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21 Jan 2021
Kubernetes vs OpenStack
Recently, containers and Kubernetes have been flouted as replacements for OpenStack or viewed as primary competitors. It is true that many of the use cases overlap, but this does not necessarily mean that one is a replacement for the other. The reality is that they are both capable of working in tandem in order to bring greater value to organizations and better service to consumers. The first step in understanding this conclusion is to have a firm grasp on both what Kubernetes and OpenStack are, what main features they present to users, how they compare and contrast, and how they can ultimately work together.What is Kubernetes?Kubernetes is an open-source cloud platform to manage containerized workloads and services. Containerization is an alternative or companion to virtualization. It involves encapsulating or packaging up software code so that it can run smoothly on any infrastructure. This provides developers with the ability to create and deploy applications faster and more securely. A useful analogy is to think of Kubernetes as a sort of digital conductor. Kubernetes coordinates multiple microservices which, when put together, forms one useful application. Similar to a conductor coordinating the timing of instruments in an orchestra.Kubernetes is also designed to swap all of its components, thus making it ideal for multiple clouds. Developers usually prefer Kubernetes as it is simple and easily accessible. It operates with a straightforward model and is arguably the most popular tool employed to get the most value out of containers.Features of KubernetesKubernetes offers a wide array of tools which allow you to customize your environment to fit your needs. Here are a few of the features which are most desired by developers.Health ChecksAnother appealing feature of Kubernetes is its ability to seamlessly perform simple health checks for applications, saving users time and money. This is a huge deal in the lifecycle of any application. Typically, if an application crashed then some unfortunate IT manager was woken up in the middle of the night to restart it. Kubernetes, on the other hand, runs automatic health checks. If an application fails to respond due to running out of memory or just plain locking up then Kubernetes automatically restarts it. Some additional clarification is required here. Kubernetes just checks that the application is running, it does not check whether or not it is running correctly. For that, Kubernetes has other tools to help manage the health of an application.Managing MicroservicesWhen your architecture utilizes microservices those services need to be able to speak to one another. This is no easy feat. Solving for how a variety of services can consistently and efficiently communicate is time consuming and costly. Utilizing Kuberbetes, an engineer can define a service and Kubernetes will determine how to route that request for you. If you define a microservice as a user service then Kubernetes allows anything running in that same namespace to send a request to that service. This makes managing your microservices easier as Kubernetes automates that entire process.Custom ControllersControllers are loops which monitor the active state of clusters and make changes as necessary. Having the ability to customize controllers allows developers to have more intimate control over their environment. For example, with this tool you could reload application configurations whenever you see fit, which provides a simpler way to manage deployments when compared to toolchains. Controllers are a single piece of code while toolchains require knowledge of several different interfaces.What is OpenStack?OpenStack is a set of tools that allow you to both build and manage your cloud computing platforms for public and private clouds. These tools allow users to utilize virtual machines to manage a cloud environment on the fly, spinning up instances as needed. For example, say that you have an application that needs to communicate with a remote server. Utilizing OpenStack, you could divide up the work of communicating with each of your individual users across many additional instances as you gain more users. This sort of scaling is fast and easy to utilize, allowing your cloud environment to grow with your business.Features of OpenStackOpenStack has many features and tools available to users, many of which overlap with what is offered with Kubernetes. Below are a few of the tools which set OpenStack apart and drive users to this service.Open SourceOne of the big draws with OpenStack is that it is an open source software. This means that anyone who wants to can view the source code, make changes to it, and share it back to the community of users. This gives developers all over the world the ability to put thier collective brains together to troubleshoot and improve upon the tools available. This helps to create the best possible product as expert collaboration and peer review are what drive innovation.Web Fronted DashboardOpenStacks dashboard is a modular web app that offers users a clean, graphical interface to all of the services and tools available for use. This ease of use is a huge draw for developers that dont want to spend a lot of time learning a new product. The dashboard can be modified to fit different sites as well.Managing Big DataOpenStack has the means to help companies manage massive amounts of compute, storage, and networking resources. The amount of data that any given organization deals in is only growing exponentially so these kinds of tools are essential moving forward. Managing big data on OpenStack means that your clusters can