Any application, service, database, or other function run in the cloud is considered to be a cloud workload. These workloads include virtual servers, database instances, containers, nodes, and even old-fashioned computing hardware. Their specific purposes may differ, but any workloads hosted in the cloud are cloud workloads.
Over the past decade, enterprise computing infrastructures became more complex. One main reason for this growing complexity is the increased adoption of the cloud. This trend is not surprising, as businesses enjoy myriad benefits when migrating their technical assets to a cloud-based environment.
In this environment, cloud workload protection becomes critical. After all, any company’s reputation and business can suffer a notable hit whenever a hacking incident hits the news.
To meet this growing cybersecurity need, vendors in the SecOps space offer a variety of cloud workload protection platforms (CWPPs). Unlike earlier security solutions, like Endpoint Protection Platforms (EPPs), CWPPs specifically focus on workloads. It’s an approach more suitable for the wide variety of cloud architectures in use today.
Ultimately, enterprise cybersecurity platforms needed to evolve to sufficiently protect modern cloud-based technical infrastructures. As such, CWPPs support public, private, hybrid, and multi-cloud data centers.
A Cloud Workload Protection Platform must provide the ability to manage any workload currently deployed on a company’s cloud platforms. Network administrators typically conduct a vulnerability assessment of workloads. The assessment analyzes the workload, verifying that it complies with the organization’s cybersecurity policies.
If necessary, the admin applies various security techniques to the workload. These options include integrity or memory protection, allow lists, or host-based intrusion protection. Anti-malware protection is another option depending on the SecOps needs of the enterprise.
Other use cases also depend on the nature of the business. For example, software development organizations are able to integrate CWPPs into the automated processes in their CI/CD pipeline, typically as part of the build process. This approach is becoming commonplace in organizations following the DevOps or DevSecOps methodologies.
At some enterprises, CWPP works in concert with a cloud security posture management (CSPM) solution. CWPP ensures the security of the cloud workloads, while CSPM focuses on the broader view, including the accounts deploying those workloads on the company’s cloud platforms. Tightly integrating CWPP and CSPM makes managing cloud assets an easier process for administrators.
In fact, any CWPP must seamlessly integrate with other parts of the enterprise SecOps infrastructure. In cases where data privacy and security are critical, linking to a data loss prevention solution becomes a wise strategy. The CWPP also enhances the capabilities of the security operations center, helping it detect and analyze complex cloud-based cyber-attacks more effectively.
A CWPP provides an easy-to-use management window into an organization’s cloud infrastructure, including public, private, and on-premises clouds. Cloud engineers gain insights into potentially threatening workloads in real time at a glance. Easy integration with other cloud management tools gives administrators a helpful portal to manage workloads, overall security posture, and other related network components, like firewalls.
Automated alerts help the team quickly react to any threats. Support for enterprise policy scripting improves response time, including posture changes, creation of allow lists for applications, and more. In short, CWPPs make managing security for any modern hybrid cloud environment a simpler and more effective process.
It also provides comprehensive protection for all cloud workloads deployed in an IaaS (infrastructure-as-a-service) architecture. Once again, the complexity of cloud environments continues to increase as more companies leverage virtualization and container service deployments. This trend makes securing cloud infrastructures difficult. Thus, CWPPs are a critical piece in any enterprise’s cybersecurity strategy.
CWPPs also allow companies to save costs as part of an overall cloud-based technical infrastructure strategy. This approach helps reduce capital expenditures on hardware servers and other components, as well as maintenance and facilities overhead. Environmentally conscious organizations also benefit from this “green” approach.
Most CWPPs also offer seamless scalability, an important feature for companies that require a flexible technical infrastructure. These platforms provide analytics and reporting to help cloud engineers optimize and scale the platform based on demand. As such, customers enjoy superior performance while keeping their critical data safe.
Remember, cloud workload protection platforms are only one piece in an enterprise’s overall cloud security strategy. One major limitation of CWPPs is an inability to perform identity tracking and access management functionality. Also, most platforms don’t provide overall risk management services for all cloud-based deployments. Any event monitoring capability is also limited to workloads.
Because of these limitations, enterprises typically use CWPPs in concert with other cloud security tools. For example, the cloud security posture management systems mentioned earlier handle the detection, reporting, and logging of issues related to cloud security risk. CSPM solutions leverage automation to implement changes to an enterprise’s security posture as quickly as possible depending on the risk level. Integrating both platforms allows a CSPM tool to react automatically when potentially threatening workloads are detected by the CWPP.
A more recent entry in the world of cloud security is a cloud infrastructure entitlement management (CIEM) solution. This kind of platform handles identity and access management for a cloud environment. Since this functionality is beyond the scope of a CWPP solution, adding a CIEM platform provides another critical piece of the cloud security puzzle.
Additionally, a cloud access security broker (CASB) provides security policy enforcement, including authentication, single sign-on, and other similar features. Enterprises need to consider including a CASB with a CWPP and other cloud security tools.
A cloud-native application protection program (CNAPP) also deserves a look. A CNAPP focuses on protecting cloud-based applications and data as part of a security solution, working in concert with a CWPP and a CSPM. Its significant automated capabilities also improve the efficiency of cloud administrators.