Securing the Virtual Infrastructure
computing tests the limit of security operations and infrastructure from
various perspectives. Let us examine what
is different about Cloud Security and identify what are existing threats and what
are the new areas that we should be concerned about.
Figure 2 Cloud Security - Existing & New Threats
I think what make cloud security complex is the number of
layers involved in the cloud service stack and the number of components in each
layers. So it means
Increased infrastructure layers to
manage and protect
Multiple operating systems and
applications per server
More Components = More Exposure
As we can see we already do perimeter protection at the
network and operating systems as well as do physical and personnel security for
the traditional infrastructure. All of them holds good for cloud as well to combat
the existing threats at these layers.
us examine what are the new points of exposure with cloud. Security and resiliency complexities are raised
by virtualization and automation which are essentials to cloud. The new risks
Cloud Service Management Vulnerabilities
Secure storage of VMs and the
Managing identities on the
increasing number of virtual assets
Stealth rootkits in hardware now possible
Virtual NICs & Virtual Hardware
Virtual sprawl, VM stealing
Dynamic relocation of VMs
Elimination of physical boundaries
Manually tracking software and
configurations of VMs
managing these additional complexities, you need a reference model that is
comprehensive and covers security controls that can combat not only the
existing challenges but also the new challenges that cloud brings in.
Foundational Security controls for IBM cloud reference model (see below)
provides the different elements and controls required to build a secure cloud.
Figure 1 Foundation Security Controls for IBM Cloud
Managing datacenter identities (Identity and access
Management) is one of the top-most security concerns and we discussed how to
handle the same in my previous
post. I’ll discuss how to handle the
virtualization related threats in my next post.
Meanwhile let me know your comments on this reference model.
Do you think these set of controls are comprehensive. Do you see any areas not
covered from a cloud security perspective? If so, just add it as comment to
this post and let us discuss.
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Managing Datacenter Identities for Cloud
challenges for cloud , I discussed Security as the top concern. I also
detailed the top concerns with regard to securing the cloud in the subsequent post.
Cloud computing tests the limits of security operations and infrastructure for
the various security and privacy domains
Cloud brings in lot of additional considerations like
multi-tenancy, data separation, virtualization etc. In a cloud environment,
access expands, responsibilities change, control shifts, and the speed of
provisioning resources and applications increases - greatly affecting all
aspects of IT security. We will discuss
the different security aspects classifying them against specific adoption
patterns (see post here).
The cloud enabled data center pattern is the more predominant one which has Infrastructure
and Identity management as the top concerns. Within cloud security doing the right design
for the infrastructure security is the important aspect – the details of which
and how it is done by different public clouds we discussed in the previous post.
Now with regard to Identity lets discuss the top requirements, use cases and
look at what solutions that we can provide to make the cloud secure. Lets start
with managing datacenter identities which is the top concern.
Managing Datacenter Identities
Identity and Access Control needs to deliver capability that
can be used to provide role based access to securely connect users to the cloud.
The users include the cloud service provider as well as consumer roles. Within
each user groups we need to support User as well as Administrator Roles. The
identity and access management should the 4As - Authentication, Authorization,
Auditing and Assurance.
For a cloud consumer user, it is
about making sure the user identity is verified and authenticated at the self
service portal and providing right access to the resource pools.
For the administrator, we need to
provide role based access to Service Lifecycle Management functions
We will need to integrate with
existing User Directory infrastructure (AD/LDAP/NIS) to extend the user
identity to the cloud environment as well.
Once in the cloud environment, we
need to automatically manage access to the cloud resources, through provisioning
and de-provision of resource profiles and users against the resources in the cloud
identity and access management systems. Manual processes to manage accounts for
users on various virtual systems and applications are not going to scale in a
cloud environment. The same is true with the manual processes to process
various audit logs to meet compliance and audit requirements
In massively parallel,
cloud-computing infrastructures involves enormous pools of external users as
well. We need to ensure smooth user experience for the users so that they don’t
need to enter their credentials multiple times to access various applications
hosted within the enterprise or by business partners and Cloud providers.
Management of user identities and
access rights across hosted, private and hybrid clouds for internal Enterpise
users is also a major challenge that includes
o Centralized user access management to on and off-premise applications
o Enables Federated Single Sign-on and Identity Mediation across
different service providers
Lets look at some of the capabilities that we can leverage
to solution these requiremnts.
