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Why Automation is the Key to Protecting Cloud Workloads

Today’s cloud workloads are bigger and more dynamic than ever, and almost every company uses them in some form. Whether your company operates in a public, private, or hybrid cloud (or any permutation of these options), securing cloud-based services or applications requires an understanding of what’s running in the cloud, when, and who or what is communicating with each workload. To accomplish the who, what, where, and when means that organizations first must collect and analyze relevant data from within each environment about network communications, operating system configurations, and software inventory. That said, wrapping one’s head around the profusion of data that’s processed in a cloud environment in any given hour (much less week or month) is simply not possible without automation. Or more specifically: cloud workload protection, a category quickly becoming a go-to among security practitioners.

Taking a quick step back for a moment, security practitioners have long been wary of releasing control over sensitive assets to other organizations’ infrastructure. Today, with so many critical applications and services running in cloud environments, cloud security governance is even more complex and time consuming (N.B. outsourcing does not mean wholesale offloading). Automation, for its part, is nothing new to security (or IT in general), but when it comes to automation in the cloud, many companies are not entirely sure how to go about the business of automating outside their on-premises environment or how or where cloud workload protection fits into their technology stack. Plenty of traditional security automation tools exist but they don’t necessarily adapt well to highly dynamic environments. When a company operates a hybrid cloud, managing multiple sets of tools—one thing that’s good for the cloud and another for the internal data center—adds maintenance overhead, which most companies can’t afford.

Cobbling together solutions has thus become the norm while the pace of software and application development and deployment accelerates; leaving security out of the equation is simply too potentially hazardous to risk, and retrofitting non-native security tools to cloud is iffy. Yet, companies need a reliable way to continuously scan their cloud environments for the emergence of new apps and services, communicating workloads, updates, and any other changes that would leave the organization vulnerable if an adversary were to find their way into the cloud undetected. Enter: cloud workload protection.

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You can’t protect what you can’t see

This probably seems obvious but it’s worth reiterating: If the organization is unaware of the presence of software, services, or even entire workloads, there is little to no chance of securing them. Rapid development and deployment cycles result in the need for ongoing automation…if the organization wants to apply security. Because new deployments and changes, themselves, are continuous, visibility must be too. Automation provides the real-time visibility that enables:

  • Fast and accurate asset discovery and the elimination of network “blind spots”
  • Quicker incident and issue response
  • Accelerated decision making
  • Visualization of security risks across environments

Remaining agile in an Agile world

Security is not known for its ability to respond or innovate on a dime, but automating asset discovery and change in the cloud is one of the best ways security can stay on top of what’s present and what needs protecting. Given the volume of processes in any company’s cloud, without automation the time and accuracy of manual or even manually-correlated discovery is too high and introduces too many risks.

Keep it simple, stupid

The KISS principle is always sound advice. And in the case of network security and protecting cloud workloads, using an automated cloud workload protection tool that will scale across both bare metal and multi-cloud environments will significantly reduce security complexity. A tool that will automate across any environment means the organization maintains one set of security policies that travels with the workload, wherever it is running. Policy management, which is often a huge nightmare for IT and security teams using traditional tools, becomes streamlined, allowing for easier administration and faster response times.

Cost savings

Suffice it to say, throwing more, expensive technology onto a problem doesn’t always solve the problem. And when security is asking for additional budget for the acquisition of tools that will do in the cloud what’s being done on premises, CFOs get suspicious. Because imported tools aren’t as effective in the cloud as cloud-native tools—and cloud-native tools can often scale to on-premises environments—sunsetting traditional tools and adding cloud workload protection for automation cross the board results is lower costs (not to mention lower governance requirements: one tool to manage rather than multiple tools).

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Katherine Teitler, Director of Content

Written by Katherine Teitler, Director of Content

Katherine Teitler leads content strategy and development for Edgewise Networks. In her role as Director of Content she is a storyteller; a translator; and liaison between sales, marketing, and the customer. Prior to Edgewise, Katherine was the Director of Content for MISTI, a global training and events company, where she was in charge of digital content strategy and programming for the company's cybersecurity events, and the Director of Content at IANS, where she built, managed, and contributed to the company's research portal.