Wednesday, September 30, 2009
The USPS services seem to be deployed as a SaaS model, accessed through a browser. As yet there do not seem to be managed PaaS APIs available (or are there?) which can be pulled into other applications, for example iPhone apps. Of course, right now it's easy to co-opt the Web interface to USPS.com in order to programmatically query Post Office shipping times over HTTP. Although, I can just imagine REST zealots arguing that it should really be termed the "GET Office" in that case [really lame joke, I know :-) ].
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Vordel is nominated in the "Best Integration Tool" and "Best Security Solution" categories for our XML Gateway and the "Best SOA Testing Tool" category (for SOAPbox). This blog is nominated in the site category (under its old XML Networking moniker).
Get out and vote!
Thursday, September 24, 2009
"Cloud Application Architecture: Rebuilding applications for the cloud"
Speaker: Richard Watson Burton Group
The Cloud promises to bring infinite scalability, unlimited availability, and increased responsiveness. Can applications realize cloud benefits through a simple off-premise server migration? Does Cloud require developers to re-write applications or port applications to proprietary Platform as a Service (PaaS) environments?This session will detail cloud application architecture patterns, cloud application frameworks, portability and migration strategies, and deployment topology considerations. It will answer the following questions:
- When is an application platform cloudy?
- When is application architecture cloudy?
- When is cloud application architecture an appropriate choice?
- What architecture roadmap should be chosen to make applications cloud ready?
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
What is an MDRR and why is it important? To understand, think of a registry/repository traditionally seen as part of a SOA architecture. It is supposed to include addresses of the services available in the SOA, plus metadata about the services, such as their policies.
Now think about how organizations are starting to rely on Cloud-based services, such as Amazon S3 (storage) and Force.com (sales force automation). These services are not on-premises SOA service, so they are not in the SOA registry/repository. But the organization relies on these services! This means that the registry/repository does not contain a full compliment of the services which are used by an organization.
But wait, you may say, a SOA registry/repository is intended to manage and control services, and you can't control services provided by Amazon or Force.com because they are simply not under your control. This is true, but the goal is not to control the services. The goal is to monitor the performance, availability, and compliance of these external services. Virtual Services are the key to this. Rather than managing the third-party services, you are managing virtual interfaces to those services. The virtual service is provided by a Cloud Gateway which acts as a broker to the services.
These virtual services are included in a Multi-Domain Registry/Repository alongside internal on-premises services (that's why it's "multi-domain"). From an organization's standpoint, all of the services they depend on are in one place. That's valuable.
Governance services, such as services to scrub data of private information, provided by the Cloud Gateway, are also housed in the MDRR. These governance services are another example of on-premises services. This means that a full compliment of services are present. They are shown in the diagram below:
Look for the MDRR meme to grow in the months ahead....
And I can't resist the cheesy Hart-to-Hart reference:
On-premises services and
When they met,
it was MDRR
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
"Cloud? Clouds are water vapor. My objection to cloud computing is the fact that cloud computing is not only the future of computing, it is the present and the entire past. Google's (GOOG) now cloud computing. Everybody's cloud computing. … All it is, is a computer attached to a network. What are you talking about? What do you think Google runs on? It's databases and operating systems and memory and processors! What are you talking about?"
Friday, September 18, 2009
Conexión a la nube, Parte 1: Máximo aprovechamiento de la nube en las aplicaciones
Conexión a la nube, Parte 2: Cómo realizar el modelo de nube híbrido
Conexión a la nube, Parte 3: La gobernabilidad y seguridad de la nube
Thursday, September 17, 2009
But now look at Google with Google Apps. As eWeek reports, Google is building out a Government Cloud service with Google Apps. It is a parallel system to the commercially-available Google Apps. That itself is interesting because Google Apps features multi-tenancy which in theory should have kept government users separate from other others. But clearly nobody wanted to take that chance.
The big story is that Google is using government, not Wall Street, as its beachhead. Where previously a technology company would have used a New York based financial services company as its prime reference, Google is targeting the US Federal Government. It's "First we take Washington", not "First we take Manhattan". And now that Google has a government offering, we see the ripples - like this ZDNet story: "Do you really need Office? Really? If the Feds don't, do we?"
This is part of a larger trend which we have seen first-hand in Vordel. Many branches of the US Government have chosen Vordel for their SOA deployments (e.g. the Federal Aviation Administration: FAA chooses Vordel for SOA work - Government Computing News). Our government customers are a prime reason why our US headquarters is in Herndon, close to Washington. On top of the Vordel deployments for government SOA, we are now seeing a lot of excitement for Cloud services using the Vordel Gateway Cloud Edition. As the VC blogger Jeff Bussgang from Flybridge Capital Partners has put it, "Washington is the New New York". It's where many innovative projects are, and it's where so much potential for Cloud Computing is.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Vordel, a provider of Cloud and SOA Governance products, today announced the line up for its annual VordelWorld user conference to be held in Dublin, Ireland on November 4-6.
