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Apr 11

Cloud Computing and Security

We have to start our travel in Cloud Computing defining it, we can find a useful partner in the NIST (National Istitute of Standards and Technology).

NIST define Cloud computing as a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction. This cloud model is composed of five essential characteristics, three service models, and four deployment models.

Essential Characteristics

On-demand self-service. A consumer can unilaterally provision computing capabilities, such as server time and network storage, as needed automatically without requiring human interaction with each service provider.

Broad network access. Capabilities are available over the network and accessed through standard mechanisms that promote use by heterogeneous thin or thick client platforms (e.g., mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and workstations).

Resource pooling. The provider’s computing resources are pooled to serve multiple consumers using a multi-tenant model, with different physical and virtual resources dynamically assigned and reassigned according to consumer demand. There is a sense of location independence in that the customer generally has no control or knowledge over the exact location of the provided resources but may be able to specify location at a higher level of abstraction (e.g., country, state, or datacenter). Examples of resources include storage, processing, memory, and network bandwidth.

Rapid elasticity. Capabilities can be elastically provisioned and released, in some cases automatically, to scale rapidly outward and inward commensurate with demand. To the consumer, the capabilities available for provisioning often appear to be unlimited and can be appropriated in any quantity at any time.

Measured service. Cloud systems automatically control and optimize resource use by leveraging a metering capability1 at some level of abstraction appropriate to the type of service (e.g., storage, processing, bandwidth, and active user accounts). Resource usage can be monitored, controlled, and reported, providing transparency for both the provider and consumer of the utilized service.

Service Model

Software as a Service (SaaS). The capability provided to the consumer is to use the provider’s applications running on a cloud infrastructure2. The applications are accessible from various client devices through either a thin client interface, such as a web browser (e.g., web-based email), or a program interface. The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure including 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 or acquired applications created using programming languages, libraries, services, and tools supported by the provider.3 The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure including network, servers, operating systems, or storage, but has control over the deployed applications and possibly configuration settings for the application-hosting environment.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). The capability provided to the consumer is to provision 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, and deployed applications; and possibly limited control of select networking components

Deployment Models

Private cloud. The cloud infrastructure is provisioned for exclusive use by a single organization comprising multiple consumers (e.g., business units). It may be owned, managed, and operated by the organization, a third party, or some combination of them, and it may exist on or off premises.

Community cloud. The cloud infrastructure is provisioned for exclusive use by a specific community of consumers from organizations that have shared concerns (e.g., mission, security requirements, policy, and compliance considerations). It may be owned, managed, and operated by one or more of the organizations in the community, a third party, or some combination of them, and it may exist on or off premises.

Public cloud. The cloud infrastructure is provisioned for open use by the general public. It may be owned, managed, and operated by a business, academic, or government organization, or some combination of them. It exists on the premises of the cloud provider.

Hybrid cloud. The cloud infrastructure is a composition of two or more distinct cloud infrastructures (private, community, or public) that remain unique entities, but are bound together by standardized or proprietary technology that enables data and application portability (e.g., cloud bursting for load balancing between clouds).

We can easily understand that we have the potential opportunities of adopting a cloud model in terms of improving agility, cost control and efficiency, but for this complexity is considerable difficulty persuading line-of-business managers of its merits.

Why this is happening?

One of the major reason for this misunderstanding is easy to explain:

A virtualised datacentre is not a cloud

Enterprise IT departments, too, must take some of the blame for failing to deliver the levels of agility their business customers are seeking. When IT began to face the challenge of users bypassing IT and procuring services directly from public cloud providers, companies’ IT departments tried to wrest back control by creating their own private clouds, egged on by their traditional suppliers.

However, what IT departments have done in the main is to create a virtualised datacentre and then put in place various approvals processes before business customers can fire up virtual machines.

Some businesses have attempted to build less constrictive private clouds using technologies such as OpenStack and CloudStack. But while this type of approach offers more long-term potential, particularly for ensuring companies aren’t tied to any one supplier, the current immaturity of the technology – as well as the lack of internal skills required to implement such solutions effectively and the inability to achieve anything like the economies of scale offered by public cloud providers such as Amazon and Google – businesses have been left less than impressed.

In either scenario what happens is the business says ‘we want cloud’ and IT says ‘but we’ve got cloud’. Yet they’re not talking about the same thing. Cloud is about real-time self-service as seen above. What the business wants is something with the speed and agility of AWS. But a virtualised datacentre is not the same, and the end result is disappointment inside the enterprise.

He believes the path to harmony lies in IT putting the concept of speedy self-service ahead of the desire to enforce governance and regulation manually.

We can say in this way:

Approvals kill clouds. IT needs to recognise that self-service is what it’s all about and focus on agility, then implement governance and regulatory compliance in a way that’s fully automated. The beauty of cloud is that it can be automated so there’s no excuse for injecting manual processes.

Now, we see that this concept is not really well seen by IT Security Specialist, because you lost “control” on your infrastructure, but we talk about this later on.

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