DevOps and DevSecOps are two IT terms tossed around a lot these days by industry pundits and speculators. Although these sound like complex terms, they’re not as difficult to grasp as you might think and they could have significant ramifications for the software development industry going forward.
In fact, many enterprises are shifting to DevSecOps methodologies over DevOps.
But what exactly are DevOps and DevSecOps, and what are their differences? This guide will break down everything you need to know about DevOps and a software development lifecycle, plus explain why DevSecOps is noted as a separate type of methodology. We’ll also explain why so many enterprises are making the shift to DevSecOps policies instead of regular DevOps practices.
Let’s get started.
What is DevOps?
The thing to remember about each of these topics is that the names come from the IT community’s semi-charming penchant for coming up with literal and abbreviated names for complex topics. DevOps, SecOps, and DevSecOps all follow this format. Let’s break down each of these one by one so you can fully grasp DevSecOps in its entirety.
“DevOps” is the first and original methodology that blends two focuses of computer science. You can probably guess what these components are based on the name. “Dev” means software development while “Ops” means information technology operations or services. Hence, Dev + Ops = DevOps or, put another way, software development operations/services.
Let’s simplify things. What does DevOps really mean?
DevOps is a methodology designed to improve how quickly software can be produced and improved through the use of constant collaboration, automation, combination, and intelligence. By emphasizing DevOps practices throughout a development cycle, developers will be able to enjoy greater control over product infrastructure and prioritize software performance over other purposes.
The goals of DevOps are to:
- Increase the speed of software delivery through the enabling of automation and collaboration
- Streamline integration of other software architecture and systems into existing or future products
- Enjoy increased control over production infrastructure
- Prioritize efficient and consistent software delivery
All of these objectives combined are of critical importance to any developer or IT business. Any IT firm worth its salt needs to be able to put out high-quality products and software patches over a consistent schedule and without constant interruptions or delays. DevOps allows developers to focus on methodologies or systems that help them meet their deadlines more readily and consistently.
DevOps in Action
It’s tough to really grasp what DevOps brings to the table if you don’t see examples. So let’s take a look at some.
Think of DevOps as a methodology, focus, or way of working designed to guarantee continuous delivery of value to end-users of software or applications. Through automated and streamlined DevOps strategies, a software development lifecycle will look different than it did before.
A “regular” development lifecycle or pipeline will often look like this:
- Build the software or application
- Test the application extensively and get rid of any bugs or issues beforehand
- Release the application to feedback
- Upon receiving feedback over a period of weeks or months, begin planning the next iteration of the software to be released during a separate release window
This, naturally, results in significant delays between software patches or releases and ultimately results in less value for any end-user. More importantly, development pipelines like this fail to take advantage of technological improvements that enterprises can make use of, like cloud computing and instantaneous or continual feedback.
A modern DevOps development lifecycle or pipeline is much more likely to look like this:
- Plan software or application, or a patch for either
- Build the patch or software
- Test the software or application extensively
- Then release the software to end-users or customers
- Monitor customer feedback all the while, especially if the product or application has already launched
- Begin planning immediately for the next iteration of the software
By following this kind of development pipeline, developers can cut down on the delay between software or patch releases and immediately start working on new iterations of products for users and clients. This results in less time being spent in the planning phase of the development lifecycle.
There are other important terms for these kinds of focuses. DevOps cultures emphasize continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI and CD, respectively) delivery processes.
DevOps methodologies include multiple key components or strategies that are familiar to anyone in the industry. Here’s a brief breakdown.
Most microservice developers use microservice structures that make the software from a series of committed services to boost and streamline production rates. Microservices can run either in virtual machines or in containers.
IaC or Infrastructure as Code
This IaC method involves using code to automate and control various computing devices, including physical devices and virtual machines alike. IaC is utilized by developers to automate IT operations support, which decreases manpower necessary for certain operations and can often lower the time wasted for managing IT operations.
PaC or Policy as Code
PaC, similarly, means using working code to automated control operation policies. For example, certain systems could include using the organization’s description of decent use of technology, following policies regarding security protocols for IT systems, and so on. Developers typically prepare policies in a code format which then allows them to automate application of the policy through management tools and account controls.
As you can see, each of these aspects heavily focuses on automation and streamlining. That’s because both of those factors are key in ensuring that your software can be finished and updated continuously and reliably for clients and for your own development deadlines.
What is SecOps?
Like its cousin, "SecOps" is the combination of two separate concepts into a single abbreviated term. "Sec", as you probably guessed, represents cybersecurity. Ops returns from the last topic to mean information technology operations or services. Thus, “SecOps” refers to the focus on or methodology of procedures that increase security during a development pipeline.
