We’ve been taught to learn from the past. Good advice, unless we’re talking about cloud security. Looking to the past only limits us. The cloud’s benefits – numerous flexible options, scale and elasticity – demand dropping pre-conceptions about security carried over from traditional data centers.

In the cloud, resources can come and go, self-service replaces the work of IT teams, and networks no longer consist of clearly defined perimeters and segments. Despite these fundamental differences, many enterprises still treat security in the cloud exactly as if they would security for (far away) data centers. To repeat the past is to lose out on the present and the benefits of seeing how the cloud can transform your business. When cloud security is done in a way that leverages the best that cloud has to offer, incredible possibilities for security and compliance emerge.

Cloud immutable servers

In the data center, servers are something to be monitored, patched and maintained. In the cloud, servers can be torn down and recreated at will. With this new paradigm in mind, strategies for managing servers for security and compliance can be completely turned on their head. Cloud immutable servers take a step through the looking glass and provide impressive security and efficiency benefits not possible if they were treated like servers of data centers past.

Cloud immutable servers work under the condition that any change to the server is a violation. Any drift, anomaly, or even the presence of an admin account is not tolerated. Used in progressive cloud application designs, cloud immutable servers work in the multitudes. When one server differs from the others, it no longer meets strict use criteria and is dismissed to be immediately replaced by a fresh new server resource. Rather than monitor and net out the differences between approved server changes and malicious, inadvertent, or unplanned ones, simply tear it down and spin up another.

For SaaS companies, the benefits to efficiency and protection that cloud immutable servers provide cannot be matched by traditional data centers.

Don’t let elastic cloud computing snap back

Forcing common data center practices onto the cloud doesn’t make sense, and in many situations, directly conflicts with the core benefits of cloud computing. Ill-fitting solutions abound today and incur friction for cloud security management:

  • Repackaging, stretching and re-launching traditional security solutions into the cloud.If you embrace the cloud, there isn’t any reason to care where your servers are located. Don’t hamstring reachability with a security solution that has to run on an instance in the same region as the workload or specify routing of network traffic through a virtual appliance.
  • Manually applying security policies or generic policies to cloud servers. Security should be a seamless part of the process. Any manual intervention or use of a temporary generic policy meant to be reconciled later is an extra step. There is no need to cram extra steps into a process that should be automated.
  • Excess baggage that weighs down servers. With traditional data centers, the mindset is to buy more compute than you need rather than risk coming up short. Cloud environments, on the other hand, are meant to run extremely efficiently. Anything that sucks up CPU or memory will quickly cut into the bottom line. Amazon Web Services has more than 8,000 price point options. With that many price points, what may seem like small expenditures easily adds up.

Me, Myself and 1000 Immutable Servers

For cloud immutable servers to work, applications must be designed from the ground up to leverage this paradigm. As more companies build in the cloud, this computing model may become more common.

The cloud is allowing enterprises to transform user experience with flexible application architecture and increased use of hybrid cloud environments. Security solutions that hinder this progress and do not align with agile models and will ultimately prove to be too costly in cloud environments. 

With immutable servers, core security functions can be automated so that the work of patching and updating thousands of servers becomes unnecessary. Do it once for the master image and then refresh the server population as needed.  The benefit creates stronger security and compliance, and saves in administration time. 

The cloud presents tremendous opportunity. To fully take advantage of that opportunity requires a new way of thinking about servers and security. Don’t let the traditional data center security of the past keep your organization from the benefits of the opportunities to be had with a true-to-cloud strategy.