1 (866) 866-2320 Straight Talks Events Blog

Redefining Control: Conquering Cloud Configuration Complexity


Redefining Control: Conquering Cloud Configuration Complexity


This content is brought to you by Evolven. Evolven Change Analytics is a unique AIOps solution that tracks and analyzes all actual changes carried out in the enterprise cloud environment. Evolven helps leading enterprises cut the number of incidents, slash troubleshoot time, and eliminate unauthorized changes. Learn more

Go to the Cloud they said.  It makes things faster, better, cheaper, they said.  Does it? 

Well, it depends on your perspective. According to Uptime’s 2022 Data Center Resiliency Survey, “networking-related problems have been the single biggest cause of all IT service downtime incidents – regardless of severity – over the past three years. In fact, outages attributed to software, network, and systems issues are on the rise due to complexities introduced by the increased use of cloud technologies, software-defined architectures, and hybrid, distributed architectures.”

Nevertheless, the transition to cloud and digital transformation is in full swing in response to increased competition, budgetary pressure, technological innovation, and the desire to provide a superior user experience.  The reality is that the cloud presents a shared risk and responsibility model that is different from traditional IT infrastructure. Security in the cloud is increasingly, and practically solely, a matter of configuration; and this reliance on configuration makes cloud environments more susceptible to misconfigurations – which according to Forrester Research, are the cause of nearly all successful cyber-attacks on cloud services. So, although Cloud and digital transformation can certainly make for a more agile environment, they can also make things more – let’s say - interesting - for IT.

So why are cloud configurations more challenging to manage?  Here are 6 top reasons that your teams are feeling the pressure when it comes to configuration in your cloud environments:

  1. The Dynamic Nature of Cloud: Cloud environments are highly dynamic, with resources being provisioned and de-provisioned on demand as a means to save costs and meet demand. This can make it challenging to maintain an accurate inventory of the working assets,  the current state of the environment, the resources and settings in use, and to manage configuration changes. IT needs to maintain a comprehensive view of the environment to ensure that it is configured correctly and securely. Because as the old cybersecurity saying goes, “You can’t protect what you don’t know about.” This includes not only virtual machines and containers but also other cloud services such as databases, load balancers, storage buckets, and more.

    IT will need to have robust processes and procedures in place for managing configuration changes, including version control, testing, and approval workflows. Unfortunately, even with this in place, misconfigurations can, and likely will, still occur due to the reasons below.

  2. The Complexity of Cloud:  With many different types of resources, from many different vendors - including virtual machines, containers, and additional serverless functions - complex cloud environments require that each resource has its own unique configuration settings. These can be very difficult to manage at scale.  One of the hardest things about this complexity is the difficulty in maintaining a comprehensive understanding of the impact of each change on each component of the entire stack’s service delivery.

    In fact, these services can be offered by different cloud providers and can be interconnected with on-premises data centers and various “edge” locations involving customers, partners, and different service providers. Understanding how all the different services and resources work together and how changes in one area might impact other areas of the environment or other departments, is quite a head-scratcher.  This complexity, and shared responsibility and risk,  make it difficult to ensure that all components are configured correctly and securely, which is why all of this can easily lead to vulnerabilities and potential security breaches.

  3. A Shared Responsibility and Risk Model: With the cloud also comes a new model. The cloud providers and their customers share responsibility for security and configuration management. No longer is IT the sole master of their domain. This can lead to confusion about who is responsible for which aspects of the environment and can result in gaps in security and compliance.

    In a typical shared responsibility model, the cloud provider is responsible for securing the underlying infrastructure and the customer is responsible for securing the applications, data, and configurations that run on top of that infrastructure. The exact division of responsibilities can vary depending on the specific cloud provider and the services being used. Although there is no question that this model can cause confusion and ambiguity, leading to misconfigurations and gaps, it is up to IT to ensure that the configuration of the cloud environment is aligned with  organizational and regulatory policies and standards.

    This requires effective communication, collaboration, and coordination between IT and all cloud providers as well as any 3rd party stakeholders.

  4. Lack of Visibility: In a recent study by the Cloud Security Alliance, 60% of the organizations participating in the research pointed to insufficient visibility into security and compliance gaps as their top challenge to maintaining security and compliance. And because cloud environments are highly dynamic and elastic environments, with resources frequently spinning up and down, keeping track of them for visibility is a multi-billion dollar challenge. Resources are also often distributed across multiple regions and availability zones, so it can be difficult to obtain a comprehensive view of the current state of these environments. Understanding which resources are currently in use, how they are configured, and who has access to them is, however, paramount to ensuring a properly configured environment. 