be provisioned faster and are easier to configure. Plugins are also available to support multiple vendors.Differences Between Kubernetes and OpenStackThe biggest difference between both of these projects is when they were launched. There is a 4 year gap between when they both appeared on the market as OpenStack was launched in 2010 and Kubernetes wasnt released until 2014. This gap in release helps to explain why even though both technologies are similar they strive to achieve different goals. OpenStack positioned itself as an alternative to AWS while Kubernetes positioned itself as a bridge between the big three cloud providers and private datacenters.Kubernetes is, in essence, classified as a container tool where OpenStack is an Open-Source Cloud tool. OpenStack has a much larger user base but not as organized as Kubernetes. Google, slack, and 9GAG use Kubernetes; OpenStack is used by PayPal, HubSpot, and Wikipedia. Kubernetes main function is to manage docker containers and management solutions, whereas OpenStack manages public and private clouds.Kubernetes and OpenStack can easily be used together to simplify the many complexities of OpenStack. Users then benefit as they can use all the services of OpenStack as well as keeping it simple. Researching both Kubernetes and OpenStack is vital before deciding which one suits your needs.ConclusionKubernetes and OpenStack are commonly viewed as competitors but upon closer inspection you can see that they can actually work together rather seamlessly. The reality is that both of these technologies can be combined so that one complements the other. When you combine OpenStack and Kubernetes, it greatly enhances both your scalability and automation.This is made even easier by the fact that it is now possible for Kubernetes to manage applications on Cloud infrastructure made by OpenStack. In addition, OpenStack allows you to run Kubernetes more efficiently, and when combined, they can share computer resources such as networking and storage.Even though they both Kuberbetes and OpenStack can easily be combined, they still compete for users. This is because they both offer solutions to similar problems but their answers lie on different layers of the stack. So, naturally, they each have their own merit and use cases. This is why it is important to research both and decide which technology or combination is best for your organization.
19 Jan 2021
Top 10 Best Practices For Cloud Security In 2021
In the post-COVID-19 era, the digital transformation has accelerated the speed of cloud adoption significantly as more individuals and organizations are migrating to the cloud for better storage and connectivity. This rapid acceleration has turned cybersecurity on its head, as business networks become vulnerable to new threats and security challenges. Threat actors are attracted to the availability of enterprise data and dedicate their resources to studying systems and finding vulnerabilities in an attempt to use poor design to their benefit. In this article, Ill be reviewing some of the main threats facing enterprise cloud customers as well as some of the 10 best practices you can employ to reduce the chances of your organization being the victim of the next big hack.Top Cloud Security Threats To Monitor In 2021Here are some of the ways in which cloud security is threatened by malicious actors on the internet:Access ManagementCybersecurity in the cloud revolves around Identity and Access Management or IAM. This framework of technologies ensures that only the right people in an enterprise have access to that companys information. In addition to identifying and authenticating users these technologies also do the same for the hardware and applications used by an individual. Insufficient access management, crisis management, information campaigns, and complacency on behalf of organizations are the prime reasons for massive data breaches. One such example is the2020 Facebooks data breach that compromised nearly 267 million records.Data LeakageData Leakage is also known as low and slow data theft. Data leaks or thefts happen when an entity accesses or extracts information without authorization. Some data leaks are accidental. For example, an employee may send an email with sensitive date to the wrong recipient. Another common form of data leakage are emails sent with malicious intent. These are more commonly referred to as phishing attacks. By clicking a link or visiting a web address, an employee whos not properly vetting their emails can unwittingly give a hacker access to their computer or network.Advanced Persistent Threats (APT)As the name suggests, APTs utilize sophisticated, continuous, clandestine hacking techniques to gain access to an organizations network and remain there for a long period of time. The ultimate goal is to steal information over a long period of time as opposed to the typical in and out fashion of a less sophisticated attack. Due to the amount of expertise and effort needed to carry out this type of attack, ATPs usually target high value entities such as nations and global enterprises. However, ATPs have begun targeting smaller companies that make up the supply chain of larger corporations in an attempt to gain a foothold in the larger companies network.Top Ten Cloud Security Best Practices to Adopt in 2021Security concerns like the ones discussed above will continue to be threats for businesses as cloud adoption accelerates in the future. Ensuring cloud security should remain a top priority and consulting with an expert is always a good first step. But theres no need to stop there. In addition to expert advice, here are the top ten cloud security best practices that businesses can adopt