Securing SAP Clouds [New Series]

Every enterprise uses cloud computing services to some degree – tools such as Gmail, Twitter, and Dropbox are ubiquitous; as are business applications like Salesforce, ServiceNow, and Quickbooks. Cost savings, operational stability, and reduced management effort are all proven advantages. But when we consider moving back-office infrastructure – systems at the heart of business – there is significant angst and uncertainty among IT and security professionals. For big and complex applications like SAP, they wonder if cloud services are a viable option. The problem is that security is not optional, but actually critical. For folks operating in a traditional on-premise environment, it is often unclear how to adapt the security model to an unfamiliar environment where they only have partial control. We have been receiving an increasing number of questions on SAP cloud security, so today we are kicking off a new research effort to address major questions on SAP cloud deployment. We will examine how cloud services are different and how to adapt to produce secure deployments. Out main focus areas will be the division of responsibility between you and your cloud vendor, which tools and approaches are viable, changes to the operational model, and advice for putting together a cloud security program for SAP. Cloud computing infrastructure faces many of the same challenges as traditional on-premise IT. We are past legitimately worrying that the cloud is “less secure”. Properly implemented, cloud services are as secure – in many cases more secure – than on-premise applications. But “proper implementation” is tricky – if you simply “lift and shift” your old model into the cloud, we know from experience that it will be less secure and cost more to operate. To realize the advantages of the cloud you need to leverage its new features and capabilities – which demands a degree of re-engineering for architecture, security program, and process. SAP cloud security is tricky. The main issue is that there is no single model for what an “SAP Cloud” looks like. From many, it’s Hana Enterprise Cloud (HEC), a private cloud within the existing on-premise domain. Customers who don’t modify or extend SAP’s products can leverage SAP’s Software as a Service (SaaS) offering. But a growing number of firms we speak with are moving to SAP’s Hana Cloud Platform (HCP), a Platform as a Service (PaaS) bundle of the core SAP Hana application with data management features. Alternatively, various other cloud services can be bundled or linked to build a cloud plastform for SAP – often including mobile client access ‘enablement’ services and supplementary data management (think big data analytics and data mining). But we find customers do not limit themselves only to SAP software – they blend SAP cloud services with other major IaaS providers, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and Microsoft Azure to create ‘best-of-breed’ solutions. In response, SAP has published widely on its vision for cloud computing architectures, so we won’t cover that in detail here, but they promote hybrid deployments centered around Hana Cloud Platform (HCP) in conjunction with on-premise and/or public IaaS clouds. There is a lot to be said for the flexibility of this model – it enables customers to deploy applications into the cloud environments they are comfortable with, or to choose one optimal for their applications. But this flexibility comes at the price of added complexity, making it more difficult to craft a cohesive security model. So we will focus on the use of the HCP service, discussing security issues around hybrid architectures as appropriate. We will cover the following areas: Division of Responsibility: This post will discuss the division of responsibility between the cloud provider and you, the tenant. We will talk about where the boundary lands in different cloud service models (specifically SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS). We will discuss new obligations (particularly the cloud provider’s responsibilities), the need to investigate which security tools and information they provide, and where you need to fill in the gaps. Patching, configuration, breach analysis, the ability to assess installations, availability of event data, and many other considerations come into play. We will discuss the importance of contracts and service definitions, as well as what to look for when addressing compliance concerns. We will briefly address issues of jurisdiction and data privacy when considering where to deploy SAP servers and failover systems. Cloud Architectures and Security Models: SAP’s cloud service offers many feature which are similar to their on-premise offerings. But cloud deployments disrupt traditional security controls, and reliance on old-school network scanning and monitoring no longer works in multi-tenant environments on virtual networks. So this post will discuss how to evolve your approach for security, particularly in application architecture and the security selection process. We will cover the major areas you need to address when mapping your security controls to cloud-enabled security technologies. We will explore some issues with current preventive security controls, cluster configuration, and logging. Application Security: Cloud deployments free us of many burdens of patching, server maintenance, and physical network segregation. But we are still responsible for many application-layer security controls – including SAP applications, your application code, and supporting databases. And many cloud vendor services impact application configuration. This post will discuss preventive security controls in areas such as configuration, assessment, and identity management; as well as how to approach patch management. We will also discuss real-time security in monitoring, data security, logging, and analytics. And we will discuss security controls missing from SAP cloud services. Security Operations in Cloud Environments: The cloud fundamentally changes IT operations, for the better. Traditional concepts of how to provide reliability and security are turned on their ear in cloud environments. Most IT and security personnel don’t fully grasp the challenges – or opportunities. This post will present the advantages of ephemeral servers, automation, virtual networks, API enablement, and fine-grained authorization. We will discuss automation and orchestration of security tasks through APIs and scripts, how to make patching less painful, and how to deploy security as part of your application

Read Post

Totally Transparent Research is the embodiment of how we work at Securosis. It’s our core operating philosophy, our research policy, and a specific process. We initially developed it to help maintain objectivity while producing licensed research, but its benefits extend to all aspects of our business.

