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Active Directory Integration Now Available for Stronger Cloud Security

Security concerns about the public cloud have always been a top priority

Security concerns about the public cloud have always been a top priority here at CloudSwitch. Moving to the public cloud is fraught with potential risks and security managers have legitimate concerns about data integrity, an opaque security model in the cloud and unauthorized access by cloud administrators.  The question is: how can you protect information in a shared multi-tenant environment just as you would within the secure confines of your data center?  With that question in mind, I thought it would be useful to review CloudSwitch’s security model while also discussing an exciting new feature we’ve just released: integration with Microsoft Active Directory (AD) 2003 and 2008.

The CloudSwitch Security Model
Our customers have stringent requirements not only to protect their data in the cloud but also to protect communication paths from the data center to the cloud. CloudSwitch delivers a solution for both by providing full encryption of all data and communications for cloud deployments. From the moment data moves out of the data center to the cloud, it is automatically encrypted at the block level, which means every bit of data on a disk is transparently encrypted so that no unauthorized users can do anything with the data even if they manage to get their hands on it. We also provide a secure, layer-2 tunnel to the cloud so all connections are authenticated and encrypted to prevent data in motion from being exposed or compromised.

Another important and frequently asked question is related to key management. CloudSwitch performs all key management on the CloudSwitch Appliance (CSA) that lives in the data center behind the firewall, and the keys are controlled by the enterprise customer, not by the cloud provider. In a cloud scenario without CloudSwitch in the mix customers need to store their encryption keys within the multi-tenant environment of a cloud provider which creates additional security risks and would never pass muster with security-conscious enterprises.

Finally, for applications to run safely in the public cloud, they need to be isolated from the environment around them at all times.  Our Cloud Isolation Technology™ automatically builds a secure envelope that encompasses customers’ entire cloud deployment, providing a single integrated environment that allows workloads to run in the cloud with the same protection and control available internally. Once data leaves the physical data center it is isolated at all times as an extension of the enterprise’s security perimeter.

CloudSwitch has worked closely with large financial institutions and pharmaceutical companies—some of the most security-sensitive enterprises out there—to complete rigorous security reviews of the product, and our solution passed with flying colors. This is testament to the work that we put into developing our security strategy by collaborating from the very beginning with CSOs at large enterprises that care deeply about such issues. Veracode has also performed a security review of CloudSwitch’s solution and validated that we met or exceeded the security score outlined in Veracode’s methodology for an “A” rating.  We have a comprehensive security story and have now added a critical enterprise capability with an integration point for Microsoft AD.

Active Directory Integration

As our customers embed CloudSwitch software into their daily operations, almost every one has asked us to allow users to log into CloudSwitch using their Active Directory credentials. Customers typically have multiple applications in their data center which leverage AD as a user store and an authentication source – they simply wanted to extend that to users accessing the cloud with CloudSwitch.  In our latest release, we’ve delivered the capability for AD users to authenticate against CloudSwitch (e.g., [email protected] can login to the CSA with his existing AD credentials).

There are a couple of simple steps to enable this integration point. The first requires an administrator for your CSA to define the hostname and port for your primary and backup AD domain controllers. The next step entails mapping an AD user or group to a CloudSwitch role which ties into our Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) model.  We use our RBAC mechanism to define and control different levels of access to the CloudSwitch system for each user. Each object and action in CloudSwitch can be assigned to an access control list so that an administrator can enforce policies for cloud usage, cloud control, and local resource control.

Mapping an AD User or Group to a CloudSwitch Role

AD users and groups

Cloud Access Resource Control

A typical scenario is one where you want specific groups of developers to access CloudSwitch by logging into the CSA with their AD credentials, but to be limited by CloudSwitch’s RBAC model once they’re logged in – for example, you may want a model where developers are only authorized to start, stop and clone a server in the cloud. It is important to note that your AD administrators have complete control over which AD users and groups can access the CSA. This provides an additional layer of security by preventing unauthorized access to the CSA. CloudSwitch will continue to leverage your existing AD security policies (e.g., password policy) to authenticate users.

One final point on the AD integration – if you have applications running in the cloud that need to authenticate back to the AD domain controller those scenarios will work as they always have in the past. This is because CloudSwitch does not make any changes to your applications when migrating to the cloud and maintains connectivity back to the data center. All your existing data center services such as identity management, single sign-on solutions, DNS etc. will continue working as they always did.

We understand that security and data integrity are important considerations for enterprises that are looking to build their hybrid cloud models.  CloudSwitch’s security strategy is a key part of our vision to make the cloud a secure, seamless extension of your data center. It is with this security context in mind that we have integrated with Microsoft AD and we expect to have many more integration points in the near future.

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More Stories By Ellen Rubin

Ellen Rubin is the CEO and co-founder of ClearSky Data, an enterprise storage company that recently raised $27 million in a Series B investment round. She is an experienced entrepreneur with a record in leading strategy, market positioning and go-to- market efforts for fast-growing companies. Most recently, she was co-founder of CloudSwitch, a cloud enablement software company, acquired by Verizon in 2011. Prior to founding CloudSwitch, Ellen was the vice president of marketing at Netezza, where as a member of the early management team, she helped grow the company to more than $130 million in revenues and a successful IPO in 2007. Ellen holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and an undergraduate degree magna cum laude from Harvard University.

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