right now to get the edge over malicious actors.1. Rigorous And Ongoing VAPTIts important that youre aware of whats in your Cloud Service Providers contractual agreement and that you hold them to those standards. They should be providing continuous and stringent Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing (VAPT) using the latest industry-level vulnerability and incident response tools customized to your cloud environment. This knowledge helps strengthen your security posture while minimizing vulnerability simultaneously. This will enhance your preparedness levels and ensure that youre ready for anything.2. Classify DataData breaches and data loss are some of the top cloud security threats plaguing the industry today. Securing cloud data should be the prime objective of business organizations globally. It is essential to identify which data in your organizations requires the maximum amount of protection. Highly-sensitive data requires the most robust security so classifying data depending on its significance to your organization is a good way to allocate resources to core information. It might not be possible to assign equal security standards to all of your data due to limiting factors such as data size and format. Therefore, businesses should invest in data classification software to determine which data requires the highest security levels. This will increase security measures around information most valuable to your organization all while reducing costs.3. Deploy An Identity Access Management (IAM) SolutionInadequate access management solutions also count among the top cloud security threats. Hence, the need to deploy a robust identity and access management solution to prevent unauthorized access is essential. Unauthorized access and account hijacking have been some of the top cloud security threats requiring immediate attention. Organizations can mitigate this security risk by implementing high-quality IAM solutions. It includes role-based permission capabilities and multi-factor authentication. Businesses can add multiple protective layers with user-level data security to ensure that they comply with external and internal security standards.4. Use Of Virtual Private Cloud (VPC)Using public cloud services has its advantages, but one has to contend with severe cybersecurity issues when there is a multi-tenant approach to the public cloud. The ideal cloud security best practices include the use of the services of a virtual private cloud. The advantage of leveraging cloud infrastructure that offers restricted use is that users have complete control. It enables organizations to capture any unauthorized and suspicious activity.5. Implement Endpoint SecurityWhile businesses employ cloud security best practices to protect data on the cloud, one should not ignore the need for using endpoint security. It involves securing end-user devices like PCs, laptops, mobile devices, and applications that corporate networks use to access cloud accounts. Malicious actors can exploit the vulnerabilities in these devices and gain access to the cloud network. Implementing endpoint security extends to stringent policies concerning the BYOD practice where employees use personal devices to modify cloud data. It includes using VPNs when accessing cloud accounts using a public Wi-Fi network.6. Educate, And Train Staff Members On Cloud Security TrendsWhile securing physical assets is of paramount importance, organizations should not forget their core assets, the human workforce. In todays evolving technological setting, businesses depend on their staff members and other personnel to operate their information systems and networks. Therefore, educating and training staff members on current cloud security trends is essential if the organization plans to upgrade its cloud ecosystems safety quotient. The advantage of training employees is that they become competent to identify malicious and suspicious behavior. Many organizations cannot take full advantage of developing cloud technology because they ignore this fundamental aspect of educating staff members. By employing this cloud security best practice, organizations can empower themselves and employees to effectively manage malicious actors.7. Choose Cloud Vendors CarefullyWith more businesses opting to move to the cloud, there is a surfeit of cloud vendors in the industry. Each of them endeavors to provide the best cloud security solutions to their clients. Hence, it becomes a challenge for CISOs to finalize the ideal cloud vendor for their organization. One of the factors for assessing their security capabilities is evaluating compliance levels with information compliance standards. They should adhere to different regulations like HIPAA and GDPR, to name two of them. Businesses can insist on cloud vendors to produce compliance certifications to satisfy compliance audit requirements. Cloud vendors should also ensure 24x7 data and network availability. It is better to choose cloud vendors who conduct regular risk assessments and install timely patches to prevent zero-day attacks. One of the best cloud security practices based on todays cloud security trends is choosing cloud vendors carefully.8. Encrypt All DataIf organizations want to upgrade their cloud infrastructures security quality, encryption of the information is essential. While doing so, one has to ensure that data in motion and rest are both encrypted. This strategy gives you a clear edge over online attackers. The advantage of data encryption is that the encrypted data in cloud storage and the transit path does not allow malicious actors to identify an organizations vulnerabilities. Thus businesses can minimize their susceptibility to security