Why the rapid transition to cloud demands that DevOps shift left

To accommodate remote work policies amid COVID-19, companies have increasingly adopted the public cloud to support off-site business continuity. A MarketsandMarkets analysis found that due to the impact of the current crisis, the cloud market is expected to grow from $233 billion in 2019 to $295 billion by 2021.

DevOps shift left

The transition to remote work by organizations across the globe is not temporary. Companies are realizing that employees are just as productive working from home or other remote locations through cloud applications and services as they are in a traditional office environment. As more and more organizations accept nontraditional and flexible work models and accelerate their adoption of cloud services, there will be a constant signal-to-noise ratio, and the likelihood for mistakes will rise.

Teams are working faster than ever to deploy new features and services to keep up with today’s digital demands. Thus, companies must empower security and devops teams to work together to proactively prevent mistakes from turning into devastating data breaches. However, this is no easy task. Even though operating in the cloud offers many advantages to developers, security is often seen as an obstacle that prevents developers from truly embracing the speed and agility of the cloud.

In fact, nearly half of developers and engineers bypass cloud security and compliance policies. This is an incredibly reckless and costly practice given that cloud misconfigurations cost companies nearly $5 trillion from 2018-2019 alone.

This dynamic is changed by shifting cloud security left. Below, I dive deeper into why this shift is so critical and how to achieve a shift-left approach in your organization.

Overcoming DevOps challenges to secure the cloud

It is important to understand what makes DevOps central to the cloud security lifecycle. Considering the self-service and automated world of cloud services, the success or failure of cloud security is ultimately in the hands of the developer. However, when organizations rely solely on runtime cloud analysis, security and compliance are left outside looking in on the provisioning process. This creates many challenges for DevOps.

Since most runtime issues are generated by Infrastructure as Code (IaC) templates that contain the root cause of the issue at hand, developers are left to address the same core fault over and over again. This process is inefficient and not only results in productivity loss but also heightens tension between developers and security teams.

Additionally, DevOps teams are challenged by the rapid nature of change in the cloud. A new cloud service might be secure and compliant in isolation. Yet, when services are joined within broader environments, new security and compliance challenges are certain to arise.
Overall, ignoring the challenges experienced by DevOps teams and waiting to catch risks after provisioning puts the organization at immediate risk.

The drive to shifting security and compliance left

To address these DevOps challenges, organizations need to shift security and compliance left. Integrating security directly into the build process proactively prevents misconfigurations and policy violations from occurring and delivers better experiences to developers.
By directly integrating security and compliance into the CI/CD pipeline, an organization can now take the appropriate preventive steps to remediate misconfigurations, noncompliance, and security risks before it is too late. The opportunity for exploitation is drastically eliminated by this shift.

What’s more, when cloud security is implemented throughout CI/CD, the developer’s experience improves because all issues are surfaced at the right time and the right pipeline step. Developers are empowered to solve cloud security issues the first time, which drastically improves their efficiency and efficacy, allowing them to focus on the bigger picture rather than solving the same issues over and over.

Increased productivity and empowered security and development teams create a sense of shared ownership and responsibility. Developers now are much more likely to participate in the cloud security process. This continuous cycle benefits the developer, the security professional, and the organization at large.

Shifting left with IaC

Organizations can successfully make this transition and shift left by evaluating IaC templates for the same security issues that are currently evaluated at runtime, before a build.

IaC is the driver for moving toward a preventive cloud security strategy. Incorporating the right tools and providing integrated security guidance directly into the development lifecycle provides developers with the necessary recommendations needed to respond to problems immediately. Security teams are able to arm developers with IaC templates that will guide the delivery of secure and compliant cloud environments from the very start.

Staying ahead by taking a step back

Not only has COVID-19 accelerated the shift to remote workforces, it has also accelerated the digital transformation of many companies, including the adoption of cloud. Without taking a full lifecycle approach to cloud security (e.g., combining preventive and reactive), organizations cannot scale in the cloud securely.

Shifting left is imperative to reducing risk in the cloud and creating a sense of ownership and shared responsibility between security and DevOps teams. This is especially critical considering that cloud misconfigurations can cause massive breaches.

This shift is a requirement for all organizations seeking to use cloud services to achieve innovation without the loss of control, and fortunately, with advanced security tools available on the market today, it’s never been easier.

Don't miss