The goals of SecOps are:
- To increase security by prioritizing cybersecurity at any or all stages of the development pipeline
- To keep security a dynamic process that is constantly improving and adapting
- That spreads responsibility for security to all the parties involved in producing and securing a given application
Basically, if DevOps concerns itself more with the development and consistent output of software and the development lifecycle, SecOps focuses more on security. Both methodologies are required for top-tier IT firms these days, especially since cybersecurity is a really serious topic and of chief concern to Enterprises everywhere.
What is DevSecOps?
This, at last, brings us to DevSecOps. If you’ve been paying attention, you can probably guess what this abbreviation stands for and refers to.
- Dev = software development pipeline and process focus
- Sec = software security and adaptation focus
- Ops = software operation and services focus
In essence, DevSecOps is a combination of both DevOps and SecOps, fusing both methodologies together to create a cyclical system that brings in information and practices from software development, cybersecurity, and technology operations focuses.
The goals of DevSecOps are to:
- support the accelerated development of stable codebases and applications
- balance the prioritization of development activity and security in tandem
- support the application of a flexible structure and development processes
- ensure that security and development teams can help each other and improve continuously
Like DevOps, DevSecOps also has multiple primary elements that it’s helpful to be aware of. Here’s a brief breakdown.
Okay, But What Does DevSecOps Really Mean?
Since DevSecOps emphasizes automated development practices and marries those with automated security practices, the focus of this methodology is clear.
DevSecOps means placing your security practices much earlier during your software development lifecycle and automating those processes as much as possible. By automating, standardizing, and shifting your security processes leftward, you'll benefit from a much more agile development practices and combine the benefits of the above two methodologies.
Security Moves Leftward
In IT security lingo, moving your security work to the left means moving your security tasks to earlier stages of the development cycle. By shifting your security to an earlier spot in a development pipeline, security protocols and procedures will be implemented before the application in question or the software is too far developed to properly be secured.
By focusing on this methodology and philosophy, application development cycles can only continue after codebases are verified as appropriately secure. In essence, this prevents IT companies from experiencing embarrassing security breaches or issues much farther down the road due to something they could have caught earlier in the development pipeline.
Continual Feedback Loops
Also important is the emphasis on continual feedback loops. By implementing these types of feedback loops, all the members of a development team, including those in charge of raw development, security, and operations, will automatically be updated on new features, policies, and development processes.
Furthermore, continual feedback will ensure that any automated processes can constantly control the software for warnings or security issues. Real-time alerts or issues with the code base as it is being compiled are possible and frequent when implementing this methodology.
This emphasizes collaboration and teamwork above all else, and it’s one of the big things that separates functional DevSecOps teams from others.
Then there’s also automated security, which is another crucial element in maintaining operational DevSecOps models and pipelines. By automating security, you remove a lot of the opportunity for human error and ensure that security standards will be maintained much more rigidly and reliably.
Furthermore, automating many of your security processes or standards will help your DevSecOps teams work to cover additional duties in less time. This is a great way to cut down on costs and make the most of available manpower.
There are additionally two types of DevSecOps to be concerned about.
Security as Code or SaC
SaC methodologies reflect the basic focus of combining security protocols into standard DevOps policies, practices, and automated tools. A good example of this is implementing core infrastructural changes and immediately testing for bugs or security vulnerabilities. This streamlines and makes testing more efficient, and it's completely possible if the DevOps team is aware of and on board with these secure coding practices.
Infrastructure as Code or IaC
IaC is also utilized in DevOps practices and methodologies. Thanks to virtualization and cloud computing, more and more enterprises can take advantage of managed services for software infrastructure. If you manage your infrastructure using code-based configuration files, you can often reduce the complexity that hides security issues and makes DevSecOps more achievable across the board.
The Benefits of DevSecOps
Why should your team make a shift to DevSecOps methodologies? There are lots of potential benefits you might notice immediately after making the shift.
Many businesses and enterprises experience cost reduction by embracing security earlier in their development cycles. This makes sense – by catching security issues earlier in a development lifecycle, you’ll be able to implement issues faster and more easily and won’t have to undergo costly security patches later down the road.
This is especially true for maintaining legislative compliance in regard to consumer security. For instance, GDPR penalties can be up to 4% of any enterprise’s annual profits. Making sure you don’t release an application with a blatant security violation is the best way to avoid having to pay this fee.
By moving security to the left of the DevSecOps pipeline, developers will enjoy automated security more often than not. This is great for businesses and enterprises as well since it frees up manpower and allows smaller IT security teams to do more tasks with fewer resources.
Better Understanding of the Application
This minor benefit is nonetheless important. As DevSecOps integrates security into regular DevOps practices, this also means that normal developers will become more familiar with security practices and produce more secure code by default without having to be corrected… at least eventually.
There’s no doubt that there are some growing pains associated with the integration of DevSecOps standards and methodologies, but the potential rewards are well worth the effort.
