Industry Trends

Multi-cloud Security: 3 Pressing Challenges You Must Address

By Vince Hwang | March 25, 2021

Today, most enterprises have moved beyond a “one cloud fits all” approach and are using more than one cloud to overcome multi-cloud security challenges, such as disaster recovery, data backup, application resiliency, and global coverage. 

In fact, according to the Flexera 2020 State of the Cloud Report, “93 percent of enterprises have a multi-cloud strategy” while “87 percent have a hybrid cloud strategy.” On average, enterprises use 2.2 public and 2.2 private clouds, and cloud adoption is continuing to accelerate. 

However, while this expanded environment of cloud providers imparts benefits like added capabilities and enhanced flexibility, there is one significant drawback. More cloud environments means a bigger attack surface – and a single slip-up in your cloud’s security configurations can have far-reaching negative effects.

What is Multi-cloud Security?

Let’s start by defining what a multi-cloud environment is. Multi-cloud strategies allow organizations to use a mixture of public and private cloud providers to support their business goals. So, an enterprise may host certain workloads on Azure, and others on AWS. This helps give organizations more flexibility when it comes to cost and performance while helping them enjoy the best offerings from each vendor.

With that said, expanding your cloud deployment across multiple providers can create vulnerabilities. Each cloud environment will require its own unique security policy, regular penetration testing, and ongoing management. Consequently, if your organization would like to deploy and secure multiple cloud environments, they will need a dedicated multi-cloud strategy.

Why Do You Need a Multi-cloud Security Strategy?

Managing and securing different private and public cloud workloads and environments isn't easy. Despite its many benefits, multi-cloud adoption adds extra layers of management complexity, especially when cloud services are added in an ad hoc manner rather than being planned. This complexity creates management and operational challenges and increases operational costs. Even worse, few IT teams have the expertise to manage a mixed deployment of multiple public cloud, private cloud, and on-premises environments.

Many organizations connect their clouds using their on-premises data center WAN edge, which is secure but inhibits multi-cloud capabilities. This approach also can lead to increased deployment complexity, inconsistent network performance, and expensive connectivity. Instead, enterprises with a multi-cloud environment need a specific strategy to protect their network. This requires an investment in software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN).

3 Multi-cloud Security Challenges Resolved by SD-WAN

As enterprises continue to expand across multiple Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) cloud providers, their networking and security architectures must evolve to an approach that offers a consistent way to connect their applications. When deploying applications across multiple IaaS clouds, organizations need solutions that streamline operations and reduce their cybersecurity risks.

Software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN) can help facilitate the adoption of multi-cloud deployments while simplifying WAN infrastructure and reducing connectivity costs. But to be successful, SD-WAN needs to be kept secure. Secure SD-WAN, a unique approach that weaves security and networking functions into a unified solution, provides three key elements for securing multi-cloud environments.

1. Establishing a common framework

One of the challenges for multi-cloud deployments is that public cloud providers have different proprietary architectures built on frameworks, application programming interfaces (APIs), and toolsets that are specific to each one.

Enterprises need a common networking and security policy and enforcement framework, and the right multi-cloud solution will provide a networking and security architecture that spans across clouds. It uses the native features and functions of each cloud, abstracts that functionality with APIs, and then manages these connections dynamically using automation. 

Automating the deployment of a consistent overlay network that spans multiple cloud networks in this way reduces complexity and saves both time and resources – plus this helps build flexibility to grow and expand cloud deployments as an organization’s needs change. Secure SD-WAN enables organizations to apply consistent security across even the most complex and distributed multi-cloud environments, user to cloud, data center to cloud, and cloud to cloud.

2. End-to-end application awareness

The underlying transport mechanisms in the networking technologies used to connect multiple clouds aren't aware of the various different types of applications on the clouds. To deliver consistent performance for an organization’s critical applications, and to maximize the use of available resources, the network needs to be application-aware. A Secure SD-WAN solution provides awareness of network conditions and capacity, the ability to control unimportant network traffic and optimize business-critical applications, and an understanding of the impact to the end-user experience to help improve performance and optimize costs.

3. Integrating diverse architecture types

If networking and security are separated, multi-cloud deployments won’t be able to reach their full performance potential because each layer tends to use different technologies from different vendors that can't see or talk to each other. This approach can cause gaps in coverage, which makes the entire environment vulnerable to attacks. An integrated networking and security architecture is needed for both effectiveness and efficiency. A unified Secure SD-WAN solution provides central oversight, coordinated enforcement, and integrated communications between the networking and security layers to close gaps and significantly reduce the potential for attacks. 

These techniques include intelligent deep packet inspection and segmentation of the network traffic that flows between applications and workloads across the multiple clouds. It also enables security to be seamlessly integrated with the network layer using a variety of strategies, including leveraging cloud-native constructs such as security groups, advanced security such as firewall and intrusion prevention systems, and tying security to connectivity to ensure seamless protection and real-time inspection of encrypted traffic moving to, across, and between clouds.

Create a Seamless Security Architecture Through Multi-cloud Security

As more enterprises embrace multi-cloud, they need solutions that are designed to secure and connect their complex environments under a unified security fabric. Multi-cloud deployments often suffer from lack of visibility, disjointed management tools, and security issues. An effective SD-WAN solution can provide an application-aware network infrastructure that spans multiple cloud environments. A uniform policy-defined infrastructure reduces inconsistency while simplifying management and reducing costs. By enabling Secure SD-WAN across multiple clouds and regions, application developers and enterprise IT can build a high-speed and seamless cloud-to-cloud network and security architecture.

Learn how Fortinet’s adaptive cloud security solutions provide the necessary visibility and control across cloud infrastructures, enabling secure applications and connectivity from data center to cloud.