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Posts Tagged ‘Software as a service’

Security As A Service: “The Cloud” & Why It’s a Net Security Win

March 19th, 2012 3 comments
Cloud Computing Image

Cloud Computing Image (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’ve been paying attention to the rash of security startups entering the market today, you will no doubt notice the theme wherein the majority of them are, from the get-go, organizing around deployment models which operate from “The Cloud.”

We can argue that “Security as a service” usually refers to security services provided by a third party using the SaaS (software as a service) model, but there’s a compelling set of capabilities that enables companies large and small to be both effective, efficient and cost-manageable as we embrace the “new” world of highly distributed applications, content and communications (cloud and mobility combined.)

As with virtualization, when one discusses “security” and “cloud computing,” any of the three perspectives often are conflated (from my post “Security: In the Cloud, For the Cloud & By the Cloud…“):

In the same way that I differentiated “Virtualizing Security, Securing Virtualization and Security via Virtualization” in my Four Horsemen presentation, I ask people to consider these three models when discussing security and Cloud:

  1. In the Cloud: Security (products, solutions, technology) instantiated as an operational capability deployed within Cloud Computing environments (up/down the stack.) Think virtualized firewalls, IDP, AV, DLP, DoS/DDoS, IAM, etc.
  2. For the Cloud: Security services that are specifically targeted toward securing OTHER Cloud Computing services, delivered by Cloud Computing providers (see next entry) . Think cloud-based Anti-spam, DDoS, DLP, WAF, etc.
  3. By the Cloud: Security services delivered by Cloud Computing services which are used by providers in option #2 which often rely on those features described in option #1.  Think, well…basically any service these days that brand themselves as Cloud… ;)

What I’m talking about here is really item #3; security “by the cloud,” wherein these services utilize any cloud-based platform (SaaS, PaaS or IaaS) to delivery security capabilities on behalf of the provider or ultimate consumer of services.

For the SMB/SME/Branch, one can expect a hybrid model of on-premises physical (multi-function) devices that also incorporate some sort of redirect or offload to these cloud-based services. Frankly, the same model works for the larger enterprise but in many cases regulatory issues of privacy/IP concerns arise.  This is where the capability of both “private” (or dedicated) versions of these services are requested (either on-premises or off, but dedicated.)

Service providers see a large opportunity to finally deliver value-added, scaleable and revenue-generating security services atop what they offer today.  This is the realized vision of the long-awaited “clean pipes” and “secure hosting” capabilities.  See this post from 2007 “Clean Pipes – Less Sewerage or More Potable Water?”

If you haven’t noticed your service providers dipping their toes here, you certainly have seen startups (and larger security players) do so.  Here are just a few examples:

  • Qualys
  • Trend Micro
  • Symantec
  • Cisco (Ironport/ScanSafe)
  • Juniper
  • CloudFlare
  • ZScaler
  • Incapsula
  • Dome9
  • CloudPassage
  • Porticor
  • …and many more

As many vendors “virtualize” their offers and start to realize that through basic networking, APIs, service chaining, traffic steering and security intelligence/analytics, these solutions become more scaleable, leveragable and interoperable, the services you’ll be able to consume will also increase…and they will become more application and information-centric in nature.

Again, this doesn’t mean the disappearance of on-premises or host-based security capabilities, but you should expect the cloud (and it’s derivative offshoots like Big Data) to deliver some really awesome hybrid security capabilities that make your life easier.  Rich Mogull (@rmogull) and I gave about 20 examples of this in our “Grilling Cloudicorns: Mythical CloudSec Tools You Can Use Today” at RSA last month.

Get ready because while security folks often eye “The Cloud” suspiciously, it also offers up a set of emerging solutions that will undoubtedly allow for more efficient, effective and affordable security capabilities that will allow us to focus more on the things that matter.

/Hoff

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AwkwardCloud: Here’s Hopin’ For Open

February 14th, 2012 3 comments

MAKING FRIENDS EVERYWHERE I GO…

There’s no way to write this without making it seem like I’m attacking the person whose words I am about to stare rudely at, squint and poke out my tongue.

