I was reading PC Magazine’s recap of Ray Ozzie’s announcement of the Azure cloud computing platform.
The vision of Azure, said Ozzie, is “… three screens and a cloud,” meaning Internet-based data and software that plays equally well on PCs, mobile devices, and TVs.
I am already at a stage where almost everything I want to do on the road I can accomplish with my smartphone. Any heavy lifting on the desktop. I am sure we will quickly reach a point where there is no longer a substantial barrier, and I can perform most tasks (with varying degrees of agility) with whatever device I have handy.
“We’re moving into an era of solutions that are experienced by users across PCs, phones and the Web, and that are delivered from datacenters we refer to as private clouds and public clouds.
But I read this just after combing through the BitLocker specifications, and the dichotomy of the old school model and new cloud vision seemed at odds.
With cloud computing we are going to see data encryption become common. We are going to be pushing data into the cloud, where we do know what security will be provided, and we may not have thoroughly screened the contents prior to moving it. Encryption, especially when the data is stored separately from the keys and encryption engine, is a very good approach to keeping data private and secure. But given the generic nature of the computing infrastructure, the solutions will need to be flexible enough to support many different environments.
Microsoft’s data security solution set includes several ways to encrypt data: BitLocker is available for full drive encryption on laptops and workstations. Windows Mobile Device Manager will manage security on your mobile storage and mobile application data encryption. Exchange can manage email and TLS encryption. SQL Server offers transparent and API-level encryption.
But BitLocker’s architecture seems a little odd when compared to the others, especially in light of the cloud based vision. It has hardware and BIOS requirements to run. BitLocker has different key management, key recovery, and backup interfaces than laptops and other mobile devices and applications. BitLocker’s architecture does not seem like it could be stretched to support other mobile devices. Given that this is a major new launch, something a little more platform-neutral would make sense.
If you are an IT manager, do you care? Is it acceptable to you? Does your device security belong to a different group than platform security? The offerings seem scattered to me. Rich does not see this as an issue, as each solves a specific problem relevant to the device in question and key management is localized. I would love to hear your thoughts on this.
I also learned that there is no current plan for Transparent Database Encryption with SQL Azure. That means developers using SQL Azure who want data encryption will need to take on the burden at the application level. This is fine, provided your key management and encryption engine is not in the cloud. But as this is being geared to use with the Azure application platform, you will probably have that in the cloud as well. Be careful.