IBM Security Identity and Access Assurance - provides
the following capabilities. These
capabilities enable clients to reduce costs, improve user productivity,
strengthen access control, and support compliance initiatives.
and policy-based user management solution that helps effectively manage
- Enterprise, Web, and
federated single sign on, inside, outside, and between organizations,
including cloud deployments.
and access support for files, operating platforms, Web, social networks,
and cloud-based applications.
with stronger forms of authentication (smart cards, tokens, one-time
passwords, and so on).
monitoring, investigating, and reporting on user activity across the
Tivoli Identity Manager complements its role management
capabilities with role mining and lifecycle management, provided by the
IBM Security Role and Policy Modeler component, which helps reduce time
and effort to design an enterprise role and access structure, and
automates the process to validate the access information and role
structure with the business.
Security Access Manager for Enterprise Single Sign-On offers wide
platform coverage, strong authentication enhancements, and simpler
deployments. It introduces 64-bit
operating system and application support, a virtual appliance for easier
installation and configuration of the server, expanded support for smart
cards, and simplified profiling.
Tivoli Federated Identity Manager offers additional Open Authorization
(OAuth) authorization standards support, (for business to consumer
deployments and utilization of cloud-based applications and identities),
enhanced security for Secure Hash Algorithm (SHA-2), usability
enhancements, and new Business Gateway capabilities.
Infrastructure Security Design (Public Clouds)
As we discussed in my previous post, transparency or more
control is need of the hour with regards to security on the cloud. Let examine how this is done by the popular
cloud providers and understand the method and the technologies. We need to
secure the infrastructure, network, endpoints, applications, processes, data,
and information and overall have a governance to mitigate the risk and meet the
compliance. Let us take the infrastructure to begin with.
The key areas for a security team to design for with regards
to infrastructure security are
logs on all resources – VMs and hypervisors
Let us start looking at the public cloud implementations to
understand how they are managing these aspects.
Almost all the vendors – IBM, Amazon,
provide a means to do SSH with keys to the Guest OS. The protocol runs over SSL
and is authenticated with a certificate and private key which could be
generated by the customer.
SmartCloud is designed with enterprise security as a top priority. Access
to the infrastructure self-service portal and application programming interface
(API) is restricted to users with an IBM Web Identity. The infrastructure
complies with IBM security policies, including regular security scans and controlled
administrative actions and operations. Within our delivery centres, customer
data and virtual machines are kept in the data centre where provisioned, and
the physical security is the same as that for IBM’s own internal data centres. With virtual private network (VPN) option,
customers can isolate their servers in the IBM SmartCloud on a virtual local
area network (VLAN) that can act as an extension of their internal network.
This VPN capability can also be used to create security zones in an Internet-facing
configuration to better protect their servers against attacks.
IBM LotusLive employs a security approach based on three
three-pillars that includes ensuring security rich infrastructure.
security: Making personnel
roles across LotusLive and their access authorizations are recorded in a
Separation of Duty matrix.
security-rich infrastructure: Security configuration reviews
and periodic vulnerability scanning of all systems and infrastructure.
enforcement points providing application security: multi-layered
compliance with periodic programs that address all elements of the service
We will see how the infrastructure
security aspects are dealt with for private clouds in my next post. Stay tuned
and keep those comments coming. I’d some of my readers tell me that the blog
entries are not showing up fine on Internet explorer. While I will make the
effort to fix the issue, please use Firefox or any other browser in the
And if you these posts interesting dont forget to rate the post (click on the stars) and if you got an extra minute do put in a comment on what apsects you find interesting or need discussion.
Securing the Cloud – What are the top concerns?
IT Security is well researched and
matured area. The reason why we have enterprises doing commerce over the web
today is because IT Security practices, tools and technologies have matured to
establish the trust and have overcome the
concerns. As with most new technology paradigms, security concerns surrounding
cloud computing have become the most widely talked about inhibitor of
widespread usage as discussed in my previous post.
To gain the trust of organizations,
cloud services must deliver security and privacy expectations that meet or
exceed what is available in traditional IT environments. Let us discuss what’s are
the Top Security Concerns when it comes to cloud.
Transparency or Less Control
If we look at the security and
privacy domains in cloud, they are no different from the traditional domains.