Going beyond Open Source Research, and a far cry from the traditional syndicated research model, we think it’s the best way to produce independent, objective, quality research.

Here’s how it works:

  • Content is developed ‘live’ on the blog. Primary research is generally released in pieces, as a series of posts, so we can digest and integrate feedback, making the end results much stronger than traditional “ivory tower” research.
  • Comments are enabled for posts. All comments are kept except for spam, personal insults of a clearly inflammatory nature, and completely off-topic content that distracts from the discussion. We welcome comments critical of the work, even if somewhat insulting to the authors. Really.
  • Anyone can comment, and no registration is required. Vendors or consultants with a relevant product or offering must properly identify themselves. While their comments won’t be deleted, the writer/moderator will “call out”, identify, and possibly ridicule vendors who fail to do so.
  • Vendors considering licensing the content are welcome to provide feedback, but it must be posted in the comments - just like everyone else. There is no back channel influence on the research findings or posts.
    Analysts must reply to comments and defend the research position, or agree to modify the content.
  • At the end of the post series, the analyst compiles the posts into a paper, presentation, or other delivery vehicle. Public comments/input factors into the research, where appropriate.
  • If the research is distributed as a paper, significant commenters/contributors are acknowledged in the opening of the report. If they did not post their real names, handles used for comments are listed. Commenters do not retain any rights to the report, but their contributions will be recognized.
  • All primary research will be released under a Creative Commons license. The current license is Non-Commercial, Attribution. The analyst, at their discretion, may add a Derivative Works or Share Alike condition.
  • Securosis primary research does not discuss specific vendors or specific products/offerings, unless used to provide context, contrast or to make a point (which is very very rare).
    Although quotes from published primary research (and published primary research only) may be used in press releases, said quotes may never mention a specific vendor, even if the vendor is mentioned in the source report. Securosis must approve any quote to appear in any vendor marketing collateral.
  • Final primary research will be posted on the blog with open comments.
  • Research will be updated periodically to reflect market realities, based on the discretion of the primary analyst. Updated research will be dated and given a version number.
    For research that cannot be developed using this model, such as complex principles or models that are unsuited for a series of blog posts, the content will be chunked up and posted at or before release of the paper to solicit public feedback, and provide an open venue for comments and criticisms.
  • In rare cases Securosis may write papers outside of the primary research agenda, but only if the end result can be non-biased and valuable to the user community to supplement industry-wide efforts or advances. A “Radically Transparent Research” process will be followed in developing these papers, where absolutely all materials are public at all stages of development, including communications (email, call notes).
    Only the free primary research released on our site can be licensed. We will not accept licensing fees on research we charge users to access.
  • All licensed research will be clearly labeled with the licensees. No licensed research will be released without indicating the sources of licensing fees. Again, there will be no back channel influence. We’re open and transparent about our revenue sources.

In essence, we develop all of our research out in the open, and not only seek public comments, but keep those comments indefinitely as a record of the research creation process. If you believe we are biased or not doing our homework, you can call us out on it and it will be there in the record. Our philosophy involves cracking open the research process, and using our readers to eliminate bias and enhance the quality of the work.

On the back end, here’s how we handle this approach with licensees:

  • Licensees may propose paper topics. The topic may be accepted if it is consistent with the Securosis research agenda and goals, but only if it can be covered without bias and will be valuable to the end user community.
  • Analysts produce research according to their own research agendas, and may offer licensing under the same objectivity requirements.
  • The potential licensee will be provided an outline of our research positions and the potential research product so they can determine if it is likely to meet their objectives.
  • Once the licensee agrees, development of the primary research content begins, following the Totally Transparent Research process as outlined above. At this point, there is no money exchanged.
  • Upon completion of the paper, the licensee will receive a release candidate to determine whether the final result still meets their needs.
  • If the content does not meet their needs, the licensee is not required to pay, and the research will be released without licensing or with alternate licensees.
  • Licensees may host and reuse the content for the length of the license (typically one year). This includes placing the content behind a registration process, posting on white paper networks, or translation into other languages. The research will always be hosted at Securosis for free without registration.

Here is the language we currently place in our research project agreements:

Content will be created independently of LICENSEE with no obligations for payment. Once content is complete, LICENSEE will have a 3 day review period to determine if the content meets corporate objectives. If the content is unsuitable, LICENSEE will not be obligated for any payment and Securosis is free to distribute the whitepaper without branding or with alternate licensees, and will not complete any associated webcasts for the declining LICENSEE. Content licensing, webcasts and payment are contingent on the content being acceptable to LICENSEE. This maintains objectivity while limiting the risk to LICENSEE. Securosis maintains all rights to the content and to include Securosis branding in addition to any licensee branding.

Even this process itself is open to criticism. If you have questions or comments, you can email us or comment on the blog.