A cloud operating model is a set of practices and procedures that organizations follow for effective management of their cloud resources.
Wiz Experts Team
6 min read
What is a cloud operating model?
A cloud operating model is a set of practices and procedures that organizations follow for effective management of their cloud resources. Covering aspects such as cloud governance, architecture design, security, cost management, performance optimization, and scalability, a cloud operating model is an essential means of enhancing cloud usage and mitigating security risks.
Cloud operating models are a broader concept than cloud governance, which focuses on ensuring that cloud resources are used in a compliant and secure manner.As a more comprehensive principle, cloud operating models include roles (e.g., development and security) assigned to teams and the procedures for accomplishing workflows.
Similar to on-premises approaches, teams in current cloud operating models are typically siloed, with each functioning independently. While this emphasizes expertise and operational efficiency, current operating models pose security problems in the ever-evolving cyber threat landscape.
Let’s consider current cloud operating models, their importance, associated challenges, and how a modern cloud operating model that democratizes security can resolve them.
Agility and scalability: By breaking down functions into silos and outlining clear procedures for cloud processes (such as migration, development, and deployment), a cloud operating model enables rapid app deployment and scaling for quicker time to market (TTM).
Resource and cost optimization: Cloud usage offers important resource utilization benefits with technologies such as pay-as-you-go pricing, auto-scaling, and load balancing. When you choose the right cloud operating model for your business requirements, you can fully tap into these advantages by rightsizing storage instances, matching resource capacity to workload requirements, and leveraging reserved instances for long-term usage.
Security and compliance: With dedicated security teams and tooling, a cloud operating model facilitates the implementation of access control, encryption, and other security features that help you enhance your security posture. It also enables you to adhere to various compliance frameworks concerning data protection and privacy.
While current cloud operating models offer remarkable benefits, they do come with security and operational challenges:
In current operating models, security responsibilities are concentrated in the hands of security teams in order to enable specialization and speed up delivery. However, this often leads to bottlenecks and delayed TTM, as DevOps teams have to wait for security teams to scan for and remove vulnerabilities at each stage.
Aside from slowing down TTM, confusion and miscommunications between siloed teams can contribute to a weaker security posture. The cloud computing landscape is moving fast, introducing new technologies and threats. Current operating models lack the adaptive approach required to address emerging vulnerabilities proactively. The rigidity of role assignment and execution often leaves organizations vulnerable to new attack vectors and limits their overall resilience.
Centralized security may also limit oranizations’ ability to implement shift-left security control. This may result in undiscovered bugs and vulnerabilities that impede performance and expose organizations to damaging cyberattacks after app deployment.
To address the challenges of current cloud operating models presented above, there’s a pressing need for a new collaborative cloud operating model that democratizes security responsibilities and makes proactive risk reduction a shared, attainable goal.
Unlike current models that prioritize workload, the modern cloud operating model adopts a shift-left approach to prioritize security. Shifting left moves security testing and performance evaluation—which are traditionally done after development—to the earliest stages of software development and also involves continuous testing throughout the SDLC. Shift-left testing improves code quality, minimizes bugs, and boosts your cloud security posture.
Another big benefit? The modern operating model involves all stakeholders in security-related decisions. It empowers development, security, and operations teams by providing them with the required security knowledge and tools. By democratizing security this way, your organization leverages the collective knowledge and expertise of different teams, enhancing collaboration and fostering a culture of accountability and collective problem-solving.
Key components of the modern cloud operating model
1. Continuous monitoring for full-stack visibility
The modern cloud operating model emphasizes real-time monitoring that provides full-stack visibility and eliminates blind spots in a cloud environment. It involves leveraging security solutions with AI and ML capabilities for effective attack path analysis and security threat detection and response. Optimal solutions provide dashboards that enable security events and metrics correlation, alongside an alert system that prioritizes critical risks, abstracts unnecessary noise, and provides contextual notification.
2. Agile and cross-functional teams
Shifting from a DevOps approach to DevSecOps practices is a core part of the modern cloud operating model. DevSecOps establishes cross-team collaboration and implements iterative prevention-first software development by integrating security into the entire CI/CD pipeline. It also encourages accountability through site reliability engineering (SRE), where development, security, and operations teams take collective responsibility for the security and reliability of the systems they build and operate.