VordelWorld puts the spotlight on SOA and Cloud Governance and presents case studies from leading firms such as Amazon, Bank of America, CA, Oracle, Pfizer, Three, the US Government,and several leading European Telcos and Insurance companies.
Keynote speakers will provide a mixture of strategic and pragmatic advice to enable companies comprehend the issues at play when considering incorporating Cloud Computing services as part of their existing SOA or non-SOA enterprise architectures. This two day event packed full of insightful and thought-provoking content is a firm favorite in the industry calendar and is always a sell out. Keynote speakers at this year's event include:
• Steve Riley, Evangelist and Strategist, Amazon Web Services
• Richard Watson, Analyst, Burton Group
• Bill Mann, Senior VP Strategy, CA
• Vikas Jain, Principal Product Manager, Oracle
• Ian Goldsmith, VP Product Management, SOA Software
• Chris Taylor, Lead Architect for Enterprise Portals and Integration, Three
Attendees can also Get Vordel Certified with the Vordel Certified Systems Engineer hands-on training course and obtain a preview into what's coming next from Vordel. These training courses will be delivered in both English and French.
To register to attend the event simply click here. Looking forward to seeing some of you in Dublin in November.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
- Detailed solution description
- Functional description
- Competitive advantage
- Business problem
- Business opportunity
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
The Vordel XML Gateway ships with a built-in stylesheet for stripping WS-Security blocks from SOAP messages. You can see this in the Policy Library. Simply apply this to a service, put it into a chain to run after you've processed the WS-Security headers, and voila the headers are gone. Grab a copy of the Vordel Gateway from here: http://www.vordel.com/products/vx_gateway/
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Deathswitch, which is based in Houston, has a different system for releasing the funeral instructions, love notes and "unspeakable secrets" it suggests you store with your passwords and account info. The company will regularly send you e‑mail prompts to verify that you're still alive, at a frequency of your choosing. (Once a day? Once a year?) After a series of unanswered prompts, it will assume you're dead and release your messages to intended recipients. One message is free; for more, the company charges members $19.95 a year.
But did you know there is an API for checking if someone is dead or not? It's called the Death Index API, provided by CDYNE against the US Govt Social Security Death Index. Using this API would negate the need for "e‑mail prompts to verify that you're still alive".
Although this is a morbid example, it's a good example of a Cloud API service which can be composed together with other Cloud and on-premises services into banking, credit card application, and insurance applications.
Friday, September 4, 2009
But when you are demoing message-based authentication, you want to see the message blocked when it is resent. This is because, counter-intuitively, it is the same message which just worked a moment previously.
Why is this? The reason is because of replay attacks. If the same message, containing the same authentication tokens, is re-sent, then that message may have come from someone who has sniffed the traffic of a valid user. This is sometimes called a "capture-replay" attack.
Replay attacks are often much misunderstood. I've seen them confused with DoS attacks (because they involve the replaying of messages, but a DoS attack is much less sophisticated and just uses brute force). I've also seen many cases where an organization wishes to create an authentication policy along the lines of "any messages signed by a trusted user will be let in", which is wide open to a replay attack by anyone who can get a hold of a message signed by one of the valid users.
The key to blocking replay attacks is to ensure that something in the message changes each time. Sometimes this is the timestamp, or the message itself if there is enough variation in messages (the Gateway will keep digests of previous messages and if it detects a collision, blocks the message). But standards such as WS-Security UsernameTokens used by XML Gateways have inbuilt support for blocking replay attacks. Let's take a look at this how an XML Gateway blocks a replay attack:
First we use Vordel's free Web Service Testing tool SOAPbox to put a WS-Security UsernameToken into a SOAP message. Click on the "Security" menu and then "Insert Ws-Security Username" token. Enter the details as shown. I have setup a user called "JoeUser" on the Vordel Gateway with a password which matches the password I am using.
We now see the UsernameToken in the message:
Switch over to Design View, and you see the structure of the WS-Security UsernameToken. Notice the Timestamp and the nonce. You may be thinking "hang on, that's not my password there". But it is a password digest, constructed over the original cleartext password, the timestamp, and the random nonce ("number once") which is created by SOAPbox as per the WS-Security specification.
We send this message through to the Vordel Gateway, and it is passed valid:
Notice the timestamp in the message. If an attacker changes the timestamp, that invalidates the digest. An attacker will not have access to the cleartext password and so can't create a new digest. But what if they simply resend the message while within the timestamp window? Let's see by pressing "Send" again in SOAPbox.
