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Cloud storage security concerns dominate at Cloud Expo

Experts at the bi-annual event highlight concerns over cloud security even as cloud use cases grow in size.

NEW YORK -- As pervasive as cloud technology is -- and as persuasive as the arguments are for using it -- the cloud has its limits. Some companies will always have security concerns about storing data in the cloud and certain high-transaction applications will always be better suited for on-premises storage. Those statements were among the bottom-line takeaways delivered at Cloud Expo this week, a three day, bi-annual event focused on cloud technologies, adoption and associated challenges.

At least 25% of workloads will never run on a public cloud, predicted Jeff Katzen, director of cloud practice at CenturyLink, a provider of everything from Internet and TV for homes to enterprise-grade cloud hosting services for global companies.

During his Cloud Expo presentation, Katzen talked about CenturyLink clients whose decisions to implement hybrid cloud projects rest almost exclusively on their desire to control of some of their data, and protect it in very specific ways.

"They want the ability to leverage a public cloud, but they also have very stringent security controls, so they also want dedicated security devices sitting in front of the public cloud platform," Katzen said. The key to utilizing cloud technology for all it's worth is to understand where its value can be applied to your unique architecture, he explained.

"Maybe your app is a legacy client server, or even some bigger apps such as ERP," he said. "Those don't necessarily need to go in the cloud. And that's one of the misconceptions. So if you put the OS in the cloud with all of your apps first, that could be one of the most detrimental things to your environment."

Cloud storage security issues foremost in mind

While Cloud Expo offers several technology tracks, including big data, cloud mobility and enterprise adoption, one theme dominated the show: cloud storage security. It's hard to say precisely how cloud security factors into buying decisions made by IT decision makers who evaluate cloud options. But cloud experts here agreed that even while more customers are willing to put more data in the cloud, security remains a top concern.

In a May Storage magazine survey on cloud technology, security was cited as a cloud storage concern more than any other factor.

In his presentation on cloud security, Denny Heaberlin, senior consultant at Windstream Hosted Solutions, said a recent study his firm commissioned showed the same results: Security was the top cloud migration concern among businesses across all verticals. And, he said, a recent IDC study finds that as many as 60% of companies using the cloud are outsourcing their security.

"Two years ago that wasn't even close to being the case," Heaberlin said. "It was probably in the 20% to 30% range."

Cloud education: calculating risk, making plans

Those security concerns are fueling a shift in how data center managers and IT directors implement cloud storage technology. Today's IT professionals are aware they are at risk, and live in a world where they must plan how they will react -- a reactive rather than proactive approach.

"There's a paradigm shift from 'Let's just build a wall and keep everyone out,' to 'Incidents are going to happen; what's our process, and how quickly can we react to an incident and keep our workloads secure,'" said Justin Criswell, cloud solutions architect at Alert Logic.

Cloud Expo speakers agreed that the Internet of Things (IoT) is contributing to the evolution of the cloud -- and the increasing concerns over cloud storage security.

Randy De Meno, chief technologist at Commvault, said the IoT is quickly forcing the conversation toward data retention. Yes, there's more data than ever before, but more of that data is considered vital, he explained.

"Jet engines are sending real-time data to the home office," De Meno added. "Think about the data airline's responsibility to keep that data and retain it. If anything should happen to the airline, that data has to be retained for a long period of time."

Akana executive vice president Roberto Medrano agreed. "With IoT, [security] becomes even more important," he said. "Everything is out there, so how are you going to secure it?"

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