomes, the more capable our security options will become also.

I’m busy reading many of the research activities associated with OpenFlow security and digesting where vendors are in terms of their approach to leveraging this technology in terms of security.  It may be just my perspective, but it’s a little sparse today — not disappointingly so — with a huge greenfield opportunity for really innovative stuff when paired with advancements we’re seeing in virtualization and cloud computing.

I’ll relate more of my thoughts and discoveries as time goes on.  If you’ve got some cool ideas/concepts/products in this area (I don’t care who you work for,) post ‘em here in the comments, please!

In the meantime, check out: www.openflow.org to get your feet wet.

/Hoff

Reminders to self to perform more research on (I think I’m going to do my next presentation series on this):

  • AAA for messages between OpenFlow Switch and Controllers
  • Flood protection for controllers
  • Spoofing/MITM between switch/controllers (specifically SSL/TLS)
  • Flow-through (ha!)/support of OpenFlow in virtual switches (see 1000v and Open vSwitch)
  • (per above) Integration with VN-Tag (like) flow-VM (workload) tagging
  • Integration of Netflow data from OpenFlow flow tables
  • State/flow-table convergence for security decisions with/without cut-through given traffic steering
  • Service insertion overlays for security control planes
  • Integration with 802.1x (and protocol extensions such as TrustSec)
  • Telemetry integration with NAC and vNAC
  • Anti-DDoS implications
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Incomplete Thought: Cloudbursting Your Bubble – I call Bullshit…

April 5th, 2011 6 comments

My wife is in the midst of an extended multi-phasic, multi-day delivery process of our fourth child.  In between bouts of her moaning, breathing and ultimately sleeping, I’m left to taunt people on Twitter and think about Cloud.

Reviewing my hot-button list of terms that are annoying me presently, I hit upon a favorite: Cloudbursting.

It occurred to me that this term brings up a visceral experience that makes me want to punch kittens.  It’s used by people to describe a use case in which workloads that run first and foremost within the walled gardens of an enterprise, magically burst forth into public cloud based upon a lack of capacity internally and a plethora of available capacity externally.

I call bullshit.

Now, allow me to qualify that statement.

Ben Kepes suggests that cloud bursting makes sense to an enterprise “Because you’ve spent a gazillion dollars on on-prem h/w that you want to continue using. BUT your workloads are spiky…” such that an enterprise would be focused on “…maximizing returns from on-prem. But sending excess capacity to the clouds.”  This implies the problem you’re trying to solve is one of scale.

I just don’t buy this.

Either you build a private cloud that gives you the scale you need in the first place in which you pattern your operational models after public cloud and/or design a solid plan to migrate, interconnect or extend platforms to the public [commodity] cloud using this model, therefore not bursting but completely migrating capacity, but you don’t stop somewhere in the middle with the same old crap internally and a bright, shiny public cloud you “burst things to” when you get your capacity knickers in a twist:

The investment and skillsets needed to rectify two often diametrically-opposed operational models doesn’t maximize returns, it bifurcates and diminishes efficiencies and blurs cost allocation models making both internal IT and public cloud look grotesquely inaccurate.

Christian Reilly suggested I had no legs to stand on making these arguments:

Fair enough, but…

Short of workloads such as HPC in which scale really is a major concern, if a large enterprise has gone through all of the issues relevant to running tier-1 applications in a public cloud, why on earth would you “burst” to the public cloud versus execute on a strategy that has those workloads run there in the first place.

Christian came up with another ringer during this exchange, one that I wholeheartedly agree with:

Ultimately, the reason I agree so strongly with this is because of the architectural, operational and compliance complexity associated with all the mechanics one needs to allow for interoperable, scaleable, secure and manageable workloads between an internal enterprise’s operational domain (cloud or otherwise) and the public cloud.

The (in)ability to replicate capabilities exactly across these two models means that gaps arise — gaps that unfairly amplify the immaturity of cloud for certain things and it’s stellar capabilities in others.  It’s no wonder people get confused.  Things like security, networking, application intelligence…

NOTE: I make a wholesale differentiaton between a strategy that includes a structured hybrid cloud approach of controlled workload placement/execution versus  a purely overflow/capacity movement of workloads.*

There are many workloads that simply won’t or can’t *natively* “cloudburst” to public cloud due to a lack of supporting packaging and infrastructure.**  Some of them are pretty important.  Some of them are operationally mission critical. What then?  Without an appropriate way of understanding the implications and complexity associated with this issue and getting there from here, we’re left with a strategy of “…leave those tier-1 apps to die on the vine while we greenfield migrate new apps to public cloud.”  That doesn’t sound particularly sexy, useful, efficient or cost-effective.

