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Enterprise computing imperiled by cloudy mobes

Every app an enterprise app

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Enterprise computing practices are under attack by a rapidly advancing army of cloud-hungry mobile devices.

"Applications don't live in one place anymore," is how SAP's head of product architecture and technology strategy Sethu Meenakshisundaram summed up this conflict at a software-centric Intel pow-wow on Thursday morning.

Lincoln Wallen, R&D chief at Dreamworks Animation, made the same point, but in a different way. "We cease to respect the boundaries of a single machine," he said.

With a single machine – or, for that matter, with multiple machines in a tightly controlled data-center-meets-desktop scenario – security, authentication, and device management is relatively straightforward. Data access and distribution can be tightly controlled when the enterprise owns and administers everything.

But business users are increasingly adding their own devices – and their own data – to the mix. "We have seen this trend of consumerization creating some very significant challenges for enterprise IT," Symantec strategist Ken Schneider pointed out.

Gone, he said, are the days of "a nice, well-behaved Windows desktop that just sat there and didn't move around a lot" connected to a data center running enterprise apps and protected by a firewall.

Now workers are roaming about willy-nilly with their tablets, smartphones, netbooks, and laptops, each with its own apps, and each digging into that data center – which itself may be floating around on a service provider's public crowd.

And the state of cloudy services is now what Red Hat's bizdev veep Michael Evans referred to as being "in the goat-rodeo stage of cloud computing. It's madness in terms of the software companies, the service providers, the telcos, the major companies in the world that are all trying to figure out how to be a part of the cloud infrastructure."

Multiple devices and multiple clouds causes multiple problems – for enterprise security in particular. And you need new forms of security to handle the problem. "You don't want to port desktop security to a mobile device. That's exactly the wrong model," Symantec's Schneider says.

The challenge is not mere device security, "It's much more about the broader ecosystem," he says, citing the need to securely control the delivery of device-specific information and applications to specific devices, all with appropriate encryption.

To do this securely, of course, you have to protect more than information. You need to protect and manage users' identities. You want to securely identify the device, but you also want to identify, with foolproof authentication, the person who is using that device.

With many users now having more than one mobile device, new challenges arise. One example that Schneider cited would be a company that had multiple clouds with multiple users each with multiple devices. "Employees have lots of different credentials spread around – and if they leave the company it may take a long time to get that deprovisioned." And who know what havoc could be wreaked by a disgruntled employee during that deprovisioning period.

To solve part of this problem, he said, Symantec is working on a project to establish a security layer that can sit above cloud services and provide unified access credentials for multiple clouds.

From Dreamworks' Wallen's point of view, every app – from smartphone games to business intelligence services – is now an enterprise app, because every app communicates with a back-end, whether it be for a user to load in-game purchases, or for the CFO of that game's developer to check sales stats for those in-game purchases.

And all those communications need to be secure – not an easy feat. "For a single developer that has an idea," Wallen said, "to actually go and build that idea in this way is incredibly daunting."

But Wallen sees a business opportunity in that difficulty, envisioning new middleware and new B2B services cropping up to provide developers with solutions to that "incredibly daunting" challenge.

Red Hat's Evans also sees as many opportunities as their are challenges. "If you're a modern, fleet-of-foot company," he said, "these kinds of changes are great."

But then, one would need to be fleet of foot when competing in a goat rodeo. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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