Can cloud computing save you from DDoS attacks?

WikiLeaks takes to Amazon cloud to shield itself from DDoS attacks, and other targeted sites are likely to follow

No matter what you think about the WikiLeaks story, it's interesting to note that the website famous for publishing leaked government and corporate documents has turned to cloud computing to save it from a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack.

WikiLeaks chose Amazon.com's EC2 cloud computing service to host its files, according to the Guardian newspaper, as a reaction to the attacks that began Sunday night. As the controversial content is hosted by a French company, the pages residing on Amazon.com's servers do not contain any information the U.S. government has been complaining about. However, I suspect this was not good PR for Amazon.com. And in any event, Amazon.com yesterday pulled down the WikiLeaks pages apparently at the request of U.S. Sen. Joe Liebermnn (I-Ct.).

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Beyond the politics, it's interesting to note that sites experiencing DDoS attacks, which saturate server resources, can take refuge in cloud computing providers and their accompanying extra horsepower to outlive the assaults. I suspect that other sites targeted by DDoS attacks -- either now or in the future -- will consider clouds as a survival strategy.

The cloud offers the advantage of elasticity. With the ability to bring thousands of cores online, as necessary and almost instantaneously, the cloud all but eliminates worries about a company's ability to meet a rapidly expanding needs, including attempts to saturate the infrastructure. Of course, you'll get a mighty big bill at the end of the month -- WikiLeaks will surely see a sizable statement from Amazon.com.

However, resources hosted on a cloud provider such as Amazon.com can still be harmed by such an attack. As more applications, data, and websites move to the cloud, the providers themselves will ultimately be targeted by proxy. When you're hosting critical enterprise data, as well as content from sites such as WikiLeaks, it could be a problem that spills over into multiple customer sites, not just the ones being hit.

This article, "Can cloud computing save you from DDoS attacks?," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and follow the latest developments in cloud computing at InfoWorld.com.

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