    In addition, many regulations and standards require organizations to maintain a complete and accurate inventory of their assets, changes to configurations, and to monitor for security incidents. In the cloud environment, it can be difficult to maintain a complete inventory of resources, track configuration changes, and monitor appropriately.

  5. Human Error: Configuration errors, or misconfigurations, are often caused by human error. In fact, the risk of human error only increases when it comes to the configuration of security settings, configured firewalls, or access controls in a cloud environment, where resources are provisioned and managed through APIs and web interfaces. And, Gartner predicts that through 2025, “more than 99% of cloud breaches will be traced back to preventable misconfigurations or mistakes by end users”.

    Those are lofty numbers. 

    Cloud environments are designed to be highly automated and rapidly scalable, which means that changes and updates can be deployed quickly and easily. This also means that mistakes can have a much broader impact than they would in a traditional on-premises environment. Human errors in this environment can include misconfigurations, incorrect permissions, or accidental deletion of critical resources, and can result in security breaches, data loss, service outages, and other serious issues.

    And it isn’t just about having policies and procedures. According to Uptime’s 2022 Data Center Resiliency Survey, an “overwhelming majority of human error-related outages involve ignored or inadequate procedures. Nearly 40% of organizations have suffered a major outage caused by human error over the past three years. Of these incidents, 85% stem from staff failing to follow procedures or from flaws in the processes and procedures themselves.”

  6. Rapidly Changing Technology: Cloud is equated with agility. Unlike traditional infrastructures, the cloud requires continuous education and evaluations of the most effective approaches for managing the environment. The rapid pace of technological change in the cloud means that new services and features are constantly being introduced, making it difficult to keep up with the latest best practices and configurations.

    Additionally, it’s not difficult to start seeing the ways artificial intelligence and digital twins could start rapidly changing the landscape of digital security. And while you may be familiar with generative AI for text, speech, and images, at Evolven we’ve been applying AI to the problems in cloud configuration for over a decade. But what happens when AI and the increased use of automation and orchestration tools in the cloud means that configuration changes can be made more easily and quickly - perhaps with minimal human intervention? There is the possibility that  misconfigurations or errors can propagate more quickly, therefore having a greater impact on the overall infrastructure.

Overall, the complexity of cloud environments requires IT departments to have a strategic and holistic approach to managing the environment. This includes investing in specialized skills and expertise, adopting best practices for configuration management, security, and compliance, and staying up to date with the latest developments in cloud technology.

The dynamic nature of the cloud also requires that IT departments be more agile and flexible in their approach to configuration risk and responsibilities for it. Processes need to be in place to manage rapid changes, evaluate their risk, and maintain visibility into the end-to-end environment to ensure that security and compliance requirements are met.

By understanding these factors, IT departments can better anticipate and manage the configuration pitfalls associated with cloud environments. By taking a more proactive and comprehensive approach to configuration risk associated with the cloud you may want to consider regular risk assessments, reviewing and updating configuration policies and procedures, leveraging automation tools to streamline the configuration process, and conducting regular audits to ensure that configurations are consistent and up to date across the entire infrastructure. Additionally, implement security controls and monitoring tools to help detect and respond to misconfigurations or security vulnerabilities more quickly and effectively.

With proper planning, implementation, and monitoring, you can manage these areas effectively, and ensure that any cloud deployment can be a secure and reliable platform for your IT infrastructure.

How Does Evolven Help

Evolven Configuration Risk Intelligence provides a “single pane of glass” to all configurations across your hybrid, end—to—end environment - in granular detail - removing blind spots and enabling Dev, Sec, and Ops teams with full configuration awareness – and more.  This is the critical first step in preventing undesirable consequences such as downtime, outages, exposures, non-compliance, and stability-impacting issues resulting from misconfigurations.

The practitioners of Dev, Sec, and Ops all use different tools, with different perspectives.  However, they share configuration risks.  This single risk-based view is required for effective DevSecOps convergence now promoted by cloud environments. No more technology or departmental silos that slow down incident response. And better yet – Evolven can tell you BEFORE a mistake turns into an incident.

To find out more about how Evolven utilizes its patented AI technology to detect, predict and isolate risk based on configuration changes across your hybrid environment, contact us today.

Never go another moment without a full understanding of your configuration state!

About the Author
Kristi Perdue
Vice President of Marketing