Thursday Nov 29, 2012

K-12 and Cloud considerations

Much like every other Public Sector organization, school districts in the US and Canada are under tremendous pressure to deliver consistent and modern services while operating with reduced budgets, IT personnel shortages, and staff attrition.  Electronic/remote learning and the need for immediate access to resources such as grades, calendars, curricula etc. are straining IT environments that were already burdened with meeting privacy requirements imposed by both regulators and parents/students.  One area viewed as a solution to at least some of the challenges is the use of "Cloud" in education.  Although the concept of "Cloud" is nothing new in education with many providers supplying educational material over the web, school districts defer previously-in-house-hosted services to established commercial vendors to accommodate document sharing, app hosting, and even e-mail.  Doing so, however, does not reduce an important risk, that of privacy.  As always, Cloud implementations are viewed in a skeptical manner because of the perceived reduction in sensitive data management and protection thereof, although with a careful approach and the right tooling, the benefits realized by Clouds can expand to security and privacy.  

Oracle's comprehensive approach to data privacy and identity management ensures that the necessary tools are available to support regulations, operational efficiencies and strong security regardless of where the sensitive data is stored - on premise or a Cloud.  Common management tools, role-based access controls, access policy management and engineered systems provided by Oracle can be the foundational pieces on which school districts can build their Cloud implementations without having to worry about security itself. Their biggest challenge, and it is a positive one, is how to best take advantage of Oracle's DB Security and IDM functionality to reduce operational costs while enabling modern applications and data delivery to those who needs access to it. For more information please refer to http://www.oracle.com/us/products/middleware/identity-management/overview/index.html and http://www.oracle.com/us/products/database/security/overview/index.html.

Friday Apr 06, 2012

Taking the fear out of a Cloud initiative through the use of security tools

Typical employees, constituents, and business owners  interact with online services at a level where their knowledge of back-end systems is low, and most of the times, there is no interest in knowing the systems' architecture.  Most application administrators, while partially responsible for these systems' upkeep, have very low interactions with them, at least at an operational, platform level.  Of greatest interest to these groups is the consistent, reliable, and manageable operation of the interfaces with which they communicate.  Introducing the "Cloud" topic in any evolving architecture automatically raises the concerns for data and identity security simply because of the perception that when owning the silicon, enterprises are not able to manage its content.  But is this really true?  

In the majority of traditional architectures, data and applications that access it are physically distant from the organization that owns it.  It may reside in a shared data center, or a geographically convenient location that spans large organizations' connectivity capabilities.  In the end, very often, the model of a "traditional" architecture is fairly close to the "new" Cloud architecture.  Most notable difference is that by nature, a Cloud setup uses security as a core function, and not as a necessary add-on. Therefore, following best practices, one can say that data can be safer in the Cloud than in traditional, stove-piped environments where data access is segmented and difficult to audit. The caveat is, of course, what "best practices" consist of, and here is where Oracle's security tools are perfectly suited for the task.  Since Oracle's model is to support very large organizations, it is fundamentally concerned about distributed applications, databases etc and their security, and the related Identity Management Products, or DB Security options reflect that concept.  In the end, consumers of applications and their data are to be served more safely in a controlled Cloud environment, while realizing the many cost savings associated with it. Having very fast resources to serve them (such as the Exa* platform) makes the concept even more attractive. 

Finally, if a Cloud strategy does not seem feasible, consider the pros and cons of a traditional vs. a Cloud architecture.  Using the exact same criteria and business goals/traditions, and with Oracle's technology, you might be hard pressed to justify maintaining the technical status quo on security alone.

For additional information please visit Oracle's Cloud Security page at: http://www.oracle.com/us/technologies/cloud/cloud-security-428855.html
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Identity and Access Management topics related to Federal, State and Local government agencies

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