Make the cloud fit like a nice suit
- By Mark Rockwell
- May 05, 2015
Buying the wrong cloud services is akin to buying a suit that doesn't fit, with one significant difference: If your sleeves are too long, nobody is going to hack your Brooks Brothers and steal all your secrets.
Federal IT managers "come to me and ask if they can get a 10-page form that shows their acquisition people how to buy cloud services," Michaela Iorga, senior security technical lead for cloud computing at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Such a document, she said, is not only impossible to produce, but probably of questionable value both operationally and security-wise.
"You should do your homework on your system," said Iorga, who was speaking at the Cloud Security Alliance Federal Forum on May 5 in Washington, D.C.
It might have been possible, in pre-cloud days, to buy information technology and then worry about imposing security on your new system.
Not any more.
Now, Iorga said, IT managers must approach buying cloud solutions much like buying that suit, paying careful attention to detail and making sure it's a perfect fit for the task at hand. And, of course, it's also important to employ the right tailor, which in IT terms means getting guidance from NIST and the General Services Administration's FedRAMP cloud services standardization and monitoring program.
After doing all the homework, she said, "then read carefully the FedRAMP documentation. ... There's a reason it's called a 'provisional ATO.'" Iorga was referring to FedRAMP's authority to operate, because FedRAMP's more rigorous Joint Authorization Board can't accept risk on the agency's behalf without further testing.
Doing the process right means employing a team of people, including IT staff and senior management within the agency that is moving to adopt cloud services, as well as bringing in outside help.
NIST researchers wrote the most recognized definition of cloud computing. In 2014, the agency published its first volume of the U.S. Government Cloud Computing Technology Roadmap, "High-Priority Requirements to Further USG Agency Cloud Computing Adoption." It is now honing documents on other cloud specifics, said Iorga, including service level agreements and security metrics.
Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.
Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.
Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.
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