Adrian here.

A phone call about Activity Monitoring administrative actions on mainframes, followed by a call on security architectures for new applications in AWS. A call on SAP vulnerability scans, followed by a call on Runtime Application Self-Protection. A call on protecting relational databases against SQL injection, followed by a discussion of relevant values to key security event data for a big data analytics project. Consulting with a firm which releases code every 12 months, and discussing release management with a firm that is moving to two-a-day in a continuous deployment model. This is what my call logs look like.

If you want to see how disruptive technology is changing security, you can just look at my calendar. On any given day I am working at both extremes in security. On one hand we have the old and well-worn security problems; familiar, comfortable and boring. On the other hand we have new security problems, largely part driven by cloud and mobile technologies, and the corresponding side-effects – such as hybrid architectures, distributed identity management, mobile device management, data security for uncontrolled environments, and DevOps. Answers are not rote, problems do not always have well-formed solutions, and crafting responses takes a lot of work. Worse, the answer I gave yesterday may be wrong tomorrow, if the pace of innovation invalidates my answer. This is our new reality.

Some days it makes me dizzy, but I’ve embraced the new, if for no other reason that to avoid being run over by it. It’s challenging as hell, but it’s not boring.

On to this week’s summary:

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Tool of the Week

I decided to take some to and learn about tools more common to clouds other than AWS. I was told Kubernetes was the GCP open source version of Docker, so I though that would be a good place to start. After I spent some time playing with it, I realized what I was initially told was totally wrong! Kubernetes is called a “container manager”, but it’s really focused on setting up services. Docker focuses on addressing app dependencies and packaging; Kubernetes on app orchestration. And it runs anywhere you want – not just GCP and GCE, but in other clouds or on-premise. If you want to compare Kubernetes to something in the Docker universe, it’s closest to Docker Swarm, which tackles some of the management and scalability issues.

Kubernetes has three basic parts: controllers that handle things like replication and pod behaviors; a simple naming system – essentially using key-value pairs – to identify pods; and a services directory for discovery, routing, and load balancing. A pod can be one or more Docker containers, or a standalone application. These three primitives make it pretty easy to stand up code, direct application requests, manage clusters of services, and provide basic load balancing. It’s open source and works across different clouds, so your application should work the same on GCP, Azure, or AWS. It’s not super easy to set up, but it’s not a nightmare either. And it’s incredibly flexible – once set up, you can easily create pods for different services, with entirely different characteristics.

A word of caution: if you’re heavily invested in Docker, you might instead prefer Swarm. Early versions of Kubernetes seemed to have Docker containers in mind, but the current version does not integrate with native Docker tools and APIs, so you have to duct tape some stuff together to get Docker compliant containers. Swarm is compliant with Docker’s APIs and works seamlessly. But don’t be swayed by studies that compare container startup times as a main measure of performance; that is one of the least interesting metrics for comparing container management and orchestration tools. Operating performance, ease of use, and flexibility are all far more important. If you’re not already a Docker shop, check out Kubernetes – its design is well-thought-out and purpose-built to tackle micro-service deployment. And I have not yet had a chance to use Google’s Container Engine, but it is supposed to make setup easier, with a number of supporting services.

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