Similarities Between DevOps and DevSecOps
There are, as you might expect, plenty of significant similarities between DevOps and DevSecOps.
- For one, both methodologies emphasize collaboration and communication above almost anything else. Security and development teams must communicate well and regularly with one another to boost production activity and make sure that everyone follows the same rules and policies. Indeed, communication and collaboration are absolutely necessary to make sure that teams work well together throughout every step of a development cycle
- Both methodologies also emphasize a healthy level of automation. DevOps possibly prioritizes this a little more since it’s mostly concerned with raw productivity, but both methodologies will utilize automation to assign and take care of tasks that can be handled more efficiently by constructs rather than humans. Furthermore, automation can help both methodologies enable their followers to achieve more goals and shorter time frames
- Continual processes are also an important similarity between DevOps and DevSecOps methodologies. By utilizing continuous processes, teams can guarantee that the main objectives of every step of a developing cycle are met, and regularly. This reduces the likelihood of experiencing development bottlenecks. By using continual processes, teams can deliver different applications and software updates regularly, monitor, log, and investigate security issues, and integrate renewed or more secure codebases more easily
Key Differences Between DevOps and DevSecOps
It’s clear that DevOps and DevSecOps have lots of similarities between them, and that’s no surprise. But what are the real differences between these methodologies?
There’s actually a big contrast between them when you break them down into their components.
You see, prior to the integration of DevSecOps methodologies and strategies, security was mostly considered an afterthought by developers. It simply wasn't their job to find and minimize vulnerabilities, especially during the planning or codebase compiling stages of the development pipeline. Indeed, infrastructure and application security were very rarely any concern to developers.
However, DevSecOps changes all that and demands the integration of security practices into a collaborative DevOps framework. Again, we touched on this by emphasizing the shifting of security policies and efforts to the left of the development pipeline.
What does this really mean? Think of a development pipeline as a single line where left is the start of the process and right is the end of the process when the end-user gets their hands on an application. Shifting security protocol to the left of that pipeline means that it's integrated earlier when it can be of much more use.
This has, in turn, resulted in a surge of thinking about secure coding and unique ways to make sure that an application or software patch isn't vulnerable for the end-user or, ultimately, at any point in the development lifecycle.
Who Does the Security for DevSecOps Policies?
Does this mean that developers have to become security experts? Not at all. Most people in the IT industry understand that the majority of skilled workers are specialists to one degree or another. This means that IT developers will not necessarily need to have a holistic or complete knowledge of security practices or be experts in security practice implementation.
Instead, most DevSecOps teams who follow these methodologies will create a separate and expert team of security-focused IT or QA professionals. It's this smaller team's job to find vulnerabilities or potential breach points in a given application. After they find these issues, they can send reports to the development team, which allows the development team to patch those proverbial holes before they become a real issue.
Difficulties of DevSecOps Methodologies and Solutions
This, of course, does lead to many difficulties, largely in the realm of communication. Friction between development and security teams can easily crop up, especially if the development team isn’t trained properly or isn’t prepared to code for security purposes more than raw practicality or user-friendliness.
The best way to tackle these issues is through the holistic implementation of DevSecOps policies. By bringing security under the umbrella of company or enterprise-wide development policies, and by keeping the development team in the loop, managers can minimize friction between development and security teams and ensure that everyone understands the overall goals of the mission and what’s at stake.
Here are some examples:
- IT managers can come up with policies to eliminate problematic coding practices that could introduce vulnerabilities
- Managers can also emphasize security automation protocols and guidelines to remove the human element as much as possible
- Presenting and maintaining strict security standards and quality standards will go a long way toward helping developers introduce fewer unintentional security errors over time
What Does the Integration of DevSecOps Mean for the Future?
As more and more businesses shift to DevSecOps methodologies, this will likely only have excellent benefits for end-users and enterprises alike.
For instance, end-users will likely see a decrease in sudden security patches or unexpected security breaches. This is because potential vulnerabilities found in the base codes of applications will decrease across the board. DevSecOps will result in these vulnerabilities being found earlier and patched out before an application is even sent to market.
This will also benefit enterprises since they won’t have to take down their applications or software in order to make a hasty patch for fear of violating the GDPR or placing their clients’ personal information at risk.
This will likely result in an overall decrease of infamous hacks or breakdowns of enterprise software. In short, DevSecOps methodologies can help lead us to a more secure, user-friendly digital world where personal information is much more secure and applications are that much more reliable.
Should you make the switch to DevSecOps methodologies? In our opinion, there's no reason not to. Even enterprises that don't already have separate IT security teams can create them to integrate many of the strategies and policies outlined above.
DevSecOps can invariably make your software production processes more secure and reliable overall, all without excessively lengthening the development lifecycle or straining company resources. When you look at all the benefits and see how DevSecOps bolsters regular DevOps methodolo