Following his presentation “Meeting the Security Challenges of the Cloud” at the Content Protection Summit in London on Oct. 29, Sohonet chief technology officer Ben Roeder answered some focussed questions on cloud storage and associated security issues.
Sohonet has historically been a network service provider. Why are you now moving your attention towards “the cloud”?
We have provided additional services besides basic networking for many years. Historically we have provided these solutions on site. However, the increasing speed of networks and the vast increase in the capacity of storage mediums means that we now have the ability to scale our solutions to meet the needs of an industry that processes large amounts of data
The word “cloud” has arguably become an overused media buzzword. What does it mean to you?
To me, “cloud” simply means utility services consumed through an API. However, the word is massively overused and it is often applied to anything that involves computers and networks. For our customers, it means benefiting from the combined use of shared resources accessed by high-speed connectivity in a world where networking is not the barrier it once was.
What are the main issues with cloud services?
There are a number of challenges that present themselves when companies consider moving systems into the cloud: Latency can be an issue when utilising hybrid cloud services, with a mixture of on and off-site systems, and is often a challenge for customers accessing public cloud storage products.
High-speed bandwidth availability is an obvious problem for users moving large amounts of data in and out of the cloud.
Egress charges for the movement of data out of the cloud can make storage and compute services cost prohibitive—exactly how much is largely dependent on the provider and the amount of egress required.
Additionally, there is a significant change in approach to the way companies access, manage, automate and develop for these systems which often becomes a cultural and management barrier to success. This is summed up very well in the pets vs. cattle analogy: The old way of thinking is that a company would buy a machine, name it, keep it running and tend to it when it is in ill health (like a pet), as opposed to an expendable machine that is spun up, has a number instead of a name, serves its purpose, and then is shot in the head when no longer needed (like cattle). While a macabre comparison, it is the necessary reality of a functioning, modern day media business.
Are cloud services a security risk?
All computer systems come with security risks. There are best practice approaches to securing a company’s intellectual property when using cloud services. It is a question of following these protocols and making them fit into your workflow, as well as understanding the risks that you are taking and making informed decisions in line with your own policies and appetite for risk vs. cost.
Cloud service providers have a number of people within their staff who specialize in the security of the cloud services, and certainly have more resource and expertise than the vast majority of companies who will consume their services.
Cloud services are multi-tenanted so the design of the system has to take into account very carefully the separation of customers, from a security, resource allocation and billing perspective.
What technology does Sohonet employ to make sure that these risks are mitigated?
Like other cloud service providers Sohonet has dedicated staff to ensure against breaches in security. We are proactive in our management of security with 24x7x365 monitoring of all our systems and are thorough in our approach to sticking to best practices specifically for the media industry. Due to the nature of our customers’ businesses, security is of utmost importance. Sohonet has been able to exceed the high security standards of the world’s largest film, TV and production studios since our inception nearly 20 years ago.
Why are customers looking towards the cloud for storage solutions?
The flexibility of a resource that can be consumed on demand over a network is obviously very appealing to our customers. Resources and services that are provided off site can deliver high performance compute and storage functions, which removes the capital expenditure and provisioning burden from the company. In addition, companies no longer need to “build for peak” capacity and can easily provision for spikes in requirements caused by large, sporadic or overlapping projects.
As a customer looking for cloud storage what factors should I be aware of?
The volume of data that is egressed each month can have a significant impact on billing. This is not an issue with Sohonet FileStore as our customers are not charged for ingress or egress. Data transfer is included in their service as a Sohonet Media Network customer.
Data access speeds also need to be considered. Cloud services are fundamentally useless if the speeds between you and the cloud are not fast enough. Sohonet FileStore is accessed via the Sohonet Media Network, a high-speed private network with guaranteed throughput – which ultimately means network latency and throughput does not negatively affect our customers.
Finally, the physical location of storage can have an impact on performance, as well as taxes and outright accessibility depending on country-level policies.
What benefits do I gain from using a private cloud storage service as opposed to a service from a larger public cloud service provider?
Sohonet FileStore, our company’s private cloud storage solution, offers dedicated 24×7 support and a storage service that supports high bandwidth and large files. FileStore is directly integrated into our network and is not directly accessible via the Internet, which offers our clients a higher level of security than many other cloud storage systems, and more importantly it meets the stringent media industry security standards. Customers can be safe in the knowledge that their data never leaves the security of our network. Unlike other providers we can tell you exactly where your data is stored at all times and it is fully auditable.
Sohonet FileStore uses an object store model at its core. What are the benefits of an object store over other storage approaches?
Object Stores offer massive scalability both in bandwidth and in terms of volume. The OpenStack Swift technology we use to provide FileStore is extremely resilient and secure with constant data repair ensuring that 3 copies of your data are maintained at all times, even when discs inevitably fail over time. Encryption provides customers with another layer of comfort in terms of security. Additionally, the Object Store is simple for us to audit and monitor. The audit trails are a required part of the system, as they are used for billing, not put in as an after thought.
FileStore is media-optimised. What does that mean?
All of Sohonet’s services are media-optimised. Our core staff members have all worked within large media companies prior to their employment with Sohonet and are well versed in the unique demands that are created by an industry where business critical content is both unique in format and size. Sohonet FileStore has been designed and tested to support large files, with the low latency and secure high-speed access that is needed to accommodate media workflows.
Furthermore, it is well known that our industry can be extremely unpredictable when it comes to production project approvals and timelines, resulting in a requirement for extremely fast turnarounds and the ability for clients to access their content on-demand. Sohonet FileStore has the flexibility to manage this both in terms of capacity but also in the business terms we offer. Our Pay As You Go pricing plans mean that FileStore can be called upon at short notice and allows you to say yes to every project as it comes in.