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The CloudSec Chicken or the DevOps Egg?

I am on a plane headed home after a couple days of business development meetings in Northern California, and I am starting to notice a bit of a chasm in the cloud security world.

Companies, for good reason, tend to be wary of investing in new products and features before they smell customer demand (the dream-build-pray contingent exempted). The winners of the game invest just enough ahead of the curve that they don’t lose out too badly to a competitor, but they don’t pay too much for shiny toys on the shelf. Or they wait and buy a startup.

This is having an interesting inhibiting effect on the security industry, particularly in terms of the cloud. Security companies tend to sell to security buyers. Security buyers, as a group, are not overly informed on the nitty-gritty details of cloud security and operations. So demand from traditional security buying centers is somewhat limited.

Dev and Ops, however, are deep in the muck of cloud. They are the ones tasked with building and maintaining this infrastructure. They buy from different vendors and have different priorities, but are often still tasked with meeting security policy requirements (if they exist). They have the knowledge and tools, and in many cases (such as identity, access, and entitlement management), the implementation ball is in their court.

The result is that Dev and Ops are the ones spending on cloud management tools, many of which include security features. Security vendors aren’t necessarily seeing these deals, and thus the demand. Also, their sales forces are poorly aligned to talk to the right buying centers, in the right language, which inhibits opportunities.

Because they don’t see the opportunity they don’t have the motivation to build solutions. It’s better to cloudwash, spin the marketing brochures, and wait.

My concern is that we see more security functionality being pushed into the DevOps tool sets. Not that I care who is selling and buying as long as the job gets done, but my suspicion is that this is inhibiting at least some of the security development we need, as cloud adoption continues and we start moving into more advanced deployment scenarios.

There are certainly some successes out there, but especially on the public cloud and the programmatic/software defined security side, advancement is lacking (specifically more API support for security automation and orchestration).

There are reasonable odds that both security teams and security vendors will fall behind, and there are some things DevOps simply will not do, which may result in a cloud security gap – as we have seen in application security and other fast-moving areas that broke ‘traditional’ models. It will probably also mean missed opportunities for some security vendors, especially as infrastructure vendors eat their lunch.

This isn’t an easy problem for the vendors to solve – they need to tap into the right buying centers and align sales forces before they will see enough demand – and their tools will need to offer more than pure security, to appeal to the DevOps problem space. The problem is easier for security pros – educate yourself on cloud, understand the technical nuances and differences from traditional infrastructure and operating models, and get engaged with DevOps beyond setting policies that break with operational realities.

Or maybe I’m just bored on an airplane, and spent too much time driving rental cars the past few days.

—Rich

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