Cloud Computing Tools: Improving Security Through Visibility and Automation

Many enterprises are reluctant to move critical cloud applications out of their own data centers and into the public cloud due to security concerns. Yet the same automated, consistent provisioning that is essential to managing either public or private clouds (as well as to the process of thinking through a cloud deployment) can also offer the fringe benefit of improving security.

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Mulchandani also warns that some internal server management products were not built to run in the public cloud. Most patch management tools designed for internal corporate environments, he says, require an open inbound port to accept patch updates, something "you'd never be crazy enough" to allow on a public cloud server with a public IP address. ScaleXtreme offers a patch management tool that uses a one-way outbound HTTPS port.

Fringe Benefits

Good cloud management practices aimed at reducing spending can also improve security. Take, for example, asset discovery tools, which uncover how many applications and other systems are in use in an organization and compare those findings with the list of applications that are officially on the books. These practices--often used when estimating how much capacity an organization will need in the cloud--allow a company to cut costs by eliminating unneeded or duplicate applications and bundling what had been one-off licenses into volume purchase agreements. These same tools also give security administrators a more complete list of the cloud applications and services they must secure.

Sometimes, the side benefits flow the other way--from security tools to other business processes. While the main benefit of single sign-on for Genomic Health, for instance, is improved security, it also makes it easier to track which employees have taken their required on-line training, Stineman says.

The real upside, he hopes, will be the ability to eventually speed the process of removing users' application access when they leave the company, eliminating the three to four hours of work it now requires to prove employees have been properly deprovisioned from all of the company's SaaS systems.

Learning Curve

As more organizations move more applications to the cloud, many observers predict vendors will provide better integration between in-house and cloud management tools, and with premium services that give customers better control over and visibility into their cloud environments.

Using management tools to improve security can also boost the career of an IT manager, says Mann, by helping him or her move beyond being seen as an internal supplier of services to being treated as "a trusted adviser [with] the experience to provide these cloud services to the business," bringing IT's proven expertise with managing secure internal environments to the cloud.

This story, "Cloud Computing Tools: Improving Security Through Visibility and Automation" was originally published by CSO.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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