Using Kubernetes to Simplify Hybrid and Multi-cloud Security

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Hybrid cloud and multicloud have been trending buzzwords in the IT world for several years. By now, you’ve probably heard all about the benefits of using these cloud architectures.

You’ve likely heard of the challenges too, the chief among which is the difficulty of securing a cloud infrastructure that spans more than one data center or includes multiple vendors’ clouds.

But you may not have heard much discussion of one solution to that security challenge: Kubernetes. By using Kubernetes as the central management tool for hybrid-cloud or multi-cloud environments, organizations gain not just a single place from which to control their environments, but also a single source of truth for security monitoring and vulnerability management.

Keep reading for tips on why Kubernetes is an essential ingredient for solving the security dilemma of hybrid-cloud and multi-cloud infrastructures, and how best to manage security in a Kubernetes-based multi-cloud or hybrid-cloud environment.

What is hybrid cloud and multicloud?

First, though, a quick definition of what we mean by hybrid cloud and multicloud. A hybrid-cloud infrastructure is one that combines public and/or private cloud-based resources with an on-premises data center. Multicloud, meanwhile, refers to an infrastructure that includes multiple public or private clouds.

Some folks would argue that, technically speaking, hybrid cloud is a form of multicloud. But we’re not here to split straws about definitions. The lessons below about Kubernetes and security apply equally well to any type of hybrid-cloud or multi-cloud architecture.

The challenges of more than one cloud

While hybrid cloud and multicloud offer many benefits, including greater agility, they also create an inherent challenge: more clouds mean more complexity for organizations to manage. Tracking all of the services and resources running in multiple clouds (plus on-premises data centers in a hybrid model) means monitoring many more moving parts.

At the same time, more clouds mean a larger potential attack surface for security threats. They create more perimeters, more endpoints and, in most cases, a larger overall footprint that attacks could potentially exploit.

Thus, when you choose a hybrid-cloud or a multi-cloud strategy, not only do you face the challenge of having to manage many more moving parts, but the security threats you face are also amplified, making it extra critical to monitor your sprawling cloud infrastructure.

Simplifying hybrid and multi-cloud security with Kubernetes

Kubernetes offers a solution to both problems — provided it is implemented and secured properly, of course. This is true for several reasons.

Consistency across clouds

The main reason why is that Kubernetes provides consistency across all of your clouds and/or on-premises infrastructures. Using a single set of policies, you can enforce the same configurations across all of your cloud environments, regardless of the underlying services or hardware that each cloud or data center is built with.

Single source of truth

At the same time, Kubernetes offers a single source of truth for monitoring your application deployments across multiple clouds. You can check the status of nodes or applications using a consistent set of commands, no matter which cloud is hosting them.

Open source

It helps, too, that Kubernetes is open source, which mitigates concerns about portability as workloads move from one cloud to another. Most cloud vendors do not go out of their way to make their services easily portable to other clouds, but Kubernetes abstracts workloads away from the underlying cloud to achieve portability.

Reconfigured attack surface

By extension, although securing the underlying clouds is important, a Kubernetes-based architecture shifts much of the attack surface to resources managed by Kubernetes. There, vulnerabilities can be detected and mitigated in a consistent way, regardless of the underlying cloud architecture.

Multiple layers

When it comes to managing vulnerabilities, Kubernetes simplifies the task a bit through its multilayered architecture. A Kubernetes security strategy can be broken down into several distinct layers, such as containers, nodes, and networking. By deploying monitoring and remediation solutions that target each layer, IT teams can more easily ensure that they secure their entire application deployment in a way that is much simpler than attempting to secure a multitude of vendor-specific cloud services running on multiple clouds.

Automated failover

Last but not least, since high availability is baked into Kubernetes, a Kubernetes-based environment is resilient against security threats that would otherwise disrupt a workload’s availability. That is because Kubernetes streamlines the process of migrating workloads to a different cloud (typically, on a different cluster) within a multi-cloud architecture if one cloud is disrupted.

In this respect, Kubernetes is a key tool for actually capitalizing on the high-availability promise of multi-cloud strategies — a promise which is easy to appreciate, but hard to put into practice without using a tool like Kubernetes.

Conclusion

Hybrid-cloud and multi-cloud architectures are inherently more complicated and pose more security challenges than single-cloud or on-premises infrastructures. Yet the challenges can be managed effectively and simply by allowing Kubernetes to serve as the platform that hosts workloads, thereby abstracting them away from the complexity of the underlying infrastructure. Kubernetes may not be the only possible way to manage a hybrid-cloud or multi-cloud environment, but in many respects, it’s one of the only efficient and secure ways  — provided, of course, that you secure Kubernetes itself.

http://www.fixate.io

Chris Tozzi has worked as a journalist and Linux systems administrator. He has particular interests in open source, agile infrastructure and networking. He is Senior Editor of content and a DevOps Analyst at Fixate IO.


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