I was attending a cloud related business lunch in the Dallas area today with an expert panel talking about cloud security. It was interesting to hear them talk for an hour about cloud, without actually defining ”cloud”. Everyone who reads this blog knows that cloud can mean many different things, based on the situation.
At one point in the discussion they touched on the topic of private cloud was vs. public cloud -- that was as close as they came to defining cloud. It was clear that most of the panel was focused on IaaS.
The real focus of discussion was cloud security. There was quite a bit of discussion about the requirements the companies (healthcare and financial) were going to place on the vendors. After the meeting, I went up to one of the panel members to ask how they thought that would work. To me, it seemed like more of a self-selection issue on the vendor side, where the buyer needs to understand what they want and use that to select the provider. If the provider does not deliver it, they need a different provider or different criteria.
The likelihood that the low cost IaaS provider with the “click to accept” service level agreement will conform to an organization's unique requirements is pretty slim. The chances high visibility performers (MS, Google…) will conform to their unique requirements are even slimmer. Yet, the panel was talking about this issue like it was a custom outsourcing deal. Clearly there is much to be learned here.
Another item I talked with a panel member about after the session is the issue that no company stands alone. They are an ecosystem of partners, vendors… So I asked him: “Are you going to hold your partners use of cloud to the same standards that you use?” After all, the partner is using your data (and you are using theirs). That was one of those questions that elicit the “that’s a good question” response. It is clearly a more complex issue than most people perceive from their “me against the world” perch.
We did have an interesting discussion about what happens to an organization's cloud environment when a cloud provider runs into financial trouble and shuts down, or encounters legal issues when a government at the hosted location doesn't like the behavior of some other user on the same cloud environment and shuts the entire service down. These considerations should also be considered when architecting and contracting solutions.
Security is at least as much about the architecture of the system as it is the suppliers that are used.