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With organizational mindsets opening up to adoption and access to diverse cloud-based applications and infrastructure, data security needs are also changing fast. We are fast moving away from the secure, trusted enterprise data center, to a more unstructured and diverse multicloud environment. Traditional SLAs and security policies are unlikely to be applicable uniformly across all parts of the technology ecosystem. Security in a multicloud environment needs fresh perspective and a different approach from current practices. Here are some of the important things CIOs need to focus on, for multicloud security:

Unified view of cloud resources

One of the key challenges for organizations trying to build better security is the sheer variability and limited visibility of resources across the multicloud environment. While a lot of core infrastructure needs are managed and provisioned centrally (organizations usually have enterprise SLAs with cloud service providers like NTT, AWS and Microsoft Azure), teams and departments are now also becoming more sophisticated in terms of cloud infrastructure provisioning and management.

Enterprise security processes need to manage this multicloud complexity using unified, comprehensive security dashboards that enable them to centrally manage key activities like access control, backups and security policy administration. Well designed cloud management platforms usually enable all the necessary integration and provide centralized security dashboards.

Greater flexibility in security policies

While CIOs and security teams continuously try to bring all security events and risks under a common framework (or policy), the multicloud environment is somewhat more difficult to bring under a common policy/governance mechanism. The challenge is greater in the case of large, globally diversified companies with diverse operations. Typically, different geographies have their own IT teams with different levels of IT usage (internal as well as cloud-based), service providers and SLAs. In a multicloud setup, managing this scenario using a common set of policies is easier said than done.

The ideal way to manage security in a multicloud environment is to use a set of centralized, uniformly defined security policies, along with a large number of broadly defined guidelines that vary depending on the cloud service provider, data privacy needs, type of application, mission criticality, BCP/DR needs, etc.

Prioritizing by workloads, not service providers

Fundamentally, multiclouds are a combination of different types of cloud infrastructure and vendors. Hybridization (combining private and public cloud infrastructure), is therefore, a key aspect of the multicloud environment.

Security mechanisms and policies thus need to align with specific workloads and infrastructure deployments. For example, very important applications and data may require a private cloud (on-premise or virtual) and may involve multiple service providers for compute, storage and network. Peripheral applications like websites and mail exchange servers may use public cloud services from different vendors. Data governance and security policies, in such scenarios, may be defined as per the workload and infrastructure type (private or public) and do not depend on the cloud service provider.

Securing connectors and access points

The relatively decentralized nature of a multicloud environment means that it is likely to grow and evolve continuously. Connectors and access points between in-house enterprise applications with cloud services, and also between various cloud based systems, will keep growing both in number and complexity.

Since a large part of any multicloud environment depends on systems outside the enterprise firewall, there is a significant probability of breaches and vulnerabilities. This makes continuous security testing of all endpoints, perimeter controls and connectors, extremely critical to organizations running in a multicloud environment. Enterprises must ensure that they have the right kind of managed security partner that can provide them continuous and scalable VAPT, encryption, alerts and notification support across all access points. In a dynamic, multicloud environment, organizations also need to increase their ability to proactively identify and prioritize threats, analyze events and devise preventive action plans.

Staying ahead of the security curve

A lot of high volume, transactional processes (e.g. ecommerce, logistics, banking) work on cloud infrastructure, and integrate with other cloud-based applications, which may be on different infrastructure and service providers. As the cloud ecosystem is evolving, there are a number of industry trends which point to decentralization of data and services (the emergence of microservice-based architectures is one example).

Cloud, big data and advanced analytics technology has led to similar decentralization and innovation in the world of security. Blockchain (the fundamental concept behind cryptocurrency) is one such trend. Simply put, it is a consensus-based mechanism that uses a public, decentralized database to validate the accuracy of data. In terms of reducing hardware and infrastructure costs, blockchain is becoming an area of great interest to security professionals in banking, healthcare and logistics. CIOs need to start evaluating technology paradigms like blockchain, that are more suited for high-volume, cloud based transactions and offer extremely high levels of data security.

Finally, many of the security challenges arising out of a multicloud environment are not new. The primary difference now is that organizations need to look at the complete multicloud ecosystem as an integrated piece that needs a uniform set of security policies, processes and tools. To develop consistent, flexible and highly effective security measures across the multicloud enterprise, organizations must have the ability to synchronize their multicloud strategy and their enterprise IT security policy. Often, this could involve aggregating various services such as cloud infrastructure provisioning, access management, hosting, infrastructure monitoring, network management and managed security services under a single service provider. This is where end-to-end cloud service providers (CSPs) like Netmagic are able to help CIOs draw and execute a cohesive, long-term strategy for multicloud deployment, management and security.