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Governance Strategies for Successful Cloud Initiatives

How to create and enforce policies and governance in an automated way, while maintaining cloud computing’s self-service promise

At the top of many IT group's list of concerns lie security, compliance and internal process governance - both in static data centers and in dynamic clouds. Indeed, governance should not be overlooked. And, as they say in many security circles, the best measure of successful security is silence. Although the discussion around governance in the cloud has evolved, many organizations still struggle with questions such as:

  • Which apps should we deploy to public clouds?
  • When and where should cloud environments be encrypted?
  • Who has access to cloud-based applications and infrastructure?
  • Which firewall rules should apply?
  • How do security rules differ from app to app based on the application's lifecycle phase?

At the heart of these questions and concerns is how to manage the security and compliance risks inherit in enterprises and how to build and apply fine-grain cloud controls to manage the deep complexity inherent within cloud environments. In this article, I'll take a look at how to create and enforce policies and governance in an automated way, while maintaining cloud computing's self-service promise.

Create and Enforce Governance Policies
Policy-based governance controls based on an extensible meta-model enable the creation and enforcement of an unlimited range of custom policies, which are critical for large enterprise success and innovation.

A broad range of policy types are needed to properly govern the deployment and management of applications and platforms in the cloud, especially when self-service, on-demand access is provided to business users and development teams. An enterprise-grade cloud governance model should be implemented with policy types that encompass:

  • User and group access
  • Deployment criteria that ensure workloads are deployed properly based on data and sensitivity level, such as geographical constraints or credit card data
  • Orchestration of configuration management controls; the ability to ensure secure and compliant versions of application artifacts, middleware and O/S are deployed across cloud environments and remediating any manual changes

In addition, IT should use policies to enforce security zone compliance, orchestrate host and hypervisor based firewalls, AV, HIDS, virtual networking, data encryption, and other security tools and utilities. All of these controls should be tuned to apply across the various stages of the application lifecycle (i.e., Development, QA, UAT, Production, etc.).

Fulfill the Self-Service Cloud Promise

Self-service and governance may seem at odds, but in the world of cloud computing, they come together to deliver agility with control. While the benefits of self-service are obvious - and the reason many enterprises embrace the cloud to begin with - allowing business users and developers to directly access needed IT resources through a self-service interface, IT resources become more responsive to business needs. As a result, business agility improves and the business as a whole benefits.

Governance exists to balance self-service as it imposes a set of rules for how resources should be accessed, by whom, at what times, in what quantities, and for which purposes. In the same way that traffic rules enable people to use roads to get where they need to go quickly while eliminating accidents, cloud governance seeks to ensure that cloud usage is well ordered so that self-service can happen seamlessly and without manual intervention for the business, ensuring ideal use of resources, compliance with regulatory mandates and, most important, optimal business outcomes.

Ensure Adaptability of Policy Controls
Regulations, industries and business don't stand still. As a result, when creating governance policies, IT must do so in a way that is easily adapted to meet future requirements. An extensible policy framework that allows IT to rapidly customize policies to address a broad range of current and future business needs is required for successful cloud governance. The ability to create and enforce an unlimited range of custom policies is accomplished through a policy engine with an extensible meta model, allowing enterprises to create new attributes that policies can reference to make decisions.

The dynamic nature of cloud computing may appear a hurdle to effective governance, but the reality is that static data centers also present their own, unique security, regulatory and governance challenges. While both can be secure and compliant, at the end of the day, it is about building and enforcing proper controls for the business's various activities. A policy-based security strategy will help enterprises simultaneously meet the promise of self-service cloud computing while providing a fully governed, successful cloud initiative.

More Stories By Eric Pulier

Eric Pulier, CEO at ServiceMesh, Inc. Named one of 30 e-Visionaries by VAR Business, he is a popular public speaker at premier technology conferences around the globe. Pulier is member of Bill Clinton’s Clinton Global Initiative, and is the Executive Director of the Enterprise Leadership Council.

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