Development / DevOps / Security / Contributed

Where Are You on the DevSecOps Maturity Curve?

20 Jul 2021 12:51pm, by
Wei Li
Wei Li is a Product Marketing Manager who specializes in application performance monitoring, network monitoring and application security technologies. At Cisco AppDynamics, she helps bring leading-edge innovations to customers, providing them with powerful, end-to-end observability and protection across their hybrid cloud environments. Wei received an MBA from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.

Today, digital businesses must innovate with ever-increasing speed — in large part brought on by the impact of COVID-19 — while also mitigating an unprecedented rise in malicious security threats.

One study found that even as 90% of IT leaders surveyed said they experienced an increase in cyberattacks due to the pandemic, an even greater number — 93% — said they were forced to delay key security projects in order to manage the transition to remote work. Great news for cybercriminals, not so great for everyone else.

The ability to quickly identify and mitigate security risks is now essential to protecting an organization’s assets and sensitive data. To defend your business from growing cybersecurity threats such as data breaches, malware, denial of service (DDoS) attacks, and viruses, security has to be built into the application development lifecycle from the very beginning.

Application security is no longer optional; it has become an absolute necessity. And that’s exactly why DevOps alone just won’t cut it anymore.

While the DevOps movement to improve collaboration between development and operations teams has established modern application development and delivery norms, this approach has largely neglected cybersecurity. Fortunately, secure DevOps programs, or “DevSecOps,” have emerged as an approach to integrate security into every phase of the application lifecycle — from development to production runtime.

In this article, we’ll explore what DevSecOps is, the three stages of DevSecOps maturity, and how teams can benefit by moving to a DevSecOps approach.

DevOps vs. DevSecOps: What’s the Difference?

An emerging approach to software development, DevSecOps — also known as secure DevOps or rugged DevOps — integrates and automates security processes and controls throughout the entire application development lifecycle.

Just three letters separate DevOps and DevSecOps, but there are some critical differences between these two approaches to application delivery that significantly impact IT and business efficiency.

DevOps focuses on collaboration between application teams throughout the app development and deployment process, with development and operations teams working together to implement shared KPIs and tools. By placing a great deal of focus on optimizing the speed of delivery, however, DevOps teams don’t always prioritize the prevention of security threats along the way. This can lead to the accrual of vulnerabilities that can jeopardize the application, end-user data, and proprietary company assets.

Enter DevSecOps.

DevSecOps evolved from DevOps as development teams began to realize that the DevOps model didn’t adequately address security concerns. Instead of retrofitting security into the build, DevSecOps ensures that apps are secure against cyberattacks before being delivered to the user — and are continuously secure during app updates.

DevSecOps involves all the same practices as DevOps — like CI/CD and microservices — but also includes security practices like common weaknesses enumeration (CWE), threat modeling, automated security testing, and incident management. By developing code with security in mind, DevSecOps solves security issues that DevOps doesn’t even try to address. With DevOps and security teams working in tandem, organizations can deliver secure applications faster, be more proactive in fixing code vulnerabilities, and better defend against attacks.

State of DevSecOps Adoption

DevSecOps adoption is increasing, with 47% of organizations having already begun integrating security into DevOps processes. However, as an emerging approach requiring a significant cultural shift away from age-old IT silos, there is immense potential for further adoption and maturity of DevSecOps programs.

Research by Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) found that organizations fall into one of three stages of DevSecOps maturity — with only 20% of organizations considered to be in the most mature tier:

  • Stage 1: Siloed (40% of organizations)

Those organizations with the least mature approach to DevSecOps are those that are still working in silos. Members of the cybersecurity team typically do not participate in project teams by attending daily scrums, and cybersecurity user stories are not often authored nor prioritized for future sprints.

  • Stage 2: Converging (40% of organizations)

Organizations who have started to integrate security into DevOps are in the process of converging their teams, processes, and technologies. These businesses will have implemented some DevSecOps use cases, perhaps pre-deployment vulnerability scanning and remediation or automation of the introduction of runtime controls.

  • Stage 3: Collaborating (20% of organizations)

Stage 3 organizations are those that have the most mature secure DevOps programs and thus enjoy the most benefits across collaboration, security, time-to-production, and revenue dimensions. However, these organizations often need to further scale with respect to the implementation of DevSecOps practices.

Benefits of a Mature DevSecOps Program

Most obviously, DevSecOps improves an organization’s security posture. As the pace at which development teams must deliver new code to production has increased, traditional approaches to cybersecurity have failed to keep up. With DevSecOps, code and configurations are automatically hardened, while runtime issues are similarly automatically detected and remediated. As a result, IT teams with a more mature approach to DevSecOps report superior security metrics.

And while organizations fear that incorporating security may introduce waterfall-like delays, the opposite has actually proven to be true. ESG’s research reveals that 78% of those with a more mature approach to DevSecOps report that code deployment has actually accelerated.

According to ESG’s research, IT teams with the most mature DevSecOps practices also rate the functionality and reliability of their code considerably higher. Considering 84% of IT leaders say their teams are under pressure to write and push code to production at an accelerating pace, that’s a really big deal.

And it’s not just IT that benefits from DecSecOps, either. DevSecOps maturity is strongly correlated with improved collaboration across teams which, in turn, helps project teams meet timelines, solve bottlenecks, and improve business outcomes. Like agile software development and microservices-based architectures, DevSecOps initiatives support the time-to-market and revenue objectives of today’s enterprises.

Getting Started with DevSecOps Technology

The benefits of DevSecOps are attractive, but knowing where to start is one of the biggest barriers to change. When beginning to modernize your approach to application security, consider leveraging DevSecOps tools that combine application and security monitoring.

Application-first security tools allow your team to automate security and consolidate critical data at the early stages of development — when the stakes are highest. It also allows teams to clearly see how vulnerabilities and incidents may impact the business, enabling them to strategically prioritize resources and responses.

With a solution that integrates security and application performance monitoring, IT teams can stay informed about security weaknesses by continually monitoring vulnerabilities, as well as reduce mean time to detection (MTTD) by blocking cyberattacks in real-time. By uniting application and security teams, DevSecOps tools also enable organizations to streamline efficiency and strengthen their security posture.

Giving Security a Seat at the Table

It’s crucial for businesses to adapt to the increased number of cyberattacks that threaten to compromise the security of applications every day. According to a recent report from Gartner, 80% of businesses that fail to shift to a modern security approach will face both increased operating costs and a lower response to attacks by 2023. Organizations can’t afford to leave security as an afterthought, which is why it’s important to start integrating DevSecOps practices into application development now.

By bringing development, operations, and security teams together to embrace a DevSecOps approach, organizations can not only improve their security posture — but also accelerate the pace of innovation and enhance business outcomes. Implementing a mature approach to DevSecOps takes time, but the sooner your organization gets started, the sooner you can reap the benefits and ensure your organization is prepared to respond to growing security threats.

Looking for more research insights on the state of DevSecOps? Download the full research report from ESG, The Benefits of a Mature DevSecOps Program.

Feature image via Pixabay.