breaches to a substantial degree. No organization should ever ignore this cloud security best practice.9. Conduct Due DiligenceOrganizations should endeavor to provide resiliency, security, and functionality for all systems and applications deployed in the cloud. To ensure it, they should understand the cloud service providers applications and networks. It calls for performing due diligence across all deployed systems and applications lifecycles. It should extend to the cloud migration planning stage to enable the organization to select the ideal service provider. It is also advisable for cloud consumers to use the providers documented best security practices for using the applications. Reviewing and collaborating with the cloud vendor provides insightful information on how to use the systems and applications.10. Protection Against Cloud Phishing And Malware ThreatAs malicious actors invent innovative techniques and methods to infiltrate cloud networks, cloud phishing and malware threats have become the most commonly used attack methods. Therefore, organizations should gear up their cloud security best practices to protect against such threats. One way to minimize the businesss vulnerability is to have a protective layer on the cloud. It can restrict malicious actors and make it challenging for them to exploit the cloud platforms vulnerability. Protecting emails is crucial because phishing attacks primarily happen through emails. When you have protection against cloud phishing and malware threats, you dont have to fret over the security aspect while using emails for communication.Final WordsToday, many business organizations find it inevitable to migrate to the cloud. With more establishments doing so, cloud security threats are increasing as well. Organizations must implement cloud security best practices to thwart malicious actors attempts to access the cloud enterprise network and compromise critical data. Organizations must implement the ten best cloud security practices discussed above to enhance their overall cybersecurity levels. CISOs should include these practices in their cybersecurity policies and educate every employee on cloud security trends to follow them strictly it is especially crucial to secure data integrity and build trust among clients.
15 Jan 2021
Getting to Know: Simple Helix
I had the pleasure of Interviewing Greg Clements, COO at Simple Helix, about the company and its history, product offerings, and future industry trends.[Kyle] Tell me a little bit about the company, history, and your role with the company?Simple Helix was started in 2007 as a web hosting company. We leased Colo space in data centers around the world. In 2013 Simple Helix decided to build a world-class data center. This business strategy would satisfy our web hosting compute needs and open the door to a new business avenue. I was retired and sitting on a beach in Bon Aire. A leader of Simple Helix at the time approached me and asked if I wanted to come out of retirement and build a data center. That was the beginning. Wed meet and talk about what we needed to be successful. We knew the facility required high-security standards for the government contractor industry here in Huntsville, AL. We bought the property in April of 2016 and began construction of the facility in September. Construction was complete in June 2017.After completing the data center, Simple Helix continued to grow in other avenues. We have added managed services, Cloud Compute, Compute on-demand, and DR. Being on the cutting edge of technology is exhilarating. I like to think of myself as the head fireman. I put out fires. A more politically correct title would be COO. The entirety of my focus is on the day to day operations and future growth of the business. One of my greatest joys, working at Simple Helix, is seeing our young talent succeed. I also love squeezing efficiency out of the system. I am always telling my team, we have to be better than our customers highest expectations.[Kyle] What does Simple Helix offer in terms of products and services?The more appropriate question is, what do we not offer. Our slogan is from the keyboard to the cloud. We offer managed services, smart hands for colocation customers, bandwidth, connectivity, DR, and cloud services. We pride ourselves on the customization we can provide for our customers. We will take customers compute systems and design a product to fit their business needs. We are not cookie-cutter because cookie cutter doesnt work in this business.[Kyle] What markets do you offer your services in? Domestically, International, Regional?We are currently offering services domestically with a focus on our backyard The Southeast United States.[Kyle] Tell me a little more about your thoughts on the industry. Wheres it going?As far as colocation goes theres this growing need for power. The power demands for the future are more robust than I forecasted five years ago. Todays technology is smaller and more energy efficient. 1U servers today have 100 times the CPUs onboard. That demand creates four times the power needed for the same size server. We engineered our systems to provide up to 15kW in a single rack. That is on the higher end of the spectrum. Our next design will deliver racks with 100kWof availability. That is equal to the power you use daily for your whole house utilized in a 42U rack. Moores Law says that computing power doubles every two years for the same amount of money. Some claim that Moores Law is dead. I believe that quantum computing will keep Moores Law relevant for the next 55 years. Our industry is always on the cutting edge. Therefore, we at Simple Helix have a choice. We can be on the cutting edge or we can be replaced. My job at Simple Helix is to be on the cutting edge.