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Cloud Security: Article

Federated Security in Windows Azure

B2B Collaboration in Cloud

Collaboration Is the Key to  Business
In today's business, it is no longer a single large organization that owns the complete life cycle of a product, i.e., conceiving, designing, producing, marketing  cycle. Rather the product life cycle management has moved to multiple stakeholders who collaboratively work together  to achieve the desired efforts.

Some of the scenarios where  collaboration between business are  evident are listed below :

  • OEM (Automobile majors ) and their Suppliers need to collaborate
  • Hospitals and Health Care Support Systems and Insurance Providers need to collaborate
  • Governments can collaborate with Voluntary organizations

Security Considerations in Collaboration
However, when different  organizations coordinate to use and update common systems, we need a stronger security provider to authenticate the users so that the  information exchanged is not compromised in any way.

A federated business model mandates a foundation of trust. In a federated model an organization is willing to provide access to an identity that is not vetted by the organization's own internal security processes. Instead the organization is trusting an identity asserted by a third party.

Several organizations have implemented  Federated Security products and solutions to mitigate this issue.

Supporting information sharing across the largest B2B ecosystem of manufacturers worldwide, Covisint OEM & Supplier Collaboration Services offer cloud based, on-demand connectivity and communication for organizations of all sizes.  OEMs and suppliers rely on Covisint OEM & Supplier Collaboration Services to reduce the cost, complexity and risk of information and application sharing-all through an industry-proven, on-demand web environment.

Covisint's on-demand approach to identity management results in reduced complexity, automation of organizational processes, and improved policy compliance. As a hosted security service (Identity Management as a Service or IdMaaS), Covisint provides a services-based approach to federated identity management that centralizes and automates the process of exposing, accepting and monitoring digital identities across security domains.

Companies that choose to collaborate in identity-based business processes may benefit from Tivoli Federated Identity Manager's ability to help the below needs:

Rather than having to enroll third-party users into a company's internal identity systems, federated identity management enables IT service providers to offload the cost of user administration to their business partner companies.

Windows Azure and Collaboration
Windows Azure, one of the leading platforms for hosting Cloud Solutions, will provide a common platform for multiple businesses to collaborate, without worrying about the  associated costs and operational expenses of identify management.

However, when several business partners communicate over Windows Azure Cloud, it requires a stronger federated identity management support as explained below.

Windows Azure AppFabric provides a comprehensive cloud middleware platform for developing, deploying and managing applications on the Windows Azure Platform. It delivers additional developer productivity, adding in a higher-level Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) capabilities on top of the familiar Windows Azure application model. It also enables bridging your existing applications to the cloud through secure connectivity across network and geographic boundaries, and by providing a consistent development model for both Windows Azure and Windows Server.

Federated Security In Windows Azure Appfabric  - Access Control
Three  main concepts that make up Windows Azure AppFabric:

  1. Middleware Services - pre-built services that provide valuable capabilities developers can use when developing applications. This reduces the time and complexity when building the application, and allows the developer to concentrate on the core application logic.
  2. Building Composite Applications - capabilities that enable you to assemble, deploy, and manage a composite application that is made up of several different components, as a single logical entity.
  3. Scale-out Application Infrastructure - capabilities that make it seamless to get the benefit of the cloud, such as: elastic scale, high availability, high density, multi-tenancy, etc.

The Middleware Services include five services:

  1. Service Bus - provides secure connectivity and messaging
  2. Access Control - provides identity and access control capabilities to web applications and services
  3. Caching - provides a distributed, in-memory application cache
  4. Integration - provides common integration and business user enablement capabilities
  5. Composite App - enables building applications that are made up of a composite of services, components, web services, workflows, and existing applications

The Windows Azure AppFabric Access Control (AC) service is a hosted service that provides federated authentication and rules-driven, claims-based authorization for REST Web services. REST Web services can rely on AC for simple username/password scenarios, in addition to enterprise integration scenarios that use Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) v2.

The following diagram (courtesy from vendor) provides a conceptual view of  Windows Azure AppFabric - Access Control providing federated access to  shared applications, which will go a long way in improving collaboration.

Summary
Currently  Windows Azure Appfabric Access Control  supports the following identify providers.

  • Active Directory Federation Services
  • Widows Live ID
  • Facebook
  • Google
  • Yahoo

This support for can be extended to several other federated identified providers in the future, which will position  Windows Azure which is  a leading  cloud application platform  to  enable business  to collaborate and share in a secured way.

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