No, it’s not @reillyusa, featured to the right.  But that expression about sums up my motivation.

Because this ugly game of “Words With Friends” is likely to be received as though I’m at odds with what represents the core marketing message of a company, I think I’m going to be voted off the island.

Wouldn’t be the first time.  Won’t be the last.  It’s not personal.  It’s just cloud, bro.

This week at Cloud Connect, @randybias announced that his company, Cloudscaling, is releasing a new suite of solutions branded under the marketing moniker of  “Open Cloud.”

I started to explore my allergy to some of these message snippets as they were strategically “leaked” last week in a most unfortunate Twitter exchange.  I promised I would wait until the actual launch to comment further.

This is my reaction to the website, press release and blog only.  I’ve not spoken to Randy.  This is simply my reaction to what is being placed in public.  It’s not someone else’s interpretation of what was said.  It’s straight from the Cloud Pony’s mouth. ;p

GET ON WITH IT THEN!

“Open Cloud” is described as a set of solutions for those looking to deploy clouds that provide “… better economics, greater flexibility, and less lock-in, while maintaining control and governance” than so-called Enterprise Clouds that are based on what Randy tags are more proprietary foundations.

The case is made where enterprises will really want to build two clouds: one to run legacy apps and one to run purpose-built cloud-ready applications.  I’d say that enterprises that have a strategy are likely looking forward to using clouds of both models…and probably a few more, such as SaaS and PaaS.

This is clearly a very targeted solution which looks to replicate AWS’ model for enterprises or SP’s who are looking to exercise more control over the fate over their infrastructure.  How much runway this serves against the onslaught of PaaS and SaaS will play out.

I think it’s a reasonable bet there’s quite a bit of shelf life left on IaaS and I wonder if we’ll see follow-on generations to focus on PaaS.

Yet I digress…

This is NOT going to be a rant about the core definition of “Open,” (that’s for Twitter) nor is this going to be one of those 40 pagers where I deconstruct an entire blog.  It would be fun, easy and rather useful, but I won’t.

No. Instead I  will suggest that the use of the word “Open” in this press release is nothing more than opportunistic marketing, capitalizing on other recent uses of the Open* suffix such as “OpenCompute, OpenFlow, Open vSwitch, OpenStack, etc.” and is a direct shot across the bow of other companies that have released similar solutions in the near past (Cloud.com, Piston, Nebula)

If we look at what makes up “Open Cloud,” we discover it is framed upon on four key solution areas and supported by design blueprints, support and services:

  1. Open Hardware
  2. Open Networking
  3. Open APIs
  4. Open Source Software

I’m not going to debate the veracity or usefulness of some of these terms directly, but we’ll come back to them as a reference in a second, especially the notion of “open hardware.”

The one thing that really stuck under my craw was the manufactured criteria that somehow defined the so-called “litmus tests” associated with “Enterprise” versus “Open” clouds.

Randy suggests that if you are doing more than 1/2 of the items in the left hand column you’re using a cloud built with “enterprise computing technology” versus “open” cloud should the same use hold true for the right hand column:

So here’s the thing.  Can you explain to me what spinning up 1000 VM’s in less than 5 minutes has to do with being “open?”  Can you tell me what competing with AWS on price has to do with being “open?” Can you tell me how Hadoop performance has anything to do with being “open?”  Why does using two third-party companies management services define “open?”

Why on earth does the complexity or simplicity of networking stacks define “openness?”

Can you tell me how, if Cloudscaling’s “Open Cloud” uses certified vendors from “name brand” vendors like Arista how this is any way more “open” than using an alternative solution using Cisco?

Can you tell me if “Open Cloud” is more “open” than Piston Cloud which is also based upon OpenStack but also uses specific name-brand hardware to run?  If “Open Cloud” is “open,” and utilizes open source, can I download all the source code?

These are simply manufactured constructs which do little service toward actually pointing out the real business value of the solution and instead cloaks the wolf in the “open” sheep’s clothing.  It’s really unfortunate.

The end of my rant here is that by co-opting the word “open,” this takes a perfectly reasonable approach of a company’s experience in building a well sorted, (supposedly more) economical and supportable set of cloud solutions and ruins it by letting its karma get run over by its dogma.