We need to secure the infrastructure, network, endpoints, applications,
processes, data, and information and overall have a governance to mitigate the
risk and meet the compliance. But in a cloud environment, access expands,
responsibilities change, control shifts, and the speed of provisioning
resources and applications increases - greatly affecting all these aspects of
IT security. The different cloud deployment models like the public, private and
hybrid clouds also change the way we think need to about security. The
responsibilities are spread across Consumer, Service Resellers and Providers.
The immediate risks of these shared responsibility is that nobody gets a
holistic view of the security and so less customization of any security
controls. Consumers need visibility into day-to-day operations as well as need
access to logs and policies. The aspect of less visibility or transparency is
mostly the top most concern shared universally.
Data and Information Security
The next primary concern that
customers mention related to security on the cloud is related to data and
information security. The specific concerns include
Protection of intellectual property and data
Ability to enforce regulatory or contractual obligations
Unauthorized use of data
Confidentiality of data
Availability of data
Integrity of data
A shared, multi-tenant
infrastructure increases potential for unauthorized exposure especially in the
case of public-facing clouds. Security Administrators need to worry about
designing security for applications and data that are publically exposed which
can be potentially accessed by anybody on the internet.
Different industries and geographies have different regulations
and rules that they need to comply to depending on the workloads and data they
put on the cloud. Complying with SOX,
HIPAA and other regulations are one risk or issue because of which customers
are not ready to put their applications on the cloud. Cloud or no cloud for
these sort of workloads comprehensive auditing capabilities are essential.
Security Management - Methods and Tools
Finally customers would need to know how today’s enterprise
security controls are represented in the cloud.
They need to understand how the security events are monitored correlated
and actions taken when needed to keep their infrastructure, workload and data
safe. Security coming on the way of high availability is another key
concern. IT departments worry about a
loss of service should outages occur because of security reasons. If so, when
running mission critical applications how soon you can get the environment back
at the same level of security is the priority.
Until all of these concerns are addressed and without strong
availability guarantees, customers may not be ready to run their apps in the
cloud. But things are not that bad as we might think. We will discuss how these
aspects can be addressed and what tools and technologies to put to use in the
Meanwhile I recommend that you read this very interesting whitepaper
on “Cloud Security Who do you trust?” which discusses all of these aspects
in detail as well as the different security challenges that security
Cloud Security – The top most concern and Opportunity
First of all, wishing all my readers a
very happy and prosperous year 2012 ahead.
Few things happened towards the end
of the year which was significant to me. IBM acquired Q1 Labs to Drive Greater Security Intelligence and created a New Security Division. I also joined this
newly formed IBM Security Systems team last quarter as a solution architect for cloud security. This is a great time to be looking at cloud security. Happy to be on this new role where I can provide solution to customers to handle their cloud security concerns and make it easy for them to adopt cloud and innovate at a faster rate than before.
In my previous
post, we discussed security as the top most concern why customers and
enterprises are not adopting cloud. As
part of year’s posts, I plan to discuss the various security issues and aspects
of cloud computing.
We will explore to understand what are
the unique challenges with Cloud Security and discuss what aspects is important
for each customer
adoption pattern that we have seen.
We will also learn how the IBM Security
Framework can be used to address the various security challenges namely
governance, risk management and compliance
server and endpoint
forward to your comments and inputs in this journey of understanding the
security requirements for cloud and how we can overcome this major challenge to
cloud adoption using the World’s Most Comprehensive Security Portfolio – IBM
Security Systems. I’ll
try and elaborate the IBM Point of View on cloud security and discuss the architectural
model to address the security requirements for cloud. Stay tuned and keep those comments and inputs coming.
With the barrage of cloud news constantly hitting the market, it can be challenging for organizations to differentiate between all of the solutions and capabilities out there.
But with the latest cloud offering from IBM, the value proposition is quite simple—you get a low-cost, low-risk entry to cloud computing with compelling features. This is especially important for organizations who are still trying to leverage the cost savings of virtualization.
Our customers have told us they’re looking to cloud computing to increase agility—the ability of IT to evolve and meet business needs—and they’re looking for ways to control expenses related to IT investments. They also want to reduce IT complexity while at the same time increase utilization, reliability and scalability of IT resources. And they are looking for the ability to expand capabilities gradually, as their needs change and grow.
In designing a solution to meet all of these needs, we developed IBM SmartCloud Provisioning. Using industry best practices for cloud deployment and management, this new solution allows organizations to quickly deploy cloud resources with automated provisioning, parallel scalability and integrated fault tolerance to increase operational efficiency and respond to user needs.
