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Rackspace Strengthens Its Managed Security Story

Rackspace is adding features and functions to its managed security offerings. Is it all a company needs?

Rackspace has added Privacy and Data Protection (PDP) to the latest version of its managed security offerings. PDP provides enhanced encryption, data access and compliance monitoring for customers.

In a telephone conversation with Brian Kelly, Rackspace CSO, and Daniel Clayton, director of operations at Rackspace Managed Security, we talked about where PDP fits into the company's overall security strategy, and how customers are working with service providers such as Rackspace to secure their applications and data.

Kelly began with a discussion of the "uneven handshake," a theory of the security relationship between cloud customer and service providerfirst introduced by research firm Forrester in 2014. The heart of the uneven handshake is stated as,

"… the cloud service provider is only responsible for securing the data center, infrastructure, and hypervisor, while the end user organization is responsible for the operating system, applications, users, and data."

After describing the relationship, Kelly admitted, "Honestly, that has never sat well with me and I struggled with the concept," because the service provider is perfectly positioned to provide more pieces of the security chain than the customer. He said he began working to shift the balance of the handshake after he joined Rackspace three years ago, because, "We've got to work with our customers and even out the handshake and do more for them."

Clayton said that resource availability is a critical part of why service providers should be doing more for their customers. "We all know that there's a resource gap out in the industry for security professionals and a lot of the small companies really struggle to get to the [necessary] level of skill," he said. He further explained, "There's a skills shortage, you know. Security analysts are difficult to find, hard to recruit and even harder to retain."

This was the reason why Rackspace began its managed security offerings with services that moved the Security Operations Center (SOC) functions from the customer to the service provider. Why wasn't encryption included in those basic original functions? Clayton said there were legitimate reasons, though there was a great deal of internal discussion before the decision was made.

"I'll be very honest with you; when we initially talked about launching RackSpace Managed Security, as a security professional it was my feeling that encryption should have been part of that initial service. We really felt at the time that we wanted to put a service offering together that included everything that every customer should have," Clayton said. "There are minimum 'table stakes' that every customer should have and as a security professional I felt that encryption was on that list," he continued. "Now, I was overruled and I was overruled for good reason because the reality is that many customers don't want to encrypt all of their data. It's expensive and difficult to do."

Now, though, Kelly and Clayton say that Rackspace is closing the gaps in its security offerings and becoming a more complete provider in the managed security world. Kelly said the real challenge is adding functionality without adding complexity. He said that adding complexity has been the way that security has grown for years. "Antivirus was lacking and so we plugged the hole with intrusion detection. And then intrusion prevention didn't really address our applications so we put a web application firewall in place, and then over time we layer so many things on it we just created this complexity."

The complexity becomes important, Kelly said, because, "I honestly believe the enemy of security today is complexity probably more than anything else."

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There's an obvious question about how well Rackspace has succeeded and also about its customers' reactions to the additional functions. I asked Kelly and Clayton, "If one of your customers came to you and said to you, 'Thank heavens! With you doing this, I don't have to worry about security any more,' would that delight you or terrify you?"

"Both in equal measure is the answer to that question," Clayton said, while laughing with Kelly. He continued by talking about how Rackspace started the Managed Security Program with the idea of owning as much of the security function as possible. Nevertheless, he said, at this point Rackspace is still able to deliver only a small part of everything that a company requires for an overall security solution.

"There's still much, much more for us to do," Kelly said. "So I would be very pleased that a customer had the confidence that they could relax and allow us to do what we do. But I would also be terrified by the idea that a customer believed that there weren't so many more things that they needed to be doing that we couldn't do for them."

The major shift that's happening for customers, though, is in security emphasis. Clayton said, "Security today is all about the data. You know in the past it was about the perimeter," he said. "It was kind of perimeter backwards. And today it's about the data forwards."

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— Curtis Franklin is the editor of SecurityNow.com. Follow him on Twitter @kg4gwa.

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About the Author(s)

Curtis Franklin, Principal Analyst, Omdia

Curtis Franklin Jr. is Principal Analyst at Omdia, focusing on enterprise security management. Previously, he was senior editor of Dark Reading, editor of Light Reading's Security Now, and executive editor, technology, at InformationWeek, where he was also executive producer of InformationWeek's online radio and podcast episodes

Curtis has been writing about technologies and products in computing and networking since the early 1980s. He has been on staff and contributed to technology-industry publications including BYTE, ComputerWorld, CEO, Enterprise Efficiency, ChannelWeb, Network Computing, InfoWorld, PCWorld, Dark Reading, and ITWorld.com on subjects ranging from mobile enterprise computing to enterprise security and wireless networking.

Curtis is the author of thousands of articles, the co-author of five books, and has been a frequent speaker at computer and networking industry conferences across North America and Europe. His most recent books, Cloud Computing: Technologies and Strategies of the Ubiquitous Data Center, and Securing the Cloud: Security Strategies for the Ubiquitous Data Center, with co-author Brian Chee, are published by Taylor and Francis.

When he's not writing, Curtis is a painter, photographer, cook, and multi-instrumentalist musician. He is active in running, amateur radio (KG4GWA), the MakerFX maker space in Orlando, FL, and is a certified Florida Master Naturalist.

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