We see that the replayed message is detected and blocked by the Vordel Gateway.
Looking at the Vordel Gateway real-time monitoring reports, we see that one message was valid, and the message other message was blocked:
Looking at the real-time Flash-based traffic reports, we see the blocked message was blocked because of its WS-Security UsernameToken.
You don't have to configure anything on the Vordel Gateway for this. It automatically detects replay attack attempts based on replayed WS-Security UsernameTokens and blocks them.
To test this yourself, grab your copy of SOAPbox here. And get an evaluation copy of the Vordel Gateway here.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Full documentation of filters, as well as a worked example with Java source code, is available from the Vordel Extranet in the "Extensibility" section.
But what if you are thinking "I'm more of a servlet guy - can I just take a servlet and run it on the XML Gateway?". The answer is "Yes". The Vordel XML Gateway includes a full servlet container, which sits on top of Vordel's core XML Acceleration with its JAXP interface. You can thus take an existing servlet and run it right on the Vordel Gateway, taking advantage of acceleration.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
So who is to blame if a customer deploys an insecure application to the Cloud? Can you just blame the customer? It is not as easy as that...
The customers who open up all the ports you so carefully closed by default. The customers who use ‘password’ as their password. The customers who deploy sloppy code that’s riddled with holes. The customers who, frankly, are just human… and who don’t live and breathe security in the same way that at least someone inside the data centre probably does.
Twelve years ago, I was working for an ISP and one of my jobs was to vet Perl and ASP scripts for security holes. If the ISP let a customer host an insecure script, who was to blame? Or does it even matter who to blame, after the damage is done? If the script could tie up resources on the system and degrade the performance of other customers' applications, then the ISP could not turn around and say "don't blame us, blame that other customer over there with their insecure script". In reality, we would block insecure applications before they were hosted.
The same went for SQL Server applications. Everyone seemed to use "sa" and a blank password. Does this mean SQL Server was inherently insecure? Arguably, yes (well, it was certainly not "secure by default" in those days). But in reality, it was up to the hosting provider to mitigate against the insecurity of applications and the insecurity of code. We could not just say "blame Microsoft".
Although Paul Miller's blog post does not use the word "multi-tenancy", it is one of the keys here. Back in my ISP hosting days, we liked to think that we'd perfected "multi-tenancy", whereby the scripts of one customer could not interfere with the scripts of other customers. However, we still vetted the scripts for security holes.
The Cloud providers seem to take different tacks on this question.
I've noticed that Amazon will examine traffic to and from EC2 instances, and if they see evidence that a machine has been taken over by a bot or trojan, they then block traffic to it. This is like a "quarantine" approach - allow the customer to create an insecure EC2 image, but then detect its behavior and stop it from interfering with other EC2 images.
SalesForce take a different tack. They force developers to proactively add testing code to their applications written in the Apex language on the Force.com platform. Here is the section on Multi-Tenancy in the Force.com "Introduction to Apex":
Multi-tenancySo SalesForce are effectively saying "We have a secure environment, and if you want to upload code to run on it, you have to make sure your code has built-in checks to ensure it does not inadvertently monopolize resources". Amazon seem to be taking the alternative approach of discovering if an app is misbehaving, and then quarantining it (of course, as IaaS, EC2 is quite different from Force.com which is PaaS, so their approach is different). It remains to be seen what approach is best. Customers can hedge their bets by using a Cloud Gateway to secure their data in the cloud, keeping it encrypted and signed, so that it is safe even if other apps in the multi-tenant environment misbehave.
The Force.com platform is a multi-tenant platform, which means that the resources used by your application (such as the database) are shared with many other applications. This multi-tenancy has a lot of benefits, and it comes with a small promise on your part. In particular, if you write Apex code, the platform needs to do its best to ensure that it is well behaved.
For example, Apex code that simply loops will not benefit you (or the cloud). This is the reason why Apex, when deployed to a production server, needs 75% code coverage in tests.
The Apex runtime engine also enforces a number of limits to ensure that runaway Apex does not monopolize shared resources. These limits, or governors, track and enforce various metrics. An example of these limits include (at the time of writing): the total stack depth for an Apex invocation in a trigger is 16, the total number of characters in a single String may not exceed 100000, and the total number of records processed as a result of DML statements in a block may not exceed 10000.
There are various precautions that can be taken to ensure that the limits are not exceeded. For example, the batched for loop described earlier lifts certain limits, and different limits apply depending on what originated the execution of the Apex. For example, Apex originating from a trigger is typically more limited than Apex that started running as part of a web services call.http://wiki.developerforce.com/index.php/An_Introduction_to_Apex