Google Cloud

Introducing Self-Managed Vault As A Service (VaaS) On Google Cloud

Dheeraj Panyam
Dheeraj Panyam

As your SMB scales to new heights, the need for advanced secret management emerges. Manually storing sensitive data like tokens and SSH keys can suffice to a certain extent.

However, as your team expands, It’s essential to simplify the management of authentication credentials, keys, and secrets.

Additionally, security is a concern as you migrate workloads to the public cloud for scalability and cost reasons.

So – what if we told you that you can safeguard your sensitive data in a digital vault?

What is Vault?

Hashicorp’s Vault presents an elegant solution to securely managing your secrets. A vault encrypts your sensitive data to prevent unauthorized access. These vaults are active storage containers.

Think of a vault as a highly secure and encrypted password repository.

Vaults establish secure control of sensitive assets or “secrets” by authenticating them against identity sources like an Active Directory (AD), Kubernetes, and LDAP – amongst other cloud platforms.

Centralizing your secret management via a vault strengthens your DevOps processes by provisioning an additional layer of database security.

In a nutshell, here are some of the critical benefits of a secrets Vault:

  • Centralized Control
    Your organization might have several stakeholders belonging to various functions. Instead of separately managing their individual “secrets,” a Vault collates all sensitive assets into one central location.
  • Enhanced Productivity
    Authentication becomes more secure and hassle-free.
  • Lifecycle Management
    A vault streamlines the process of password rotation and helps you monitor and track all secrets across your organization. Vaults also generate transient dynamic secrets like SSH Keys, DB passwords, PKI certifications, etc. – and manage their lease & rotation.
  • Legal Compliances
    Auditing secrets is a tedious task. A Vault allows you to comply with intricate data regulations such as CERT, HIPAA, and FDCC.

Did you know that enterprises with efficient DevOps implementations are 50% more efficient at resolving security issues? The same can be applied to your SMB! Reach out to D3V for an end-to-end DevOps solution for your cloud monitoring and CI/CD pipelines.

Setting up a Self-Managed Vault Service

It’s time to get a little techie. Here’s how you can self-host a Vault service on Google Cloud: Guide on Vault cluster deployment in Kubernetes (K8s). In this case, you will leverage Google Cloud Storage (GCS) as the backend infrastructure for your Vault’s assets.

We at D3V implemented an interesting twist to the Vault deployment. Instead of deploying the Vault instance on K8s, we self-managed the Vault on GCP (using a MIG setup).

  • Created a statefulset MIG instance group that runs the latest vault binary.
  • Used GCS as a backend storage for Vault. Data written locally on the GCE VMs is replicated to GCS via GCSFUSE and GCS bucket is always kept upto update with the data stored on the individual VM instances.
  • Updated Vault configuration to expose the MIG group as a LB external IP.

Quick Brief on the MIG
GCP Managed Instance Groups (MIGs) enable you to operate applications on several identical VMs. Using MIGs, you can ensure scalability and high availability for your workloads. You also have access to vital MIG services, including auto-healing, auto-updating, and multi-zone (regional) deployments.

What is Cloud Storage Fuse (GCS FUSE)
Google Cloud Storage FUSE (GCSFUSE) is an open-source FUSE (Filesystem in Userspace) adapter enabling you to mount Google Cloud instances as filesystems on MacOS or Linux.

Leveraging GCS Fuse for your vault hosting helps reduce overhead deployment costs. Cloud Storage FUSE is available for free. However, the storage and metadata loads get charged like any typical cloud storage.

You can run GCS Fuse as long as you have connectivity to GCP – including GCE (Google Cloud Engine VMs)

Google’s Collaboration with Hashicorp’s Vault
Google’s KMS (Key Management Service) module takes your Cloud security to the next level. KMS provides centralized, scalable and seamless cloud key management.

Recently, Google launched a Cloud KMS secrets engine exclusively for HashiCorp Vault. Here are some of the unparalleled benefits:

  • Familiar APIs and authorization
    With the secret engine, you can use the VAULT API to create new KMS configurations.
  • Higher Security Standards
    Cloud KMS Keys undergo cryptographic operations on a FIPS 140-2 Level 3 HSM – an ultra-secure standard for the GCP Key Vault.

Why Google Cloud Storage (GCS) and Vault Are a Match Made in Heaven
GCS boasts some scintillating features that simplify your Vault server management. The key is to use GCS Fuse as your backend storage method for self-hosting the Vault. Additionally, you can use KMS for the seal management of your Vault Server.

The result is that your Google Compute Engine (GCE) server will present secrets to you and you alone. There is no third party having access to your secrets.

Self-Managed Vault vs Vault (SaaS)

The Google Marketplace does feature a SaaS Vault offering. However, by self-hosting the Vault service – there’s a massive cost-cutting potential. Moreover, the self-managed choice is relatively more secure since there’s no third party involved in handling your sensitive data.

Wrapping Up

As small and medium-sized businesses scale, the need for advanced secret management emerges. The manual storage of sensitive data such as tokens and SSH keys is no longer sufficient when teams expand, and security is a concern. Hashicorp’s Vault presents a secure solution by encrypting sensitive data to prevent unauthorized access. Centralizing secret management via a vault strengthens DevOps processes by providing an additional layer of database security.

Benefits of a secrets Vault include centralized control, enhanced productivity, lifecycle management, and legal compliance. Self-hosting the Vault service provides cost-cutting potential and increased security, as there is no third party involved in handling sensitive data. Google’s KMS module and Cloud KMS secrets engine, along with GCS Fuse, provide unparalleled benefits for secure Vault server management.

If you or your team would like assistance in setting up VaaS on Google Cloud, reach out to our experts today for a free technical consultation.

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