Infrastructure-as-Code: Increase Security, Scale Development
Modern application development environments are messy. From containers to clusters, microservices, serverless functions and APIs, there are many dependencies developers must keep track of while managing environment configuration, IT monitoring, logs and more.
What’s more, business leaders are increasingly putting pressure on DevOps to harden their applications and apply security controls to mitigate potential data breaches. However, that’s easier said than done. At the top of the list of cloud native development challenges are security policies, cited by 41% of IT professionals in a 2021 survey of Red Hat customers.
At the same time, developers are being asked to speed up development and push more into production at an even faster pace. It’s why DevOps teams are turning to Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC), a method of using code to manage, automate, configure and implement continuous improvements on dynamic computing resources. Historically, organizations relied on several highly skilled employees to understand what their code is dependent on and how it is provisioned. This practice has created bottlenecks and dependencies that IaC eliminates.
The IaC approach gives developers the ability to scale their operations with security policies and controls in place. This is critical at a time when application security is growing and becoming more complex. An IaC approach streamlines the development process so developers can securely run self-service operations under a defined standard and can focus on development and increasing the velocity of innovation.
Faster Speed, More Consistency
As more organizations embrace the cloud native computing model to build applications quickly and at scale, development teams need greater autonomy. Infrastructure-as-Code enables that autonomy. This is achieved through resource creation with code stored in the source control repository. The approach allows developers to perform operations automatically, eliminating the need for DevOps assistance and supervision with infrastructure-related tasks. Further, IaC enables the maintenance of resource operational reliability, including auto scaling, monitoring, alerting, security and configuration. By automating these manual processes, IaC mitigates the risk of human error and allows for the introduction of CI/CD techniques.
Build Quickly and Securely
With Infrastructure-as-Code, DevOps can create a single, reliable code base for the organization. This approach gives security teams something consistent to audit while making sure the DevOps team is deploying applications in a way that meets security standards. In addition, since IaC reduces production environments to code, DevOps can quickly kill any application in production that becomes compromised or doesn’t meet necessary security criteria. This enables developers to move quickly and ensure security without having to pay for standby failover environments.
Embracing IaC will also enable teams to track inconsistencies in code, making it easier to patch vulnerabilities and prevent false positives. IaC implements configuration best practices within the organization’s security policies and rules. For example, not allowing restricted ports to be opened or permitting outbound traffic. IaC helps DevOps quickly fix and remedy common vulnerabilities and exposure (CVE) issues before they lead to a data breach.
IaC ensures production hygiene by implementing the organization’s tagging policy to enforce security standards for the creation of new workloads, clean unused resources and manage security groups. IaC facilitates the standardization needed to implement monitoring of each resource within the organization and eliminates the need to expend resources for it. It also helps standardize alerts for your on-call operations.
With that said, with great power comes even greater responsibility. While IaC improves the security posture of cloud infrastructure, its automated nature means that it must be tested and verified thoroughly before it’s deployed.
Why You Should Adopt Infrastructure-as-Code
Infrastructure-as-Code eliminates the need for creating “net new” code for every single project. This model allows development teams to spin up environments quickly and provide self-service functionality for developers. Further, IAC helps reduce development costs, creates efficiency and enables controls for the creation of secure applications and services.
While IaC enables faster and more efficient development, security risks cannot be overlooked. While the IaC approach enables security at the infrastructure layer, it doesn’t mean that the code built afterward is secure by default. Developers still have a responsibility to manage the potential vulnerabilities associated with the code they write.
DevOps teams are facing complex challenges such as managing the security of their dynamic development environments, APIs and more. Using IaC in cloud native application development is a foundational step toward creating a more secure software development life cycle, as it allows development teams to create a code standard that can be used to remediate attacks quickly with minimum effort and without compromising security. However, implementing IaC alone cannot stop zero-day attacks. Developers must also use security tools designed to operate at runtime to stop novel attacks and protect all paths to their applications.