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7 Use Cases for Distributed Cloud Environments

As infrastructure has grown more complex, the need to effectively manage it has grown, too – particularly for applications and APIs.

Joshua Goldfarb

January 9, 2023

4 Min Read
Gray cloud hunk formations in tropical sky; a tiny strip of green field and mountains lines the bottom of the frame
Source: Anant Kasetsinsombut via Alamy Stock Photo

With many businesses moving application and API infrastructure to the cloud, business environments have grown more complex in recent years. As a result, it has become harder for businesses to manage, operate, maintain, and protect that infrastructure.

Fortunately, a new crop of solutions analysts have dubbed the "distributed cloud" has been introduced to help customers reduce complexity and better protect their application and API infrastructure, regardless of whether it contains any combination of on-premises, private cloud, public cloud, multicloud, and hybrid environments.

What are some of the top use cases for customers that are in the market for these solutions? Here are seven use cases that I've seen come up repeatedly.

1. Visibility

As was the case when most applications were deployed and hosted either on-premises or in what we now call a private cloud, visibility is a must in complex environments as well. Without proper logging, we are blind to the traffic traversing and hitting our applications and APIs. Without this visibility, we won't be able to properly monitor the environment for compliance violations, security issues, intrusions, abuse, fraud, and other issues. We also won't be able to investigate and analyze when we become aware of an issue, event, or incident.

Clearly we cannot allow ourselves to be in this state; thus, visibility is one of the top use cases for distributed cloud.

2. Automation

Bots continues to be an issue for e-commerce businesses. Whether bots are looking to take over accounts, hoard inventory, open fake accounts, scrape prices, commit loyalty fraud, or otherwise, bots costs enterprises money.

Bots make online applications less appealing to end users, cause fraud losses, increase support costs, and tie up precious infrastructure resources and cycles. Businesses that transact online understand the value in being able to effectively mitigate the risk from malicious bots.

3. Fraud Prevention

When famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, he reportedly replied, "Because that's where the money is." Fraudsters know where the money is, and they pursue that money regardless of where applications and APIs are deployed. As such, the ability to detect and mitigate fraud in near real time is another use case that businesses often look for from this group of solutions.

4. Security Policy Portability

In any environment, creating, implementing, and managing effective security policies is an important part of the overall security strategy. As infrastructure has grown more complex, effectively managing security policy across different environments has become significantly more difficult for businesses.

Businesses are looking for the ability to implement and enforce either a standard security policy across multiple complex environments or the appropriate security policy for each environment or type of environment. For this reason, security policy portability is another popular use case for distributed cloud solutions.

5. API Discovery

Proper asset and infrastructure inventory remains as important as always, regardless of how complex the environment has become. This includes APIs, of course.

Knowing where our APIs are allows us to protect and monitor them. It also allows us to ensure that policies and procedures are being followed during the development life cycle. If we are unaware of APIs, we have absolutely no ability to safeguard them from attack. As you can imagine, businesses are often very interested in this particular use case.

6. Malicious User Detection

Malicious users can be difficult to detect with standard security monitoring techniques. That's because they don't compromise or attack applications, but rather they misuse or abuse the business logic of those applications. This is much more difficult to detect and requires insight into the user layer and the way in which the user is interacting with the application.

Without this ability, malicious users can "go rogue" within applications and cause monetary loss for the business. This is obviously something that businesses are looking to avoid, which makes malicious user detection a favorite use case for distributed cloud.

7. Scalability

It may seem too obvious to state explicitly, but most businesses are looking for easy and flexible deployments across multiple environments, regardless of how complex those environments have become in recent years. This allows companies to develop and deploy applications at the speed required by the competitive environment they operate within.

Customers are, appropriately, demanding, and a business' ability to keep up with the competition translates into real money. Thus it is not surprising that scalability is a top use case here.

Finding Common Solutions

As infrastructure has grown more diverse and complex, the need to effectively manage that infrastructure has grown as well. The distributed cloud addresses the needs of businesses, particularly around applications and APIs.

Not surprisingly, many businesses face similar challenges, and thus there are a number of common use cases that are seen repeatedly. By understanding these use cases, businesses can look for a solution that addresses many of them, thus reducing the need for multiple, overlapping technologies.

About the Author(s)

Joshua Goldfarb

Global Solutions Architect — Security, F5

Josh Goldfarb is currently Global Solutions Architect — Security at F5. Previously, Josh served as VP and CTO of Emerging Technologies at FireEye and as Chief Security Officer for nPulse Technologies until its acquisition by FireEye. Prior to joining nPulse, Josh worked as an independent consultant, applying his analytical methodology to help enterprises build and enhance their network traffic analysis, security operations, and incident response capabilities to improve their information security postures. Earlier in his career, Josh served as the Chief of Analysis for the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team, where he built from the ground up and subsequently ran the network, endpoint, and malware analysis/forensics capabilities for US-CERT. In addition to Josh's blogging and public speaking appearances, he is also a regular contributor to Dark Reading and SecurityWeek.

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