The name doesn’t tell the whole story though. IBM SmartCloud Provisioning is a full-featured solution wrapped up in an easy-to-implement package. That means you get:
· Rapidly scalable deployment designed to meet business growth
· Reliable, non-stop cloud capable of automatically tolerating and recovering from software and hardware failures
· Reduced complexity through ease of use and improve time to value
· Reduced IT labor resources with self-service requesting and highly automated operations
· Control over image sprawl and reduced business risk through rich analytics, image versioning and federated image library features
Using this technology, we’ve seen customers get a cloud up and running in just hours—realizing immediate time to value. It’s fast—administrators have been able to go from bare metal to ready-for-work in under five minutes, or start a single VM and load OS in under 10 seconds, or scale up to 50,000 VMs in an hour (50 nodes).
But ultimately, these IT benefits have translated to business benefits—customers have been able to see how cloud computing can impact their business, and how they can accelerate the delivery of new services to drive revenue.
With the new release of IBM SmartCloud Provisioning this week, you can try and see firsthand the potential of this breakthrough technology to accelerate your journey to cloud.
And if you want a preview of what’s in development, you can join our Open Beta program for access to beta-level code.
Possible Solution for Mullaperiyar Dam Issue ?
While I’m writing this blog, the Ministers of Tamil Nadu and
Kerala are having a meeting
with Prime Minister to discuss the contentious issue of Mullaperiayar at length.
For those who don’t know about this issue, this is about the Mullaperiayar Dam in
Mullaperiyar Dam is a masonry gravity dam over River Periyar and operated
by the Government of Tamil Nadu based on
a 999-year lease agreement. The catchment areas and river basin of River
Periyar downstream include five Districts of Central Kerala, namely Idukki,
Kottayam, Ernakulam, Alappuzha and Trissur with a total population of around
This dam is at the centre stage again in the wake of reports that
the dam is weakening due to increase in incidents of tremor in Idduki district
in Kerala. Ministers from Kerala are seeking Central Government intervention in
ensuring the safety of the dam. At the same time, Tamil Nadu is insisting on
increasing the water level in the reservoir for enhancing water supply to the
state. While Tamil Nadu wants to increase the water-level in the reservoir,
Kerala has been insisting that it be reduced from the current 136 feet to 120
Currently I don’t think we have clear metrics on the exact usage
of water by each state, what is right level of water to be retained by the dam,
what are the risks etc. We have been relying on data that we have from the
However you look at it -- whether too much or not enough,
the world needs a smarter way to think about water. We need to look at the
subject holistically with all the other considerations as well. We use water
for more than drinking. We need to make an inventory of how much water we get
and how is it used – of industries, irrigation, etc.
This is where I think we need smarter ways to manage the water in the best possible way that addresses both states
Smarter Water Management can help us think in a smarter way about water. For
instance IBM is helping
the Beacon Institute to do source-to-sea real-time monitoring network for New York’s Hudson
and St. Lawrence Rivers as well as report on conditions and threats in real
time. There are many other case studies across the globe on IBM Smarter Water
Those interested in the problem and the possible solutions should
definitely read IBM’s broader outlook on Water Management as covered in the Global Innovation Outlook.
for Tomorrow is another interesting partnership between IBM and The Nature
Conservancy. IBM is providing a state-of-the-art support system for a free,
online application that will provide easy access to data and computer models to
help watershed managers assess how land use affects water quality.
Though it's a worldwide entity, water is treated as a regional
issue. I think we should try putting technology to use to solve our water problems.
The solution should be more instrumented, interconnected and intelligent system
that can not only take into consideration the realtime monitoring of the river
but also include early warning systems to notify risks related to earth quakes
etc. IBM’s Strategic
Water Management Solutions include offerings to help governments, water
utilities, and companies monitor and manage water more effectively. The IBM
Strategic Water Information Management (SWIM) solutions platform is both an
information architecture and an intelligent infrastructure that enables
continuous automated sensing, monitoring, and decision support for water
you might be wondering what has this to do with Cloud and why is this post on
cloud computing Central. For these solutions and platforms to be successful it
is highly important that we have energy efficient high-performance computing
platforms and complex sensor, metering, and actuator networks. Such platform
needs and flexible choices of having the solution on-premise as well as
leverage different delivery models can only be supported through a cloud.
