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Integrating Tailscale into your cloud infrastructure

In this article, we discuss how teams can integrate Tailscale into cloud infrastructure to take connectivity and access to the next level.

Written By
Will Kelly

Cloud teams operate in hybrid and remote working models which means they need a different level of secure and flexible access to their backend systems which traditional VPNs typically don’t provide.

Tailscale is a mesh-capable overlay network that allows cloud teams to connect users, peer services, and SSH directly to cloud resources. Fine-grained access control rules for users, devices, and team resources, such as virtual machines in multiple cloud environments, permit organizations to determine when direct connections between devices, users, and resources are acceptable.

In this article, we discuss how teams can integrate Tailscale into cloud infrastructure to take connectivity and access to the next level.

Tailscale for cloud infrastructure

At a high-level, Tailscale can benefit your cloud infrastructure in several ways:

  • Easy to install, use, and manage which enables a cloud team to manage their own access to their cloud infrastructure
  • No requirements to setup and switch between multiple profiles to access different Amazon Web Services (AWS) accounts and regions
  • Offers a single VPN to connect to multiple clouds, including AWS, GCP, and Azure, so you don’t have to switch between cloud services provider (CSP) VPNs
  • Serverless, containers, and Kubernetes support
  • Ability to do direct connections to instances for better performance
  • 4via6 subnet routers to overcome overlapping Classless Inter-Domain Routing (CIDR) ranges
  • Integrate ACLs management into your existing GitOps workflow with GitOps for ACLs.

How to introduce Tailscale into your cloud infrastructure

Tailscale often finds its way into Enterprises from programmers or engineers who discover it for personal use, and then bring it to work to help solve an issue. Here are some suggestions about when and how to evangelize Tailscale for your cloud projects:

New cloud projects

Often new cloud projects offer the best opening to introduce Tailscale to your cloud team. If your team is implementing a multi-cloud environment, making the case to implement Tailscale is simple because it’ll enable your team to access all your CSP clouds securely.

Hybrid cloud projects

Tailscale can offer a potential solution to the secure access challenges that new hybrid cloud projects present. Implementing Tailscale in your hybrid cloud environment gives your cloud team continuous access to your cloud services on-premises or in the public cloud.

Existing cloud projects

The big sell for Tailscale joining the tech stack of an existing cloud project revolves around ease of use and access. When your cloud team implements Tailscale, managing their access using permissions as IaC becomes possible. Implementing secure remote access this way reduces your cloud team’s dependency on your corporate service desk.

Cloud infrastructure security

While much of the cloud security market thinking focuses on securing cloud workloads, cloud infrastructure security is also a priority. Here are some reasons:

  • Centralizing and securing access to your cloud infrastructure using Tailscale offers new options for granting limited but secure access to contractors, partners, or even auditors as needed
  • Streamlining access management processes enabling cloud team members to access Serverless apps, Kubernetes, containers, databases, and warehouses
  • Improving overall security posture, thus reducing the overall blast radius of your potential expenditures for remediating a breach or attack

Tailscale vs. CSP VPNs

CSP VPNs serve a purpose, but as your cloud infrastructure grows in complexity, the inflexibility of these VPNs can stand in the way of cloud team productivity.

AWS VPN vs. Tailscale

AWS Site-to-Site VPN creates a secure connection between your data center or branch office and your AWS cloud resources. By working with AWS Global Accelerator, the accelerated Site-to-Site VPN option provides even greater performance for globally distributed applications.

The following compares Tailscale vs. AWS VPN:

Mesh VPN: Tailscale: Yes | AWS VPN: No

Open source: Tailscale: Yes, Clients but not coordination server | AWS VPN: No

End-to-end encryption: Tailscale: Yes | AWS VPN: Yes

Role-based access controls: Tailscale: Yes | AWS VPN: Yes

Integrates with identity providers for single sign-on: Tailscale: Google, AzureAD, GitHub, Okta, OneLogin, and more | AWS VPN: AWS identity tools, Okta, Ping Identity, and OneLogin.

Client required for users: Tailscale: Yes | AWS VPN: Yes

Pricing: Tailscale: Free for personal use and open source, paid for enterprise | AWS VPN: Time-limited trial/free tier, paid for enterprise

Azure VPN Gateway vs. Tailscale

Azure VPN Gateway enables secure connections between on-premises networks and Azure using industry-standard protocols like IPsec and IKE.