There are overlay solutions that can allow an enterprise to leverage utility computing services as an abstracted delivery platform and fluidly interconnect an enterprise with a public cloud, but one must understand what’s involved architecturally as part of that hybrid model, what the benefits are and where the penalties lay.  Public cloud needs the same rigor in its due diligence.

[update] My colleague James Urquhart summarized well what I meant by describing the difference in DC-DC (cloud or otherwise) workload execution as what I see as either end of a spectrum: VM-centric package mobility or adopting a truly distributed application architecture.  If you’re somewhere in the middle, things like cloudbursting get really hairy.  As we move from IaaS -> PaaS, some of these issues may evaporate as the former (VM’s) becomes less relevant and the latter (Applications deployed directly to platforms) more prevalent.

Check out this zinger from JP Morgenthal which much better conveys what I meant:

If your Tier-1 workloads can run in a public cloud and satisfy all your requirements, THAT’S where they should run in the first place!  You maximize your investment internally by scaling down and ruthlessly squeezing efficiency out of what you have as quickly as possible — writing those investments off the books.

That’s the point, innit?

Cloud bursting — today — is simply a marketing term.

Thoughts?

/Hoff

* This may be the point that requires more clarity, especially in the wake of examples that were raised on Twitter after I posted this such as using eBay and Netflix as examples of successful “cloudbursting” applications.  My response is that these fine companies hardly resemble a typical enterprise but that they’re also investing in a model that fundamentally changes they way they operate.

** I should point out that I am referring to the use case of heterogeneous cloud platforms such as VMware to AWS (either using an import/conversion function and/or via VPC) versus a more homogeneous platform interlock such as when the enterprise runs vSphere internally and looks to migrate VMs over to a VMware vCloud-powered cloud provider using something like vCloud Director Connector, for example.  Either way, the point still stands, if you can run a workload and satisfy your requirements outright on someone else’s stack, why do it on yours?

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Budget Icebergs, Fiscal Anchors and a Boat (Fed)RAMP to Nowhere?

April 4th, 2011 No comments
United States Capitol in daylight

Image via Wikipedia

It’s often said that in order to make money, you have to spend money; invest in order to succeed.

However, when faced with the realities of budget shortfalls and unsavory economic pressure, it seems the easiest thing to do is simply hunt around for top-line blips on the budget radar and kill them, regardless of the long term implications that ceasing investment in efficiency and transparency programs have in reducing bottom line pain.

To wit, Alex Howard reports “Congress weighs deep cuts to funding for federal open government data platforms“:

Data.gov, IT.USASpending.gov, and other five other websites that offer platforms for open government transparency are facing imminent closure. A comprehensive report filed by Jason Miller, executive editor of Federal News Radio, confirmed that the United States of Office of Management and Budget is planning to take open government websites offline over the next four months because of a 94% reduction in federal government funding in the Congressional budget…

Cutting these funds would also shut down the Fedspace federal social network and, notably, the FedRAMP cloud computing cybersecurity programs. Unsurprisingly, open government advocates in the Sunlight Foundation and the larger community have strongly opposed these cuts.

Did you catch the last paragraph?  They’re kidding, right?

After demonstrable empirical data that shows how Vivek Kundra and his team’s plans for streamlining government IT is already saving money (and will continue to do so,) this is what we get?  Slash and burn?  I attempted to search for the investment made thus far in FedRAMP using the IT Dashboard, but couldn’t execute an appropriate search.  Anyone know that answer?

Read more on the topic by Daniel Schuman “Budget Technopocalypse: Proposed Congressional Budgets Slash Funding for Data Transparency

Now, I’m not particularly fond of how the initial FedRAMP drafts turned out, but I’m optimistic that the program will evolve, will ultimately make a difference and lead to more assured, cost-efficient and low-friction adoption of Cloud Computing. We need FedRAMP to succeed and we need continued investment in it to do so.  Let’s not throw the baby out with the Cloud water.

We literally cannot afford for FedRAMP (or these other transparency programs) to be cut — these are the very programs that will lead to long term efficiency and fiscally-responsible programs across the U.S. Government.  They will ultimately make us more competitive.

Vote with your clicks.  Support the Sunlight Foundation.

/Hoff

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