In the modern cloud operating model, security processes and policies are automated, and infrastructure as code (IaC) is integrated with security-as-code practices throughout the SDLC. This not only improves efficiency but also helps to ensure consistent security measures across the organization.
Additionally, the democratized approach enables self-service security capabilities for your development teams, allowing them to apply security controls and implement best practices as part of their development workflows.
4. Workflow tooling and collaboration
The modern cloud operating model integrates various tools and functionalities into the workflow to streamline security operations for agility and flexibility. These include:
early and seamless real-time workflow monitoring and alerting during development—via agentless scanning tools—to proactively identify security risks,
flexible risk and incident remediation at all stages of the SDLC—via collaboration tools—to proactive fix potential security vulnerabilities, and
consistent compliance and governance policies across development and deployment phases—via integrated CNAPP solutions–to prevent non-compliance penalties.
The modern cloud operating model provides multiple benefits, and the top five are explained below.
Increased agility and resilience
By democratizing cloud security, the new cloud operating model enables you to respond quickly to security threats and adapt your security measures to changing workload requirements.
Unified security policies
The modern model simplifies security management and enforces a baseline level of consistent security across all systems and teams within your organization.
Coordinated security enforcement
Democratizing cloud security fosters shared responsibility for security, leading to more coordinated security enforcement and decreased vulnerabilities.
Comprehensive visibility and swift response
The modern cloud operating model requires automating security processes, choosing advanced threat intelligence tools, and establishing feedback loops. With these practices in place, you can gain comprehensive visibility into potential vulnerabilities and emerging threats, allowing you to swiftly resolve security gaps before they are exploited.
Reduced operational costs
Automation and self-service security capabilities reduce manual effort. By implementing security as code in the development pipeline, you’re able to save resources that would otherwise be spent on costly remediation efforts.
To put it simply, the modern cloud operating model is hyper-flexible; teams can choose solutions and design processes that align with their needs while achieving the organization's security goals. With this model, you can achieve the following cloud ecosystem goals:
Development of a working model and plan for managing risks in the cloud
Effective implementation of the modern cloud computing operating model requires more than knowledge of the model and its benefits—you must also take specific actions and follow best practices. Let’s examine some of these steps that can guide you.
To implement the modern cloud operating model, you need to adopt a holistic approach, and the following are key steps to consider:
1. Promote a security-aware culture
Break down silos and foster collaboration between teams across your organization. Encourage open communication and knowledge sharing between development, operations, and security teams. Promote the understanding that security is a shared responsibility, and involve all stakeholders in security decision-making processes. These steps ensure that security considerations are integrated throughout the entire cloud ecosystem.
2. Establish security-conscious operations
Implement the right security automation tools and practices to streamline and integrate security into the CI/CD pipeline. Embed security checks and validations into code review processes, and incorporate security testing at every stage of development. Automate security processes such as vulnerability scanning, compliance checks, and configuration management to ensure proactive identification and resolution of security issues.
3. Train and upskill stakeholders
Provide security training and education to teams involved in cloud operations, including developers, IT administrators, and security professionals. Encourage them to pursue relevant certifications and continuous learning opportunities to stay updated about the evolving threat landscape and cloud security best practices. Training is a great way to empower your teams to make appropriate security decisions.
4. Adopt the right solution
Choose a comprehensive security solution that offers visibility into cloud resources, tracks and identifies threats in real time, and responds quickly with root-cause analysis and result-backed suggestions. Deploying the right solution aligns your cloud security with the modern cloud operating model.
Shifting towards a collaborative and democratized cloud operating model helps you overcome the challenges of the current operating model and achieve improved security. As you promote a security-aware culture and train the necessary stakeholders, choosing a powerful security solution that pairs high-quality signals with a user-friendly platform is key. The right tool empowers your teams to fix security vulnerabilities on the go, whether they are cybersecurity team members or not.
At Wiz, we help our customers democratize cloud security by empowering developers with the skills and easy-to-use tools they need to swiftly fix security problems—while still achieving fast-paced workflows. To see how we implement the modern cloud operating model and learn why Wiz is the cloud security platform behind 40% of Fortune 100 enterprises, schedule a live demo today.
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