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DevOps / Security

Automate DevOps with an Everything as Code Approach

Everything-as-code is a playbook of steps that clearly defines every manual step, component, and touch point to ensure a successful change through automation.
Nov 18th, 2022 10:00am by
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Companies rarely take a straight path — many successful companies look vastly different today than when they started. This is particularly true for software companies. The fast pace of innovation means change is constant, and the development process is never complete.

To make change more manageable, many companies have embraced a DevOps methodology. DevOps brings together software development and IT operations to improve the efficiency and scale of change. While not a trivial concept, it does take time and knowledge to achieve. Switching to a more automated — or Everything as Code (EaC) approach — can make the transition smoother. Let’s dive into how.

A Shift from Manual, Repetitive Tasks to Automated Workflows

Traditionally, IT operations manage a myriad of services in organizations where manual deployments, tweaks, and changes are common. Humans are innately unique, which means they process slightly differently from person to person. Even when the most stringent written records are in place, change is a variable and is further complicated when decisions are made based on institutional knowledge rather than documentation.

This variable is exacerbated when someone leaves a company, goes on vacation or a new team member is assigned responsibility for a change. At best, manual deployments will contain slight inconsistencies during the next deployment. At worst, significant quality issues will occur and require additional attention to mitigate or remediate the problem.

This is where an Everything as Code strategy could be helpful. As the name suggests, EaC is a playbook of steps that clearly defines every manual step, component, and touch point to ensure a successful change through automation.

When processes and deployment steps are automated, code is deployed the same way every time by a single click or process initiation. This level of consistency is critical to meeting performance objectives and quality assurance goals, resulting in a more consistent and reliable customer experience. This insight is critical to understanding how one change impacts other parts of the process and helps organizations slow down to design and build better services.

Automation and Cybersecurity Go Hand in Hand

To achieve a successful application cybersecurity posture, start by understanding your services baseline in order to drive anomaly or adversarial detection. Think of standard behavior as operating between a “Min and Max” or floor and ceiling. The system should always operate between those two defined metrics. When an adversary is trying to attack or perpetrate a particular environment, their activity can be interpreted as trying to break the normal operation of the service — the “Min and Max.” It is these anomalies that are highlighted and need to be investigated.

If you can automate critical processes, the bounds of normal become clearer; they become well-defined because it’s deployed, monitored, and operated the same way every time. When you have that insight into what is the norm, you can start to identify attacks against an environment much sooner. The benefits to a cybersecurity team are tremendous and significantly improves their capability to detect nefarious activity.

Now the Question Is: How?

Taking an automated approach from day one is always preferable, but it’s not always possible. The good news is it’s never too late to make the switch, but it’s important to realize that how you make the transition is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Every environment is different, so where you start will vary depending on skill level and business objectives. However, many tools and services are available to help make the process smoother.

One place companies should look at first while starting with EaC is Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment (CI/CD). CI focuses on continually integrating software code in a singular place or shared code repository. CI allows all pending software changes to be viewed and reviewed in a singular place. From here, branching strategies can ensure predefined gates for review, quality, and security are enforced.  CD focuses on pushing out minor updates more frequently (compared to holding updates for major releases) and directly improves regression by limiting the size and scope of changes. CD can deploy changes weekly, daily, or even multiple times per day. Many CI/CD solutions integrate seamlessly with various, if not multiple, code repositories to allow any organization to begin its journey into DevOps.

The Time Is Right to Get Started

No matter where your company is in its technology journey — just getting started or becoming a household name, embracing EaC is well worth the effort. Change is inevitable, and preparation is key.

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