Mesh VPN: Tailscale: Yes | Azure VPN Gateway: No

Open source: Tailscale: Yes, Clients but not coordination server| Azure VPN Gateway: No

End-to-end encryption: Tailscale: Yes | Azure VPN Gateway: Yes

Role-based access controls: Tailscale: Yes | Azure VPN Gateway: Yes

Integrates with identity providers for single sign-on: Tailscale: Google, AzureAD, GitHub, Okta, OneLogin, and more | Azure VPN Gateway: Azure Identity tools

Client required for users: Tailscale: Yes | Azure VPN Gateway: Yes

Pricing: Tailscale: Free for personal use and open source, paid for enterprise | Azure VPN Gateway: Time-limited trial/free tier, Pay-as-you-go option, Paid for enterprise

Google Cloud VPN vs. Tailscale

Cloud VPN securely connects two networks through an encrypted IPsec VPN connection to protect data as it travels over the internet. It also allows you to connect two instances of Cloud VPN to each other.

Mesh VPN: Tailscale: YES | Google Cloud VPN: No

Open source: Tailscale: Yes, Clients but not coordination server| Google Cloud VPN: No

End-to-end encryption: Tailscale: Yes | Google Cloud VPN: Yes

Role-based access controls: Tailscale: Yes | Google Cloud VPN: Yes

Integrates with identity providers for single sign-on: Tailscale: Google, AzureAD, GitHub, Okta, OneLogin, and more | Google Cloud VPN: GCP identity tools, Okta, Azure AD, and other OIDC-compliant providers

Client required for users: Tailscale: Yes | Google Cloud VPN: Yes

Pricing: Tailscale: Free for personal use and open source, paid for enterprise | Google Cloud VPN: Time-limited trial/free tier, paid for enterprise

Improving and securing cloud management platforms with Tailscale

A cloud management platform (CMP) is a suite of integrated software tools that an enterprise can use to monitor and control cloud environments. While an organization can use a cloud management platform exclusively for private or public cloud deployments, a CMP commonly targets hybrid and multi-cloud models to help centralize control of various cloud-based infrastructures.

You can specify which devices or members of your cloud team can access your CMP through Tailscale using access controls based on your organization’s security requirements.

Cloud management is growing beyond just a CMP. Here’s a list of tools that cloud teams typically use on the backend:

  • Monitoring and observability tools that help you monitor the performance, availability, and health of your cloud resources.
  • IaC tools to define and manage your infrastructure using code, making it easier to provision, configure, and operate cloud resources.
  • Security and compliance tools ensure your cloud infrastructure’s security and compliance.
  • Configuration management tools that enable you to automate the configuration and management of your cloud resources.
  • Backup and disaster recovery tools to help you replicate and recover your infrastructure in case of a disaster.
  • Collaboration and communication tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Jira enable real-time communication, task management, and issue tracking.
  • Cloud cost optimization tools to help optimize and track your cloud spending.
  • Performance testing and optimization tools to ensure your cloud infrastructure performs optimally.

While some of these tools may integrate into the CMP, not all do. Implementing Tailscale as a secure access standard enables your team to access your CSP dashboards and these tools through a single VPN interface.

Tailscale in multi-cloud environments

Although multi-cloud is becoming standard, resources from different providers remain tricky to network. Tailscale is a zero-config VPN that seamlessly creates a secure network for all your devices. You can use Tailscale to send traffic over an encrypted tunnel between different clouds, from AWS to Azure or Google Cloud and DigitalOcean, by installing the client on each of your compute nodes.

Tailscale can also use subnet routing to set up access gateways where you can’t modify individual resources. Traffic flows directly between devices in your Tailscale network whenever possible, reducing latency and ensuring no single point of failure.

Tailscale in hybrid cloud environments

Tailscale offers enhanced security, simplified network setup, scalability, flexibility, and performance optimization in hybrid cloud environments. It helps to establish a secure and seamless communication infrastructure across different components of your hybrid cloud setup, enabling efficient collaboration and resource utilization.

Conclusion

Incorporating Tailscale into your cloud infrastructure brings numerous benefits, especially in hybrid, and cloud environments. Its ease of use, centralized management, and cross-platform compatibility make it an excellent choice for securing access to private or shared resources. Tailscale simplifies network setup, offers a single VPN for multiple cloud providers, and supports various technologies like Serverless, containers, and Kubernetes.

Implementing Tailscale can enhance security, streamline access management, and improve overall infrastructure performance. Whether starting a new project or integrating Tailscale into existing cloud projects, it offers a robust solution for secure and efficient connectivity in your hybrid cloud environment.

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