The cloud changes everything for security, especially for organizations accustomed to protecting physical devices. Physical security is evolving to include the influx of mobile and the Internet of Things (IoT) machines. Organizations can build upon their history of assigning unique machine identities to assets like laptops and servers in order to manage and secure mobile and IoT devices and applications. The same cannot be said about organizations' engagement with the cloud.
The cloud offers companies speed, better manageability, reduced maintenance, and improved agility to adjust to ever-evolving business needs. But, the cloud also introduces a new slew of virtual machines that are fundamentally different from physical devices. The average lifecycle of these cloud-based assets is just over three weeks as opposed to 3-5 years for physical machines. This means that the number of cloud machine identities that need to be issued and installed, and later decommissioned, is growing at an extraordinary rate.
Even more importantly, cloud-based resources are oftentimes responsible for creating, updating, and destroying other virtual machines, which makes increasingly difficult to assign a machine identity to every virtual network asset and monitor those identities. In this environment, protecting communication to, from, and within the cloud becomes much more complex. Without secure machine identities, it’s simply not possible to keep cloud communication protected and private.
The challenge of securing machine identities in the cloud won't be going away anytime soon. If anything, it'll grow in complexity over the coming years as organizations increasingly move their IT processing infrastructure to the cloud. Indeed, Gartner forecaststhat cloud data centers will process 92 percent of workloads by 2020. Supporting that expansion, it's estimatedthat public cloud spending will grow nearly seven times faster than traditional IT spending. And Cisco's Global Cloud Index is predictingthat cloud workloads will more than triple in the next few years.
It's important that organizations be able to identify, authenticate, and secure all machines—both physical and virtual—as well as their communication with other machines across the IT environment. However, with the projected growth of the cloud and the corresponding rise of machine-to-machine communication across different network layers, organizations can't hope to manage this process manually. Their only hope is to automate the process of identifying, automating, and remediating the identities of their machines.
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