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Networking changes needed to support the cloud

By Max Burkhalter
September 30, 2011
Cloud computing is an inherently disruptive policy that changes almost every aspect of IT, from how resources are created to how they are transmitted to end users and how they are accessed. As a result, companies need to adjust their network practices in response to the cloud, according to a recent report from the Australian.

The news source explained cloud computing involves taking the IT systems that were once within the bounds of the network and moving them outside to an external source, such as a third-party data center or another cloud delivery format. As a result, the security and management principles used to govern traditional network environments do not always apply when dealing with the cloud.

The report explained most network management and security protocols address keeping data within the network secure. This works well when mission-critical systems are kept within the company's network. However, the cloud often involves accessing mission-critical systems that are stored at an external facility, and bringing that data and content into the network. This creates entirely different security and management requirements that must be addressed to deploy the cloud securely.

Queensland University of Technology emeritus professor Bill Caelli told the news source that business' inability to change the way they handle the network has left them vulnerable, as more cyber criminals are deploying tactics designed specifically to exploit cloud-based systems that are delivered from outside the network.

"If an attacker wishes to attack a company, knowing how to use cloud services, what they do is attack virtual network services upon which that cloud virtual machine depends. You have to have complete trust in the cloud provider, which is increasingly difficult if the cloud provider's servers are spread throughout the world," said Caelli.

While these challenges can be intimidating, Caelli told the news source solutions are already being developed to counteract cybercrime when it targets the cloud. Some solutions work at the service provider level, others involve operational and authentication-related changes.

The one common theme through all of this is that network management principles need to be changed in order to properly secure and handle the cloud. Infrastructure changes may also be required. Many experts agree organizations need to upgrade their networks with optimization appliances and other advanced equipment to handle the growing amount of data sent through the network when cloud computing plans are put in place.


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