Delivering Security And Operational Efficiency In Multi-Cloud Environments

Ensuring security and operational efficiency in multi-cloud environments is a key part of keeping your infrastructure thriving. Here's how.

Liviu Arsene
May 30, 2019
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Enterprises have embraced digital transformation. The migration of business to the cloud is happening at breakneck speed and organizations maintain, on average, five clouds, either public or private. Those that employ public clouds use no less than three cloud providers to support key business services and applications. A multi-cloud approach for deploying infrastructure vendors is an increasingly common strategy for modern business, but what implications does it have for organizations that have strict requirements for both security and performance, and demand visibility across heterogeneous environments for control, compliance and cost efficiency? How can cloud workload protection platforms be deployed for secure, centralized, unified and consistent delivery of business services regardless of where they run in private, public or hybrid, multi-cloud environments?

What are cloud workload protection platforms?

Cloud Workload Protection Platforms (CWPPs) are workload-centric security protection solutions that usually involve deploying security agents within server or endpoint workloads that span across hybrid data centers and physical or virtual infrastructures. Specifically designed for multiple public cloud infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) environments, and sometimes even container-based application architectures, cloud workload protection platforms should address any type of environment under any conditions. However, CWPPs are not a deploy-and-forget security solution. While they do streamline security operations by enabling a policy-driven approach towards enforcing security, CWPPs are also focused on having a strong security stack that’s capable of protecting against a wide range of attack vectors and threats. Enterprises now chose technologies like multiple VM vendors and containers, to run their applications in order to enable developer agility and scale operations. Cloud-native topologies drive competitive business, and enterprises that run multi-cloud environments need to also factor in security as a key focus up and down the stack. This means organizations need to protect cloud workloads wherever they run, without impacting performance, usability, or security. CWPPs are not just security tools that are designed to protect infrastructures. They can also be used as a visibility tool because–regardless of the scale and concentration of workload–they can still be immediately protected as soon as new instances are created or destroyed, based on predefined role-based security policies that are automatically enforced across the multi-cloud infrastructure. Elastic perimeters brought forward by cloud native applications that can run anywhere in the multi-cloud require security agents that can morph their behavior in terms of security features and performance optimizations based on whether workloads run on-premise or in the multi-cloud. Therefore, enterprises need specific host-centric security solutions to work with modern hybrid data centers, architectures, and infrastructures.

Security Challenges in Heterogeneous Environments

Security engineers often deal with security issues that revolve around compliance, legislation and standards, vulnerability management, infrastructure usage control, incident management and detection, and risk management. With rules and regulations such as GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI, enterprise security engineers and infrastructure architects need to have full understanding of how data is moved across the infrastructure, how it’s accessed across different geographical regions, and how it’s secured. Regardless if an enterprise uses on-premises, co-located, cloud-based datacenters, or all the above, security engineers have the additional task of also factoring in costs when building a cloud-first security strategy and security technologies integration roadmap. Prioritizing their security technology needs is one of the most difficult aspects. For instance, while server protection strategies revolve around IaaS data encryption at rest, behavioral detection and response, vulnerability shielding, and even a security solution, it’s equally valuable to implement other core server protection strategies. Ranging from exploit prevention and memory protection to application whitelisting, network segmentation and traffic visibility, security engineers might have a hard time building this hierarchical security strategy without a set of clearly defined priorities, a roadmap, and a cloud workload protection platform that addresses these challenges. Multi-vendor virtualization, containerization, and an infrastructure-as-code with APIs bringing elastic perimeters, security engineers also need to configure cloud services so that they don’t open the gate to new attack surfaces. It’s key to understand that security is as much about having the right security tools as it is about properly configuring the infrastructure. Otherwise, regardless of how potent CWPPs are, there’s always the risk for a threat actor or even internal actors to exploit a misconfiguration bug that cripples the entire infrastructure. To that end, visibility across multi-cloud environments is key not just from a security perspective, but from an operational perspective, as it helps quickly identify potential infrastructure blind spots or help investigate potential in-progress data breaches.

If Visibility is Key, Why is it Difficult to Achieve?

Gaining a snapshot of the enterprise security posture is one of the most difficult things to achieve. While compliance and security audits are valuable, they’re time-consuming, resource-intensive, expensive, and unable to keep up with the fast pace of today’s businesses. Today’s IaaS infrastructure make it extremely difficult for security engineers to both manage and secure workloads, especially while balancing performance and availability. Automation plays a vital role for enterprises that use multi-cloud environments, and security needs to be an enabler for all the benefits associated with this new digital architecture. This means that an effective security solution needs to have the ability to secure cloud-first applications regardless of their location. CWPPs that are platform agnostic in terms of operating systems and hypervisors, while also having native integration with them, can help increase visibility across infrastructures by instantly identifying and securing newly generated production workloads. This approach can help reduce the risk of being exposed to large-scale and automated attacks while also preventing advanced and sophisticated attacks by having visibility across the entire multi-cloud infrastructure.