Not all cloud providers are built the same

Eyal Estrin
Cloud Computing
September 8, 2021

Not all cloud providers are built the same

When organizations debate workload migration to the cloud, they begin to realize the number of public cloud alternatives that exist, both U.S hyper-scale cloud providers and several small to medium European and Asian providers.

 

The more we study the differences between the cloud providers (both IaaS/PaaS and SaaS providers), we begin to realize that not all cloud providers are built thesame.

How can we select a mature cloud provider from all the alternatives?

 

Transparency

Mature cloud providers will make sure you don't have to look around their website, to locate their security compliance documents, allow you to download their security controls documentation, such as SOC 2 Type II, CSA Star, CSA Cloud Controls Matrix (CCM), etc.

 

What happens if we wish to evaluate the cloud provider by ourselves?

Will the cloud provider (no matter what cloud service model), allow me to conduct a security assessment (or even a penetration test), to check the effectiveness of his security controls?

Global presence

When evaluating cloud providers, ask yourself the following questions:

1.      Does the cloud provider have a local presence near my customers?

2.      Will I be able to deploy my application in multiple countries around the world?

3.      In case of an outage, willI be able to continue serving my customers from a different location with minimal effort?

 

Scale

Deploying an application for the first time, we might not think about it, but what happens in the peak scenario?

Will the cloud provider allow me to deploy hundreds or even thousands of VM's (or even better, containers), in a short amount of time, for a short period, from the same location?

Will the cloud provider allow me infinite scale to store my data in cloud storage,without having to guess or estimate the storage size?

Multi-tenancy

As customers, we expect our cloud providers to offer us a fully private environment.

We never want to hear about "noisy neighbor" (where one customer is using a lot of resources, which eventually affect other customers), and we never want to hear a provider admits that some or all of the resources (from VMs, database, storage, etc.) are being shared among customers.

Will the cloud provider be able to offer me a commitment to a multi-tenant environment?

Stability

One of the major reasons for migrating to the cloud is the ability to re-architect our services, whether we are still using VMs based on IaaS, databases based on PaaS, or fully managed CRM services based on SaaS.

In all scenarios, we would like to have a stable service with zero downtime.

Will the cloud provider allow me to deploy a service in a redundant architecture, that will survive data center outage or infrastructure availability issues (from authentication services, to compute, storage, or even network infrastructure) and return to business with minimal customer effect?

APIs

In the modern cloud era, everything is based on API (Application programming interface).

Will the cloud provider offer me various APIs?

From deploying an entire production environment in minutes using Infrastructure as Code, to monitoring both performances of our services, cost, and security auditing – everything should be allowed using API, otherwise, it is simply notscale/mature/automated/standard and prone to human mistakes.

Data protection

Encrypting data at transit, using TLS 1.2 is a common standard, but what about encryption at rest?

Will the cloud provider allow me to encrypt a database, object storage, or a simple NFS storage using my encryption keys, inside a secure key management service?

Will the cloud provider allow me to automatically rotate my encryption keys?

What happens if I need to store secrets (credentials, access keys, API keys, etc.)? Will the cloud provider allow me to store my secrets in a secured, managed, and audited location?

In case you are about to store extremely sensitive data (from PII, credit carddetails, healthcare data, or even military secrets), will the cloud provider offer me a solution for confidential computing, where I can store sensitive data, even in memory (or in use)?

Well architected

A mature cloud provider has a vast amount of expertise to share knowledge with you, about how to build an architecture that will be secure, reliable, performance efficient, cost-optimized, and continually improve the processes you have built.

Will the cloud provider offer me rich documentation on how to achieve all the above-mentioned goals, to provide your customers the best experience?

Will the cloud provider offer me an automated solution for deploying an entire application stack within minutes from a large marketplace?

Cost management

The more we broaden our use of the IaaS / PaaS service, the more we realize that almost every service has its price tag.

We might not prepare for this in advance, but once we begin to receive the monthly bill, we begin to see that we pay a lot of money, sometimes for services we don't need, or for an expensive tier of a specific service.

Unlike on-premise, most cloud providers offer us a way to lower the monthly bill or payfor what we consume.

Regarding cost management, ask yourself the following questions:

Will the cloud provider charge me for services when I am not consuming them?

Will the cloud provider offer me detailed reports that will allow me to find outwhat am I paying for?

Will the cloud provider offer me documents and best practices for saving costs?

 

Summary

Answering the above questions with your preferred cloud provider, will allow you to differentiate a mature cloud provider, from the rest of the alternatives, and to assure you that you have made the right choice selecting a cloud provider.

The answers will provide you with confidence, both when working with a single cloud provider, and when taking a step forward and working in a multi-cloud environment.

 

References

Security,Trust, Assurance, and Risk (STAR)
https://cloudsecurityalliance.org/star/

SOC2 - SOC for Service Organizations: Trust Services Criteria
https://www.aicpa.org/interestareas/frc/assuranceadvisoryservices/aicpasoc2report.html

Confidential Computing and the Public Cloud
https://eyal-estrin.medium.com/confidential-computing-and-the-public-cloud-fa4de863df3

Confidential computing: an AWS perspective
https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/confidential-computing-an-aws-perspective/

AWS Well-Architected
https://aws.amazon.com/architecture/well-architected

Azure Well-Architected Framework
https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/architecture/framework/

Google Cloud's Architecture Framework
https://cloud.google.com/architecture/framework

Oracle Architecture Center
https://docs.oracle.com/solutions/

Alibaba Cloud’s Well-Architectured Framework
https://www.alibabacloud.com/architecture/index

 

The original post can be found at:
https://eyal-estrin.medium.com/not-all-cloud-providers-are-built-the-same-3e0df50e866e

Eyal Estrin

Eyal Estrin

Information Security and Cloud Architect, IsraelClouds Analyst, public columnist, #CISSP, #CCSP, #CISM, #CISA, #CCSK

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