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Desperately Seeking Cloud Security

07 June 2011

There’s no getting away from it: from the CIO of a global blue chip organisation to the man-in-the-street, the biggest concern about the current trend to cloud computing is security.

This is the opinion of THINK iT Solutions Chief Technology Officer, Louis Botha, who pointed to Apple’s announcement earlier this month (June 2, 2011) of its long-awaited iCloud application as an example.

“While CNN used the launch of iCloud as a reason to explore cloud computing, it focused in the main on security issues with Felicia Taylor asking ‘Will cloud computing make hacking and ID theft easier?’ while Security expert Eddy Willems discussed how cloud computing servers can keep data secure, for example.

“However, research by consultants and organisation such as Gartner, show that it is not just the man-in-the-street who is concerned about the security of the cloud. These surveys list the reservations of chief executives, risk & compliance officers and chief technology officers the world over. For example, the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA), surveyed the actual needs, requirements and expectations of SMEs for cloud computing services.

“Amongst the SMEs surveyed, confidentiality of corporate data was rated as the most important concern with 43 of 64 respondents rating it as a ‘showstopper’. Other frequently identified ‘showstoppers’ were piracy, data and service integrity and data and service availability.

“However, ENISA then went on to compile a document headed Cloud Computing: Benefits, Risks and Recommendations for Information Security, derived from input and comments from a group selected for their expertise in the subject area, including industry, academic and government experts.

“The key conclusion of this paper is that the cloud’s economies of scale and flexibility are both a friend and a foe from a security point of view.

“Yes, the massive concentrations of resources and data present a more attractive target to attackers, but cloud-based defences can be more robust, scalable and cost-effective. A case in point is the cloud ready Data Centre Business Advantage solution from Cisco.

“An architectural framework that delivers tangible business value for networked organisations, the Cisco Data Center Business Advantage framework provides architectural flexibility and openness. In this way, it increases business value through technology innovation, systems excellence, and solution differentiation.”

For its Data Center Business Advantage solutions Cisco integrates Unified Fabric, Unified Computing, and Unified Network Services into an uncomplicated, scalable, and highly secure data center fabric designed to deliver any application to any location -- within the data center, across data centers, or to the cloud to meet changing data center needs with deployment flexibility; increase value with innovation, excellence, and solution differentiation.”

“The Cisco Data Centre Business Advantage has an elegant and efficient design,” he said, “that really scales well – up to 320 blades and 1 000 virtual machines – and guarantees network efficiency at 10GB, but is also ready for the next iteration of 40GB.

The Data Center Business Advantage is founded on delivering business value, providing flexibility and choice with an open ecosystem, and innovating data center services. It can assist companies reduce the total cost of ownership, accelerate business growth and extend the life of current infrastructure by making their data centers more efficient, agile, and resilient.

Other benefits include infrastructure consolidation ensuring more efficient use of data center facilities, gaining operational efficiencies and cost savings through standardisation and asset consolidation, and increasing asset utilisation to increase flexibility and reduce costs.

It also assists boost energy efficiencies by reducing energy costs, extending the working life of capital assets, optimises use of space, power, and cooling infrastructure, and avoids or defers the construction of new facilities.

“There are other benefits to the technology,” added Botha. “On the business continuity front, it reduces the business impact of localised and large footprint disasters, improves technology productivity through enhanced application and data availability, and meets corporate and regulatory compliance needs.

“Then, when it comes to workforce productivity, there’s improved data security and compliance by employees, extended desktop hardware lifecycles and extended business continuity and disaster recovery to enterprise desktops.

“The Cisco Data Center Business Advantage and Cisco Unified Computing have the backing of VMWare, NetApp and Citrix; and addresses all the issues plaguing CTOs because it provides for technology refreshment, consolidation, scalability and security. If the solution your company is looking at doesn’t do all that, you should investigate the Cisco Data Centre Business Advantage as an alternative.”