[Kyle] What trends do you see in the industry? What services are hot?Our managed cloud products are boiling right now. This service allows small companies to utilize the power of the cloud, which is a lot larger compute system than they could purchase on their own. Simple Helix wraps managed cloud with Colo to create redundancy/DR for our customers. We utilize our team of in-house experts to work alongside the customer. Simple Helix designs products to fit their individual needs. When complete, we can even manage it for them. All the redundancy and security smaller companies couldnt afford on their own is now accessible through cloud and colocation.[Kyle] What are the most in-demand markets? Where are you seeing the most activity?Security is driving the market. Jim, the IT director of a school system, cant keep up with the daily security changes like our SOC team can. We are continually revising our procedures to keep up with this ever-changing environment. Jim has one goal. Dont be on the news as a victim of a cyber-attack. Thats where we come in to provide him with the tools and services to remain compliant and competitive. It must still make financial sense for Jims business. Through our facility, we can provide enterprise-level services at an affordable price.[Kyle] Why, Simple Helix? What sets you apart from your peers in the industry?Simple Helix was founded with a different edict. Our focus is on security and reliability. We did not skimp on purchasing high-end equipment for our facility. 2N+1 is not cheap. Our business mindset was different because we wanted to go after high-security, high-reliability customers. To accomplish that goal, Simple Helix must provide the best. As an example, most data centers will use dry pipe fire suppression. Simple Helix uses Novec-1230 Fire suppression systems. Novec-1230 systems emit a gas that attacks the fire at the molecular level instead of spraying water into critical servers full of datalosing the servers and their data. We invest in technology that will preserve these things. Our investors werent interested in building a data center company to sell in 5 years. And they still arent today.
14 Jan 2021
IoT Explained: Solutions, Security Advice, and Real World Applications
What is IoT?The Internet of Things (IoT) is exactly what its name suggests: physical objects, or things, which are fitted with software, sensors, and various other technologies that allow them to connect and exchange information with other objects or systems via the internet. With broadband internet becoming cheaper and more widely available and technology costs continually decreasing, almost anything with an on/off switch can be connected to the internet now. Everything from coffee makers, refrigerators, microwaves, doorbells, trash cans, and wearable devices can now be plugged into the internet to provide real time updates and interactions. This expansion also applies to the individual components of complex machines. For instance, the jet engine of an airplane can be fitted with feedback sensors or the drill of an oil rig. All in an attempt to monitor, in real time, how efficiently those components are operating.IoT SolutionsTheres a lot of buzz currently surrounding IoT, and the term is relatively new, but what it refers to has actually been around for quite some time. Machine-to-machine communication has been around since the 70s and was the foundational principle upon which the internet was built. Whats changed recently is the ease in which you can implement these types of services. An IoT solution can be viewed as any service that offers a seamlessly integrated bundle of technologies that companies can utilize to problem solve and/or create new organizational value. These services will typically involve a wide array of sensors.You can look to the food industry for a common example of IoT solutions solving problems. When storing food, if the temperature of a refrigerator falls below a certain threshold then all the food stored there needs to be thrown out, at a great cost to the business. To ensure that wouldnt happen, restaurants and grocery stores would have employees routinely check the temperature manually and record the results throughout the day by hand. This solution is costly, time consuming, and prone to human error. Using sensors that monitor temperature in real time and send out alerts once temperature falls below a certain threshold is a much more efficient way to solve this problem. Employee time can be spent on more essential duties and the risk of error is greatly reduced. All while the accuracy of mission critical tasks increases while costs decrease.IoT solutions can also boost a companys value in addition to solving core day to day problems. Lets use a car dealership as an example. Throughout any given day, a dealership may have dozens of cars that are being repaired, detailed, or shipped between locations. Thats a lot of assets to keep track of. The dealership could dedicate a person or team to track each asset but that would be just as costly and error prone as the food industry example above. IoT services can make this process more efficient by adding sensors to the cars that track each one through all potential stages (mechanic shop, detailing, shipping, etc.) and sends out alerts once an asset is in one stage for too long. This would identify inefficiencies much quicker and at a greatly reduced cost to the dealership, increasing the value that they bring to potential customers by streamlining their internal processes. These basic examples are useful in understanding what IoT was designed for but the next logical question is, what is