Visibility: The Real Challenge Behind Cloud Management

Arthur Cole
Slide Show

Key Security Considerations for Enterprise Cloud Deployments

From the enterprise perspective, the knock against cloud computing is said to be its lack of security. But this is only partly true.

It is more accurate to say that the enterprise fears the cloud’s lack of visibility, which then drives concerns about security, management, governance and a host of other issues.

According to a recent survey from AlgoSec, nearly 80 percent of IT executives report that they need better visibility across Infrastructure as a Service architectures, both on public and private infrastructure, while about two-thirds say it is difficult to extend internal network security to the public cloud. This also points to the difficulty that many organizations are having with the integration of public and private infrastructure into the hybrid cloud. A single management stack that can peer into all facets of the data environment is extremely difficult to build and in fact may never be realized because modern data architectures simply have too many moving parts.

Nonetheless, the enterprise needs to embrace the cloud in order to remain competitive, and many are willing to risk diminished security if that’s what it takes to keep up with the Joneses. As ITBE writer Sue Marquette Poremba concluded from the AlgoSec survey and other studies, organizations that wait until all issues have been solved before adopting the cloud will wind up far behind the IT curve as the new century unfolds. This doesn’t mean you jump into the cloud without a plan, but it does mean that any plans you make now will need to provide for a great deal of flexibility as cloud architectures and the tools to manage them evolve.

But if we don’t have a fully realized visibility stack for the cloud just yet, what sort of requirements can we identify in order to build one? According to Managed Methods’ Don Bergal, an essential component in cloud visibility is the Application Programming Interface (API), particularly as app-to-app data exchange picks up steam. Once you can see all of the API connections in and out of the enterprise, you will be able to set security and governance policies over those interactions, even in highly dynamic environments and without hampering performance or throughput. You also have the ability to maintain permanent records for compliance and discovery purposes.

Visibility platforms must also take into account the different traffic patterns that exist at home and in the cloud, says Arista CEO Jayshree Ullal. The north-south architectures of the data center must be placed under the same management dynamic as the scale-out, east-west environments that are cropping up in leaf-spine cloud networks. Not only must the visibility component of cloud management provide a fine-grain view of the data environment, but it needs to address infrastructure distribution on a global scale. When the challenge is troubleshooting traffic between servers that could occupy literally hundreds of potential data paths, and indeed where the location of the virtual server may not even be known, the enterprise will need a robust visibility solution that can operate on both the macro and micro levels, and all levels in between.

Presumably, companies like Arista are working on these and other solutions, and the fact remains that with the cloud still in its infancy, the development of visibility and management tools will proceed in tandem with the deployment of ever more complicated architectures.

But the coming year is likely to be a watershed for enterprise cloud adoption, and woe to the IT department that doesn’t have a management plan in place before workloads start migrating from on-premises infrastructure in earnest.

It would be a shame if all that money saved in the capital budget simply moved over to the operating budget because there is no way of knowing what is happening to your data in the cloud.

Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata, Carpathia and NetMagic.

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