NIST and Cloud Computing

NIST and Cloud Computing – NIST’s Role is to provide guidance to industry and government for the creation and management of relevant cloud computing standards allowing all parties to gain the maximum value from cloud computing

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About NIST
NIST, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, was founded in 1901 as the nation’s first federal physical science research laboratory.

Over the years, the scientists and technical staff at NIST have made solid contributions to image processing, DNA diagnostic “chips,” smoke detectors, and automated error-correcting software for machine tools.

NIST’s mission:

To promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology in ways that enhances economic security and improves our quality of life.

NIST’s vision:

NIST will be the world’s leader in creating critical measurement solutions and promoting equitable standards.  Our efforts stimulate innovation, foster industrial competitiveness, and improve the quality of life.

NIST’s core competencies:

  • Measurement science
  • Rigorous traceability
  • Development and use of standards

NIST’s core values:

People: We value and support an inclusive, engaged, and diverse workforce capable of fulfilling the NIST mission.

Integrity: We are objective, ethical, and honest.

Customer focus: We anticipate the needs of our customers and are committed to meeting or exceeding their expectations.

Excellence: We expect world-class performance and continuous improvement in all we do.
To lead federal efforts on standards for data portability, cloud interoperability, and security.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology will build a “use case” repository that may eventually give shape to cloud computing specifications.
Membership Details
NIST is a federal government agency under the U.S. Department of Commerce. NIST is not a membership organization.

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Regarding Cloud Computing
NIST’s role in cloud computing is to promote the effective and secure use of the technology within government and industry by providing technical guidance and promoting standards.

The NIST Definition of Cloud Computing

National Institute of Standards and Technology, Information Technology Laboratory

Note 1: Cloud computing is still an evolving paradigm. Its definitions, use cases, underlying technologies, issues, risks, and benefits will be refined in a spirited debate by the public and private sectors. These definitions, attributes, and characteristics will evolve and change over time.

Note 2: The cloud computing industry represents a large ecosystem of many models, vendors, and market niches. This definition attempts to encompass all of the various cloud approaches.

Definition of Cloud Computing:

Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction. This cloud model promotes availability and is composed of five essential characteristics, three service models, and four deployment models.

Essential Characteristics:

On-demand self-service: A consumer can unilaterally provision computing capabilities, such as server time and network storage, as needed automatically without requiring human interaction with each service’s provider.

Broad network access: Capabilities are available over the network and accessed through standard mechanisms that promote use by heterogeneous thin or thick client platforms (e.g., mobile phones, laptops, and PDAs).

Resource pooling: The provider’s computing resources are pooled to serve multiple consumers using a multi-tenant model, with different physical and virtual resources dynamically assigned and reassigned according to consumer demand. There is a sense of location independence in that the customer generally has no control or knowledge over the exact location of the provided resources but may be able to specify location at a higher level of abstraction (e.g., country, state, or datacenter). Examples of resources include storage, processing, memory, network bandwidth, and virtual machines.

Rapid elasticity: Capabilities can be rapidly and elastically provisioned, in some cases automatically, to quickly scale out and rapidly released to quickly scale in. To the consumer, the capabilities available for provisioning often appear to be unlimited and can be purchased in any quantity at any time.

Measured Service: Cloud systems automatically control and optimize resource use by leveraging a metering capability at some level of abstraction appropriate to the type of service (e.g., storage, processing, bandwidth, and active user accounts). Resource usage can be monitored, controlled, and reported providing transparency for both the provider and consumer of the utilized service.

Service Models:

 Cloud Software as a Service (SaaS). The capability provided to the consumer is to use the provider’s applications running on a cloud infrastructure. The applications are accessible from various client devices through a thin client interface such as a web browser (e.g., web-based email). The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure including network, servers, operating systems, storage, or even individual application capabilities, with the possible exception of limited user-specific application configuration settings.

Cloud Platform as a Service (PaaS). The capability provided to the consumer is to deploy onto the cloud infrastructure consumer-created or acquired applications created using programming languages and tools supported by the provider. The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure including network, servers, operating systems, or storage, but has control over the deployed applications and possibly application hosting environment configurations.

Cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). The capability provided to the consumer is to provision processing, storage, networks, and other fundamental computing resources where the consumer is able to deploy and run arbitrary software, which can include operating systems and applications. The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure but has control over operating systems, storage, deployed applications, and possibly limited control of select networking components (e.g., host firewalls).

Deployment Models:

Private cloud. The cloud infrastructure is operated solely for an organization. It may be managed by the organization or a third party and may exist on premise or off premise.

Community cloud. The cloud infrastructure is shared by several organizations and supports a specific community that has shared concerns (e.g., mission, security requirements, policy, and compliance considerations). It may be managed by the organizations or a third party and may exist on premise or off premise.

Public cloud. The cloud infrastructure is made available to the general public or a large industry group and is owned by an organization selling cloud services.

Hybrid cloud. The cloud infrastructure is a composition of two or more clouds (private, community, or public) that remain unique entities but are bound together by standardized or proprietary technology that enables data and application portability (e.g., cloud bursting for load-balancing between clouds).

