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VMware scales multi-cloud security with Workforce Identity Federation

Working in multi-cloud environments gives organizations more flexibility to build and optimize applications. However, operating in multiple environments can also introduce new complexities and risks. VMware provides a wide range of solutions to help address them, and as a multi-cloud organization ourselves, we see some of our customers’ challenges firsthand.

Maintaining compliance across all of our projects and teams as we continue to scale requires consistent monitoring. We have dozens of different departments and thousands of projects across multiple environments, each with distinct service level objectives and security requirements. For a long time, we had to manage permissions manually for different environments. We knew there had to be a way to more effectively manage provisioning and security at scale. 

Opening the door for secure development with Google Cloud’s Workforce Identity Federation

We were already using Google Cloud, and specifically Cloud Run, to build and deploy apps, and we wanted to build a management solution that would complement it and provide us with a single pane of glass to monitor our entire security infrastructure. Our team developed a service we call CloudGate, built with Workforce Identity Federation. This gives us enterprise-level access control and governance management across all of our cloud environments in one place. Now, our security operation center can see exactly what’s going on with individual accounts at a glance.

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We can manage permissions for individuals connected to specific groups, accounts, or projects through CloudGate in combination with our identity provider. When a user attempts to interact with a cloud project, rather than trying to grant specific access permissions, we can use workforce pools from Workforce Identity Federation to give a user an ephemeral session. 

This means we can set the exact access level and limit that access to a set period of time. With finer control and clearer visibility, we can track specific steps that users have taken as they interact with cloud resources. Since we track the same user identity inside VMware all the way through our cloud environment, we can audit our security posture more easily and frequently to locate potential risks as they arise anywhere in our environment. By simplifying the audit and monitoring processes, we can be even more diligent about guarding against potential threats, such as access credentials leaks from  provisioned employee accounts. 

Centralizing security management to improve collaboration

The federated access model ensures that we don’t need to worry about managing account-level security and compliance for each of our cloud environments. Our security and compliance teams are able to use CloudGate to carefully manage and monitor compliance at our business unit level, so our service teams can focus on improving our product and developing new features for our customers.

That growth is easy to see by looking at how fast we’ve been able to roll out new projects with CloudGate. Since launch, we’ve onboarded users for nearly 7,000 projects, and are adding 200 more per month. Generic access controls with Workforce identity pools give our technical leadership confidence that the compliance and security facets of public cloud access are well controlled, so we can get started on new work faster.

Federating access has also made cross-departmental collaboration easier. For example, our finance team may want visibility into how and where capital is being allocated for a specific project. We can use CloudGate to grant specific permissions to that team (or individual user) with only the level of detail they need to see without granting access to the same resources that the development team is using. 

Continuing the climb into the cloud

Part of the drive behind adopting Workforce Identity Federation and building CloudGate is that VMware continues to grow in the hyperscaler marketplace. We’re expanding our software-as-a-service footprint with new products, and that growth has only been made possible through our enhanced security and compliance postures. We’re excited to align ourselves with Google Cloud and share these security enhancements with our own customers when we make CloudGate available for them.

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