Coming Soon to an Application Near You: DevOps

For several years you have been hearing the wonders of Agile development, and how it has done wondrous things for software development companies. Agile development isn’t a product – it is a process change, a new way for developers to communicate and work together. It’s effective enough to attract almost every firm we speak with away from traditional waterfall development. Now there is another major change on the horizon, called DevOps. Like Agile it is mostly a process change. Unlike Agile it is more operationally focused, relying heavily on tools and automation for success. That means not just your developers will be Agile – your IT and security teams will be, too!

The reason DevOps is important at RSA Conference – the reason you will hear a lot about it – is that it offers a very clear and positive effect on security. Perhaps for the first time, we can automate many security requirements – embedding them into the daily development, QA, and operational tasks we already perform. DevOps typically goes hand in hand with continuous integration and continuous deployment. For software development teams this means code changes go from idea to development to live production in hours rather than months. Sure, users are annoyed the customer portal never works the same way twice, but IT can deliver new code faster than sales and marketing wanted it, which is itself something of a miracle. Deployment speed makes a leap in the right direction, but the new pipeline provides an even more important foundation for embedding security automation into processes. It’s still early, but you will see the first security tools which have been reworked for DevOps at this year’s RSA conference.

I Can Hardly Contain Myself

Containers. They’re cool. They’re hot. They… wait, what are they exactly? The new developer buzzword is Docker – the name of both the company and the product – which provides a tidy container for applications and all the associated stuff an application needs to do its job. The beauty of this approach comes from hiding much of the complexity around configuration, supporting libraries, OS support, and the like – all nicely abstracted away from users within the container. In the same way we use abstract concepts like ‘compute’ and ‘storage’ as simple quantities with cloud service providers, a Docker container is an abstract run-anywhere unit of ‘application’. Plug it in wherever you want and run it. Most of the promise of virtualization, without most of the overhead or cost.

Sure, some old-school developers think it’s the same “write once, crash anywhere” concept Java did so well with 20 years ago, and of coures security pros fear containers as the 21st-century Trojan Horse. But containers do offer some security advantages: they wrap accepted version of software up with secure configuration settings, and narrowly define how to interact with the container – all of which reduces the dreaded application “threat surface”. You are even likely to find a couple vendors who now deploy a version of their security appliance as a Docker container for virtualized or cloud environments.


All Your Code-base Belong to Us

As cloud services continue to advance outsourced security services are getting better, faster, and cheaper than your existing on-premise solution. Last year we saw this at the RSA Conference with anti-malware and security analytics. This year we will see it again with application development. We have already seen general adoption of the cloud for quality assurance testing; now we see services which validate open source bundles, API-driven patching, cloud-based source code scanning, and more dynamic application scanning services. For many the idea of letting anyone outside your company look at your code – much less upload it to a multi-tenant cloud server – is insane. But lower costs have a way of changing opinions, and the automated, API-driven cloud model fits very well with the direction development teams are pulling.