Security Concerns Over a Data Center in the Cloud

With the data center moving to various cloud configurations, server provisioning will be a concern.

By Mathias Thurman
Mon, May 07, 2012

Computerworld — My company has outgrown its offices and will be moving to a new facility next year. While the company as a whole will have more space, the data center will shrink to less than half the square footage it now occupies. The goal is to decrease the data center footprint by 60%.

Trouble Ticket

SaaS server provisioning could lead to security woes. Action plan: Implement tight security, application and infrastructure controls.

Naturally, the cloud will be key to that data center shrinkage. And of course, whenever the cloud comes into play, security concerns have to be taken into consideration.

At this point, we have a lot of experience with cloud infrastructure. We usually choose software-as-a-service vendors for new enterprise applications, our engineering departments build demos in public cloud environments, and even our own product is a SaaS offering.

We will be hosting our servers in three types of environments. The first, a public cloud provider such as Amazon EC2, will have no relationship with our internal network. The second is what I call a hybrid cloud in which we host infrastructure (including virtual servers) at a third-party data center and build a VPN tunnel back to our company, creating a trust relationship. The third is a private cloud, where we will host a virtual environment on our own network.

To govern, automate, control and gain visibility into these various environments, we've been looking at a couple of companies that offer a one-stop shop for the provisioning of servers in all three cloud environments. This is the part that scares me. I don't want engineers who access this new platform to be able to provision a server on our company's DMZ, by mistake or otherwise. Nor do I want them to be able to provision critical production servers on Amazon. I'm very sensitive about our Internet exposure.

I'm also uncomfortable with the idea that much of our data center infrastructure will be accessible from anywhere on the Internet. Today, if an engineer wants to provision a server, he has to be physically located in one of our facilities or be on our company network. The cloud opens things up so much that a server could be provisioned from an untrusted Internet kiosk in Mexico, for example.

Therefore, I've asserted five security requirements for this initiative.

The first is that access to the new platform, and any company-sensitive data stored on it, must either be restricted by IP address or incorporate some form of two-factor authentication. Regardless, access needs to be encrypted.

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