the current state of IoT solutions for enterprise businesses?IoT Industrial SolutionsFor the majority of large companies, the ability to accurately predict outcomes can mean the difference between sinking or rising to the top of an industry. By compiling data from a wide array of sensors either on or in machines, machine learning algorithms can learn whats normal for a particular machine and detect when something abnormal is about to occur. These customized platforms can detect the slightest changes and warn businesses of developing malfunctions. This is done in real time with the results displayed in a matter of seconds. Being able to predict when a machine needs repairing translates to millions of dollars saved throughout the course of year for enterprise organizations.IoT Cloud SolutionsCloud computing and IoT are two technologies that will remain intertwined moving forward with one providing the other a platform for success and growth. Once you have a series of internet connected devices that need to communicate with one another the big question is, how will these devices remain interconnected? The answer lies in cloud services. Someone has to compile, manage, and secure all of this data for multiple users to access. In addition to providing infrastructure, cloud computing provides several core value adds for IoT solutions.ScalabilityIoT devices need to store lots of information in order to provide value to users. IoT in the cloud provides customers with a much larger space that can handle additional data per the users demands, immediately alleviating any storage concerns.PerformanceAll the data provided by IoT devices needs increased performance in order to connect and interact with one another. IoT in the cloud provides the connectivity necessary for this to happen at the pace needed to be effective.Pay-as-you-goUtilizing cloud computing infrastructure allows businesses to scale their storage as needed if they choose. Paying for the amount of storage you consume each month as opposed to trying to predict future storage needs is an appealing options for companies looking to cut costs.IoT Security SolutionsJust like any new technology, there are pros and cons that must be considered prior to implementation. The Internet of Things is promoted by manufacturers as a means to make the day to day minutiae that both individuals and companies experience more streamlined and easier to track by connecting devices to the internet. While this is often the case, it also opens up those devices to user privacy and data security issues due to the number of malicious actors on the internet. According to a recent study, nearly half of all companies in the United States that utilize IoT devices were hit by a security breach in 2017. Clearly, there is a growing need to ensure that IoT devices are secure. So what are some of the best ways to address this issue?Gather Information Whenever there is innovation, manufacturers tend to rush their products into the market in an attempt to be ahead of the curve. Before making the decision to implement IoT devices and stake your companys reputation on them, a good first step is to consult with an expert in the field and ensure that you have completed relevant research on the security issues that pertain to your unique IoT solution. That way, youll have all the information you need to make an informed decision on which of the following options may be the best fit for you.Secure Your NetworkThis can be accomplished by implementing traditional endpoint security features. Anti-virus, anti-malware, firewalls, intrusion prevention and detection systems are an essential starting point.Authenticate UsersAn additional step you can take to secure IoT devices is by adding multiple user agreement features. Some examples include two factor authentication, digital certificates, or biometrics. The more strategies you employ, the more secure each device becomes.Data EncryptionUtilizing cryptographic algorithms and fully encrypted key lifecycle management processes is a strong way to prevent IoT data breaches. This gives both the company and end user of an IoT device additional piece of mind that their personal identifiable information is safe and secure.ConclusionWere currently just scratching the surface on what IoT can do for businesses. All of the sensors currently collecting and interpreting data will continue to do so in the coming years, exponentially increasing the amount of raw data available for processing. This massive influx of data will continue to improve machine learning which will create countless opportunities for savvy companies to reap the benefits.In addition to monitoring machines, IoT solutions will continue to improve their ability to monitor us, providing health data on a scale never before seen thanks to the use of wearable biometric devices. Our ability to predict outbreaks of diseases in addition to proactively addressing health issues will become more accurate and refined.IoT solutions are also providing first responders with the information they need to prevent crimes or accidents before they even happen. Data from noise sensors, cameras, and even trash bins can be fed into machine learning algorithms to uncover preconditions for accidents or crimes. Of course, there are privacy concerns about using this data in law enforcement.IoT is worth the hype that its received in the press as of late. Its not just an empty buzzword with no real world applications. Much of the major societal changes weve seen have been driven by technologies that incorporate IoT. This looks to be the norm as we move into the future. Were limited only by our imagination when it comes to what we can accomplish with the use of IoT.