Rights Management as a Service?

R-MaaS: Rights Management as a service?

I participated in a panel session this week at the Cloud Computing Summit in Washington D.C. sponsored by the 1105 Government Information Group. Over the course of the day, there was a healthy debate being waged about exactly when and how government agencies should deploy cloud applications. Some postulated that the cloud was merely a marketing term for hosted services that had been around for years, while others believed that significant technology advances such as virtualization make today’s cloud computing deployments something altogether different and more valuable. One area that lacked any debate was that the number one area of concern for both commercial and government customers regarding cloud deployments is security. Part of this debate focuses on whether or not applications that housed PII or other highly sensitive information should ever be deployed in a cloud infrastructure due to the assumed lack of control. This topic triggered some thoughts about another way security and the cloud are coming together quickly today: deploying Enterprise security software in the cloud as a managed service.

Perhaps we’ll coin the term R-MaaS for now, Rights Management As A Service. There are many layers of security that needs to be built into a cloud infrastructure, from physical security, to access controls, firewalls, and even encryption for archived data at rest. But this concept is using the power of the cloud to actually deploy security tools such as LiveCycle Rights Management, which provides persistent document protection regardless of whether the recipient is internal or ecternal to the organization, regardless of the document type (PDF, CAD, or Microsoft Office) and regardless of where the documents ultimately travel (at rest in storage or file systems, in motion over email or to the web, or in use on laptops or removable media devices). LiveCycle Rights Management as a Managed Service has already garnered a lot of interest as all of the features available on premise are also available in the cloud. This includes the ability to protect documents both inside and outside the firewall via free, widely available Adobe Reader for PDF, support for strong user authentication including VPN access for internal employees and a variety of PKI based authentication mechanisms for identity federation across organizations. As well as the ability to expire or dynamically revoke documents, link users automatically to the latest versions, or even provide anonymous access to particular documents as a way to track how documents are being consumed.

Some of these capabilities customers have been using since 2003, but now in 2010, we have added this new deployment option that not only brings rights management to the cloud, it’s actually rights management in the cloud. LiveCycle Managed Services is our new cloud deployment option for LiveCycle that allows customers to deploy software in a simple annual subscription pricing model that includes all hardware, software, maintenance, upgrades, and 24/7 monitoring of the system. We still work with a customer’s internal IT and security resources to help build out the appropriate security policies, but the mundane tasks of maintenance and upgrades are performed by Adobe. Besides all the benefits that come with a fully managed service, deployments times can be accelerated from weeks down to a couple of days or less. This allows you to get the application up and protecting documents quickly for the business without the costly delays associated with approvals, hardware and software procurement, and installation.

Now getting back to the original concerns at this week’s conference about relinquishing control of sensitive information to the cloud…. Where LiveCycle Rights Management deployed as a Managed Service circumvents these objections is through an elegant architecture that is absent the need to ever house sensitive documents in the cloud itself. In fact, only the document policies and associated keys are stored in the cloud, the documents remain in the organization’s datacenter, within their control. Keys are passed back and forth from the Rights Management server sitting in the cloud to allow user access based on the document policies. So what started as an interesting philosophical discussion about whether or not applications which transact sensitive information should leverage a cloud computing architecture, ends with the notion that some of these concerns can actually be mitigated by none other than, the cloud.