The cloud is not your friend

Even after all this time I hear statements like “Oh, we can just run our code in the cloud”. This is the core of the lift and shift school of cloud usage. And these people are perfectly correct; they can just run their stuff in the cloud. But it won’t work so well. I’ve previously written about lift and shift issues, but here I want to focus on the “resiliency” issue.

Technology is not enough

“To summarise the summary of the summary; people are a problem” - Douglas Adams, The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe The above quote is one of my favourite jokes (I’ve used it in a previous post); it highlights how people can complicate any situation. We can try to avoid this by automating as much as possible but, at the end of the day, there’s always a human involved somewhere; even if it’s the team that manages the automation!

Role Based Access Control

Identity and Access Management (IAM) historically consists of the three A’s Authentication What acccount is being accessed? Authorization Is this account allowed access to this machine? Access Control What resources are you allowed to use? Companies spend a lot of time and effort on the Authentication side of the problem. Single signon solutions for web apps, Active Directory for servers (even Unix machines), OAuth for federated access to external resources, 2 Factor for privileged access… there’s a lot of solutions around and many companies know what they should be doing, here.

Managing the cloud management layer

A typical cloud engagement has a dual responsibility model. There’s stuff that can be considered “below the line” and is the responsibility of the cloud service provider (CSP) and there’s stuff above the line, which is the responsibility of the customer. Amazon have a good example for their IaaS: Where the line lives will depend on the type of engagement; the higher up the abstraction tree (IaaS->PaaS->SaaS) the more the CSP has responsibility.

Single point of truth

Something I’ve been pushing (and this is pretty much a truism amongst anyone who’s looked at “Cloud”) is the idea of automation. It doesn’t matter if you’re just treating the cloud as an outsourced datacenter or if you’re doing full 12-factor dynamically scalable apps. Automation is the key to consitency and control. So, ideally, this means your automation system is the “single point of truth” for your estate. Whether you use ansible or chef or (saints preserve us) cfengine, your configuration file explicitly defines your target state.