I think we should just leverage these solutions on the cloud to
solve this issue and keep all the states and its people happy :-).
Top 5 Challenges to Cloud Computing
In my previous post, we looked at understanding the
different adoption patterns – i.e. how customers are turning towards
cloud. Some of the key reasons of the
“why” are listed below
- Ease of deployment
- More flexibility in
supporting evolving business needs (both from a technical and business
- Lower cost of
- Easier way to scale
and ensure availability and performance
- Overall ease of use
While all of these are good, there are
still many yet to get on to this cloud computing train. Let’s explore what are
their key concerns or challenges why they are reluctant to jump in. The
following are inputs that I’ve got from various analyst studies and resources
on the internet.
- Security and Privacy- The top most concern that everybody seem to agree
as a challenge with cloud is security. The data security and privacy
concerns ranks top on almost all of the surveys. Cloud computing
introduces another level of risk because essential services are often
outsourced to a third party, making it harder to maintain data integrity
and privacy, support data and service availability, and demonstrate compliance.
- Real Benefits / Business Outcome – Though we have several case studies showcasing
the benefits arising out of implementing cloud technologies, some of the
customers are still not convinced on the possible benefits. Their main
concern is how to realize the investment to full potential and make cloud
part of their mainstream IT Portfolio. Enterprises
need to a good view into the real benefits of cloud computing rather than
the seeing the potential of cloud computing to add value. The return on
investment (ROI) on cloud needs to be substantiated by comparing specific
metrics of traditional IT with Cloud Computing solutions that can show
savings that demonstrate cost, time, quality, compliance, revenue and
profitability improvement. The cloud ROI model should include things such
as indicators for comparing the availability, performance versus recovery
SLA, Workload-wise assessments, Capex versus Opex costs benefits,
- Service Quality: Service quality is one of the biggest factors that the enterprises
cite as a reason for not moving their business applications to cloud. They
feel that the SLAs provided by the cloud providers today are not
sufficient to guarantee the requirements for running a production
applications on cloud especially related to the availability, performance
and scalability. In most cases,
enterprises get refunded for the amount of time the service was down but
most of the current SLAs down cover business loss. Without proper service
quality guarantee enterprises are not going to host their business
critical infrastructure in the cloud.
- Performance / Insufficient responsiveness over
network: Delivery of
complex services through the network is clearly impossible if the network
bandwidth is not adequate. Many of
the businesses are waiting for improved bandwidth and lower costs before
they consider moving into the cloud.
Many cloud applications are still too bandwidth intensive.
- Integration: Many applications have complex integration needs to connect to other
cloud applications as well as other on-premise applications. These include integrating existing cloud
applications with existing enterprise applications and data structures.
There is a need to connect the cloud application with the rest of the
enterprise in a simple, quick and cost effective way.
I plan to discuss more on what are the
perceived and real threats related to Security and Privacy in my subsequent
posts. In my new role, as an Architect for IBM Security Solutions,
I’ll like to discuss the details on what IBM tools and technologies you could use to overcome the issues.
Meanwhile keep those comments coming and I look
forward to them to understand what other areas you think are key
concerns to be addressed to accelerate adoption of cloud.
The IBM Tech Trends report is out! We asked, you answered. Check out the results of IBM developerWorks' 2011 Tech Trends survey
and find out what more than 4,000 IT professionals -- your peers -- have to say about the future of technology, including their opinions on cloud computing, business analytics, mobile computing, and social business.
The report provides insight from the worldwide IT development community into the adoption, preferences and challenges of key enterprise technology trends including cloud, business analytics, mobile computing, and social business. The results also provide guidance on areas where IT professionals like you say they need help with skills to develop new technologies and platforms that will be in demand in the coming years.
As we focus in on cloud, there is absolutely a growing trend in cloud computing to view it as more than just cheap infrastructure. Companies are now exploring the possibility of developing applications in the cloud (you guys are already doing that) many of them related to mobile development.
Currently the biggest challenge is integrating the cloud into application development as the reduction of operating expenses is the driver of this move. We still have a way to go however with 40% of the survey responders saying their company is not yet involved in cloud currently. Hmm, interesting right.
The cool news is that the expectation from those same responders is that over the next two years 75% of the IT professionals responded that they expect that this will change and that theirs and other enterprises will take to building cloud infrastructure.