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July 1, 2021

How to Evolve DevOps to DevSecOps Effectively

What are DevOps and DevSecOps, their differences, their benefits, and how to make the transition successfully.

DevOps has undoubtedly changed for the better how we develop software. A significant number of organizations have seen benefits from the implementation of this approach. However, like with most things, it has its flaws. For example, security wasn't a priority, and it was addressed only at the end of a product's life cycle.

With DevSecOps, it's possible to add security to your DevOps process with no negative impact on speed or scalability.

This post will explain what these two approaches are all about and how to evolve from DevOps to DevSecOps successfully.

What Is DevOps?

DevOps is a software engineering approach that combines all the best practices that are essential to building a software system. The main goal of DevOps is to shorten the overall development time and continuously deliver value to the customer.

This is achieved by breaking the barriers between the teams that write the software and the teams that run the software. It allows one team to better understand what the role of the other is, and with constant communication, it motivates them to collaborate through all phases of the software delivery life cycle and solve problems that existed when these teams were practically working autonomously.

It begins with the planning phase where business analysts and development teams determine the organizational needs of the software. The team will agree upon the ideas and needs before moving forward. Once agreed upon, all development team members work on the code for the system. This code includes everything from app and automated test code to infrastructure and pipeline code. This is known as “Everything-as-Code” and all code will live in a code repository for collaboration and transparency. Then comes the automated pipeline phase, where the app is built, tested, and deployed. The code will be compiled if necessary and packaged as an artifact to be stored in an artifact repository. After this happens successfully, the software goes through thorough automation testing to determine if any bugs or errors exist. If there are errors then the system would provide feedback to the interested parties such as the developer who wrote the code for fast feedback.  If all was good with initial testing, the app will be deployed to an environment where it can undergo more testing, user acceptance testing (UAT), etc. This is where we can start to gather automated metrics and use monitoring to verify the change has a positive effect on the ecosystem.  The information coming from monitoring, user feedback, and testing gets analyzed and will create actionable items to be discussed during the next planning phase. This process above represents a subset of the available operations that can be used in a Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) pipeline. CI/CD is a core part of the DevOps approach along with team collaboration, transparency, and more.

Adapting to feedback and making changes is more streamlined with DevOps. Delivery is faster, and the deployments are more consistent. DevOps keeps the software development process moving smoothly between the teams.

What Is DevSecOps?

Modern software applications have evolved a lot over the last few years. Instead of a monolithic architecture, we have microservices that use several third-party services like APIs or databases to communicate with each other and work effectively. These applications can run on virtual operating systems called containers, and containers run on cloud platforms. All these layers expose the software to security threats that could lead to grave repercussions. Also, this advanced infrastructure complexity and the increasing speed and frequency of new releases make it difficult for security engineers to provide a secure end product consistently.

DevSecOps addresses this problem by integrating security into the DevOps approach. So instead of thinking of security just before releasing a new feature, the DevSecOps approach encourages you to focus on security right from the beginning and solve issues right away as soon as they appear.

Security teams also take part in the collaborative process along with the development and operations teams of the DevOps approach. Essentially, with DevSecOps, all team members contribute to integrating security into the DevOps CI/CD workflow. By incorporating security early in the workflow, you'll have a better chance of identifying and resolving potential vulnerability issues.

This concept is also known as “shifting left,” meaning developers play a major role in the security process and fix problems in real-time instead of at the end of each release cycle. DevSecOps covers the entire product life cycle from planning to deployment, providing constant feedback and insights.

By incorporating security early in the workflow, you'll have a better chance of identifying and resolving potential vulnerability issues.

Difference Between DevOps and DevSecOps

DevOps' objective is to increase deployment frequency predictably and efficiently with minimal impact on the end-user experience. In other words, the prevention of security threats is not a priority for DevOps teams. DevSecOps is the evolution of DevOps where application security concerns are handled from the beginning and during the whole development process.

Both approaches are based on automation, continuous monitoring, and close collaboration of multiple teams. Implementing practices like continuous integration, continuous delivery, and microservices is an essential part of DevOps and DevSecOps.

But as we mentioned above, DevSecOps focuses heavily on security, so it has additional elements. One of them is threat modeling, which is a process that helps identify security requirements, recognize vulnerabilities and how critical they are, and finally take measures to mitigate them. Also, automated security testing is a method used throughout the software development process to identify flaws with no negative effect on the project's timely completion. Finally, the incident management practice describes the actions an organization takes to identify, analyze, and correct security threats and prevent them from happening again.

Benefits of DevSecOps

Companies that commit to DevSecOps can expect several benefits, including the following:

  • Faster and more agile security teams.
  • The ability to react to change fast and adapt accordingly.
  • Improved collaboration and communication across all three functions.
  • The ability to automate builds and conduct quality assurance testing.
  • The possibility of identifying code vulnerabilities early.
  • The opportunity to free up team members to work on high-value projects.

From DevOps to DevSecOps

Transitioning from DevOps to DevSecOps could be challenging and complex. Security is an ever-evolving issue that makes the transition an ongoing process. As DevSecOps practices evolve, the tools, governance processes, and developers' training must be updated continuously. You have to keep in mind that it requires a total cultural shift, and therefore can't be achieved overnight. It takes time and patience. However, there are ways and tools to do it smoothly and efficiently to ensure your company's more sustainable security future.

Below are four critical prerequisites for successfully applying DevSecOps to your organization.

Understand That DevSecOps Is a Cultural Change

The transition from DevOps to DevSecOps is a very important task for the company, and the human factor should not be neglected. Developers will face a new demanding role, as they'll be responsible for running the security tasks and resolving any problems. Dialogue with all involved and your analysis of how important the change is will help reduce dissatisfaction and fatigue and minimize disruption to the CI/CD pipeline. Training and appointing “security champions” within the team of developers to whom the rest of the team can turn will significantly help the process. In addition to that, having a team responsible for creating templates for security components and tasks ensures repeatability, consistency, and speed in all business processes.

The transition from DevOps to DevSecOps is a very important task for the company, and the human factor should not be neglected.

Security Practices Should Fit Your Development Workflow

Communication with the development teams is very important to make the transition smooth. You can't just try to impose security practices and expect them to change their tactics. Of course, you won't ignore your security requirements in terms of monitoring, risk assessment, and so on, but you should adapt the security strategy to the development workflow and not the other way around.

Develop a Framework Suited to DevSecOps

To be effective, DevSecOps needs a well-planned security framework. It should define all the security actions that need to take place across the entire CI/CD pipeline. You should measure each action using a predefined metric that will allow team members to plan clearly and successfully because they'll have transparent information regarding governance requirements.

Automate Security Governance

We mentioned earlier the “shift left” practice that moves testing to the beginning of the product life cycle. As DevSecOps practices become increasingly automated, security metrics become more difficult to capture. A DevSecOps framework has to track governance during the whole life cycle. Automated governance requires the best tools for the task, and they should be aligned with the metrics defined from the security framework.

How to Start With DevSecOps

Providing secure software is more important than ever. Switching from DevOps to DevSecOps has become a necessity for organizations that understand how crucial the security aspect is for their business and their customers. The transition is a difficult task and has various challenges, but in the long run, the benefits for the company are worth the effort, time, and change of mentality that are required. Liatrio offers DevSecOps services that will help you make the switch in the most efficient way possible.

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