Instead of focusing on the merits of the solution as a capable building block for building plain better clouds, this reads like a manifesto which may very well turn people off.

Am I being unfair in calling this out?  I don’t think so.  Would some prefer a private conversation over a beer to discuss?  Most likely.  However, there’s a disconnect here and it stems from pushing public a message and marketing a set of solutions that I hope will withstand the scrutiny of this A-hole with a blog.

Maybe I’m making a mountain out of a molehill…

Again, I’m not looking to pick on Cloudscaling.  I think the business model and the plan is solid as is evidenced by their success to date.  I wish them nothing but success.

I just hope that what comes out the other end is being “open” to consider a better adjective and more useful set of criteria to define the merits of the solution.

/Hoff

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

April 29th, 2011 4 comments
CA Technologies

Image via Wikipedia

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.
    -
  • 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.
    -
  • 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.
    -
  • 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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Revisiting Virtualization & Cloud Stack Security – Back to the Future (Baked In Or Bolted On?)

January 17th, 2011 No comments

[Like a good w[h]ine, this post goes especially well with a couple of other courses such as Hack The Stack Or Go On a Bender With a Vendor?, Incomplete Thought: Why Security Doesn’t Scale…Yet, What’s The Problem With Cloud Security? There’s Too Much Of It…, Incomplete Thought: The Other Side Of Cloud – Where The (Wild) Infrastructure Things Are… and Where Are the Network Virtual Appliances? Hobbled By the Virtual Network, That’s Where…]

There are generally three dichotomies of thought when it comes to the notion of how much security should fall to the provider of the virtualization or cloud stack versus that of the consumer of their services or a set of third parties:

  1. The virtualization/cloud stack provider should provide a rich tapestry of robust security capabilities “baked in” to the platform itself, or
  2. The virtualization/cloud stack provider should provide security-enabling hooks to enable an ecosystem of security vendors to provide the bulk of security (beyond isolation) to be “bolted on,” or
  3. The virtualization/cloud stack provider should maximize the security of the underlying virtualization/cloud platform and focus on API security, isolation and availability of service only while pushing the bulk of security up into the higher-level programatic/application layers, or

So where are we today?  How much security does the stack, itself, need to provide. The answer, however polarized, is somewhere in the murkiness dictated by the delivery models, deployment models, who owns what part of the real estate and the use cases of both the virtualization/cloud stack provider and ultimately the consumer.

I’ve had a really interesting series of debates with the likes of Simon Crosby (of Xen/Citrix fame) on this topic and we even had a great debate at RSA with Steve Herrod from VMware.  These two “infrastructure” companies and their solutions typify the diametrically opposed first two approaches to answering this question while cloud providers who own their respective custom-rolled “stacks” at either end of IaaS and SaaS spectrums such as Amazon Web Services and Salesforce bringing up the third.

As with anything, this is about the tenuous balance of “security,” compliance, cost, core competence and maturity of solutions coupled with the sensitivity of the information that requires protection and the risk associated with the lopsided imbalance that occurs in the event of loss.

There’s no single best answer which explains why were have three very different approaches to what many, unfortunately, view as the same problem.

Today’s “baked in” security capabilities aren’t that altogether mature or differentiated, the hooks and APIs that allow for diversity and “defense in depth” provide for new and interesting ways to instantiate security, but also add to complexity, driving us back to an integration play.  The third is looked upon as proprietary and limiting in terms of visibility and transparency and don’t solve problems such as application and information security any more than the other two do.

Will security get “better” as we move forward with virtualization and cloud computing.  Certainly.  Perhaps because of it, perhaps in spite of it.

One thing’s for sure, it’s going to be messy, despite what the marketing says.