Note: Cloud software takes full advantage of the cloud paradigm by being service oriented with a focus on statelessness, low coupling, modularity, and semantic interoperability

Provide guidance to industry and government for the creation and management of relevant cloud computing standards allowing all parties to gain the maximum value from cloud computing

NIST researchers are working with other agencies and standards development organizations to identify existing specifications and requirements use cases — ways users interact with cloud systems such as sending data to a cloud service provider’s environment, and later retrieving it and removing it from that provider.

The NIST approach will help to identify gaps in cloud computing standards and focus on those gaps.

SAJACC researchers plan to create a portal to collect and share the use case, specification, and test results information.

Another major challenge with cloud computing is to safeguard government data in clouds, especially citizens’ private information. Agencies using cloud computing will still use NIST-developed Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) guidelines.

NIST is serving as the technical advisor for the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP), which will allow agencies to collaboratively develop baseline FISMA security criteria and authorization to operate deliverables upfront for use of cloud computing vendor products and services. This certification and accreditation and authorization process is designed to cut duplication of effort. Once a baseline is approved, each agency could augment the baseline according to its individual data and mission system security authorization needs.
NIST wants to promote cloud standards:
To propose roadmaps for needed standards

To act as catalysts to help industry formulate their own standards

  • Opportunities for service, software, and hardware providers

To promote government and industry adoption of cloud standards
Goal of NIST Cloud Standards Effort

  • Fungible clouds

–        (mutual substitution of services)

–        Data and customer application portability

–        Common interfaces, semantics, programming models

–        Federated security services

–        Vendors compete on effective implementations

  • Enable and foster value add on services

–        Advanced technology

–        Vendors compete on innovative capabilities
A Model for Standardization and Proprietary Implementation

A NIST Cloud Standards Roadmap

  • Enable secure cloud integration, application portability, and data portability
  • Avoid over specification that will inhibit innovation
  • Separately addresses different cloud models

Roadmap (I)

  • Thoughts on standards:
    • Usually more service lock-in as you move up the SPI stack (IaaS->PaaS->SaaS)
    • IaaS is a natural transition point from traditional enterprise datacenters
      • Base service is typically computation, storage, and networking
    • The virtual machine is the best focal point for fungibility
    • Security and data privacy concerns are the two critical barriers to adopting cloud computing

Roadmap (II)

  • Result:
    • Focus on an overall IaaS standards roadmap as a first major deliverable
    • Research PaaS and SaaS roadmaps as we move forward
    • Provide visibility, encourage collaboration in addressing these standards as soon as possible
    • Identify common needs for security and data privacy standards across IaaS, PaaS, SaaS

A Roadmap for IaaS

  • Needed standards
    • VM image distribution (e.g., DMTF OVF)
    • VM provisioning and control (e.g., EC2 API)
    • Inter-cloud VM exchange (e.g., ??)
    • Persistent storage (e.g., Azure Storage, S3, EBS, GFS, Atmos)
    • VM SLAs (e.g., ??) – machine readable
    • uptime, resource guarantees, storage redundancy
    • Secure VM configuration (e.g., SCAP)

A Roadmap for PaaS and SaaS

  • More difficult due to proprietary nature
  • A future focus for NIST
  • Standards for PaaS could specify

–        Supported programming languages

–        APIs for cloud services

  • Standards for SaaS could specify

–        SaaS-specific authentication / authorization

–        Formats for data import and export (e.g., XML schemas)

–        Separate standards may be needed for each application space
Security and Data Privacy Across IaaS, PaaS, SaaS

  • Many existing standards
  • Identity and Access Management (IAM)

–        IdM federation (SAML, WS-Federation, Liberty ID-FF)

–        Strong authentication standards (HOTP, OCRA, TOTP)

–        Entitlement management (XACML)

  • Data Encryption (at-rest, in-flight), Key Management


  • Records and Information Management (ISO 15489)
  • E-discovery (EDRM)

Cloud Security: NIST Releases Guide to Enterprise IT Security

IAM Identity Access Management (IAM) encapsulates people, processes and products to identify and manage the data used in an information system to authenticate users and grant or deny access rights to data and system resources. The goal of IAM is to provide appropriate access to enterprise resources.
SAML Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) is an XML-based standard for exchanging authentication and authorization data between security domains, that is, between an identity provider (a producer of assertions) and a service provider (a consumer of assertions).
WS-Federation WS-Federation defines mechanisms for allowing disparate security realms to broker information on identities, identity attributes and authentication.
HOTP It is a cornerstone of Initiative For Open Authentication (OATH).
XACML It is a declarative access control policy language implemented in XML and a processing model, describing how to interpret the policies.
PKI Public key infrastructure
PKCS PKCS refers to a group of public-key cryptography standards devised and published by RSA Security.

Imp Links [FISMA]

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6 Responses to NIST and Cloud Computing


  2. Pingback: Challenges of Public Cloud Adoption and its Impact | Researcher's Blog

  3. Pingback: Application Security and Cloud Service Models | Researcher's Blog

  4. Pingback: Cloud Computing and FISMA | Researcher's Blog

  5. Pingback: Summary of Guidelines on Security and Privacy in Public Cloud Computing (NIST-December 2011) | Researcher's Blog

  6. Pingback: NIST’s Definition of Cloud Computing with MindMap | Researcher's Blog

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