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From the Concrete To The Hypervisor: Compliance and IaaS/PaaS Cloud – A Shared Responsibility

December 6th, 2010 No comments

* Update:  A few hours after writing this last night, AWS announced they had achieved Level 1 PCI DSS Compliance.* If you pay attention to how the announcement is worded, you’ll find a reasonable treatment of what PCI compliance means to an IaaS cloud provider – it’s actually the first time I’ve seen this honestly described:

Merchants and other service providers can now run their applications on AWS PCI-compliant technology infrastructure to store, process and transmit credit card information in the cloud. Customers can use AWS cloud infrastructure, which has been validated at the highest level (Level 1) of PCI compliance, to build their cardholder environment and achieve PCI certification for their applications.

Note how they phrased this, then read my original post below.

However, pay no attention to the fact that they chose to make this announcement on Pearl Harbor Day ;)

Here’s the thing…

A cloud provider can achieve compliance (such as PCI — yes v2.0 even) such that the in-scope elements of that provider which are audited and assessed can ultimately contribute to the compliance of a customer operating atop that environment.  We’ve seen a number of providers assert compliance across many fronts, but they marketed their way into a yellow card by over-reaching…

It should be clear already, but for a service to be considered compliant, it clearly means that the customer’s in-scope elements running atop a cloud provider must also undergo and achieve compliance.

That means compliance is elementally additive the same way “security” is when someone else has direct operational control over elements in the stack you don’t.

In the case of an IaaS cloud provider who may achieve compliance from the “concrete to the hypervisor,” (let’s use PCI again,) the customer in turn must have the contents of the virtual machine (OS, Applications, operations, controls, etc.) independently assessed and meet PCI compliance in order that the entire stack of in-scope elements can be described as compliant.

Thus security — and more specifically compliance — in IaaS (and PaaS) is a shared responsibility.

I’ve spent many a blog battling marketing dragons from cloud providers that assert or imply that by only using said provider’s network which has undergone and passed one or more audits against a compliance framework, that any of its customers magically inherit certification by default. I trust this is recognized as completely false.

As compliance frameworks catch up to the unique use-cases that multi-tenancy and technologies such as virtualization bring, we’ll see more “compliant cloud” offerings spring up, easing customer pain related to the underlying moving parts.  This is, for example, what FedRAMP is aiming to provide with “pre-approved” cloud offerings.  We’ve got visibility and transparency issues to solve , as well as temporal issues such as the frequency and period of compliance audits, but there’s progress.

We’re going to see more and more of this as infrastructure- and platform-as-a-service vendors look to mutually accelerate compliance to achieve that which software-as-a-service can more organically deliver as a function of stack control.

/Hoff

* Note: It’s still a little unclear to me how some of the PCI requirements are met in an environment like an IaaS Cloud provider where “applications” that we typically think of that traffic in PCI in-scope data don’t exist (but the infrastructure does,) but I would assume that AWS leverages other certifications such as SAS and ISO as a cumulative to petition the QSA for consideration during certification.  I’ll ask this question of AWS and see what I get back.

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Dear SaaS Vendors: If Cloud Is The Way Forward & Companies Shouldn’t Spend $ On Privately-Operated Infrastructure, When Are You Moving Yours To Amazon Web Services?

April 30th, 2010 6 comments

We’re told repetitively by Software as a Service (SaaS)* vendors that infrastructure is irrelevant, that CapEx spending is for fools and that Cloud Computing has fundamentally changed the way we will, forever, consume computing resources.

Why is it then that many of the largest SaaS providers on the planet (including firms like Salesforce.com, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) continue to build their software and choose to run it in their own datacenters on their own infrastructure?  In fact, many of them are on a tear involving multi-hundred million dollar (read: infrastructure) private datacenter build-outs.

I mean, SaaS is all about the software and service delivery, right?  IaaS/PaaS is the perfect vehicle for the delivery of scaleable software, right?  So why do you continue to try to convince *us* to move our software to you and yet *you* don’t/won’t/can’t move your software to someone else like AWS?

Hypocricloud: SaaS firms telling us we’re backwards for investing in infrastructure when they don’t eat the dog food they’re dispensing (AKA we’ll build private clouds and operate them, but tell you they’re a bad idea, in order to provide public cloud offerings to you…)

Quid pro quo, agent Starling.

/Hoff

* I originally addressed this to Salesforce.com via Twitter in response to Peter Coffee’s blog here but repurposed the title to apply to SaaS vendors in general.

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