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Developers (and businesses) have benefited significantly from DevOps and its core practices for many years. However, the infrastructure side of things has been lagging behind for quite some time. This is especially true when it comes to speed and time to market.
In recent years, software development and DevOps processes have been shifting left to improve security and deliver quality applications quickly. For example, when combined with GitOps and infrastructure-as-code (IaC), development teams can integrate security controls early in the software development lifecycle (SLDC).
GitOps and IaC also help DevOps teams manage code better and deliver products faster. They do this by applying some of the same DevOps principles and deliver projects with more predictability and at scale.
But before we go any further, let's first define these terms.
GitOps is an approach to software development where you leverage DevOps best practices like collaboration, CI/CD tooling, code version control, and infrastructure automation. It's crucial because the infrastructure needs to be elastic to manage cloud resources for continuous deployments effectively.
In this case, Git is often the basis for defining and controlling DevOps workflows and synchronizing them across systems. For infrastructure definitions, GitOps also uses the Git repository as a single source of truth. In other words, the ".git" folder in a project is a repository that tracks all changes made to project files.
IaC represents the process of managing and provisioning infrastructure (or networks, virtual machines, load balancers, and connection topology) through code. This approach helps optimize operations and is far better than traditional manual processes.
IaC is also the practice of tracking and keeping all infrastructure configurations as saved code files. However, depending on your approach and organizational policies, the actual desired state may or may not be stored as code.
For example, you can create configuration files with your infrastructure specifications. This makes it much easier to edit and distribute configurations. As a result, IaC is now a crucial DevOps practice used in conjunction with continuous delivery.
Policy-as-Code or PaC is the process of codifying your security policies. In this scenario, DevOps teams use code to manage and automate security policies. As such, it's pretty similar to the concept of IaC.
To implement your policies, you can use a policy engine like an Open Policy Agent. This approach helps enterprises enforce certain rules across the organization or within a specific cluster. Codified policies improve efficiency and automation protocols. They also help implement policies that better secure the environment.
Using PaC comes with a whole host of benefits like automated deployments in continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) pipelines. For example, you can automate the enforcement of service-level policies.
This approach helps demand multiple instances in the application with load balancing to ensure availability and performance. You can also enforce compliance policies to conform with regulations like HIPAA and PCI-DSS. But the primary advantage of adopting this approach is security.
PaC makes GitOps more secure when DevOps teams do the following:
DevOps teams must write policy-as-code early in the development process. In this case, they should code it, test it locally, and submit a pull/merge request. Once committed, developers can move on. It's also critical to provide security scanning tools early (as possible) in the GitOps flow.
When you embed security scanning into the integrated development environment (IDE), developers can receive feedback from tests in a manner they are used to (for example, integration tests and unit tests).
The earlier a test fails, the better. Whenever tests fail early, there is less friction. You really don't have to reinvent the wheel here. You can embed security scanning in your CI pipelines and version control systems.
It's vital to enforce security and compliance policies across the entire GitOps flow. This approach ensures that IaC templates are scanned before they are committed to a repository. It'll also help provide developers with frequent and consistent feedback. This helps maximize opportunities to resolve potential errors and misconfigurations quickly.
As new threats emerge during the SLDC, your ruleset and security best practices will be updated continuously. This means that what might have passed the security scan during the early stages of the development cycle might be non-compliant during the latter stages. This makes it important to scan templates through the development cycle periodically.
The primary idea or motivation behind PaC is the same as IaC. In this case, we focus on the codified state's policies and configurations to access the following benefits:
PaC makes IaC more secure when DevOps teams do the following:
When you shift security left (including cloud and compliance policies, CI/CD pipelines) using policy-as-code, it helps automate infrastructure compliance protocols. This means that developers don't have to go through the process of doing security reviews anymore.
In this case, your IaC will be automatically evaluated for vulnerabilities based on current threat intelligence and best practices. PaC also enables better use of cloud-native tools through robust policies. This process can feel seamless because you integrated security controls into the early stages of the development lifecycle before deployment.
You can also better secure your cloud-native environment by customizing enforcement through PaC. We can base it on the analysis of events for potentially malicious activity or security-sensitive changes.
By making the best use of extensible architecture, you can also take advantage of some plugins to initiate hundreds of customized individual checks.
By defining policies early to identify specific configurations, you can automatically fix issues and prevent cloud infrastructure from drifting out of compliance. You can do the same to avoid policy violations.
As you can see from the above, when you write PaC and start the process early, you take a multi-pronged approach to fortifying your applications and infrastructure. As this method enables automation, you can secure your environment every step of the way and accelerate deliveries.
At Magalix, we help DevOps teams programmatically enforce security standards with policy-as-code. When companies integrate PaC within their DevOps workflows, they enhance developer-centric experiences while enabling continuous deployment for cloud-native applications.
Whenever you enforce security policies across the organization, you apply governance standards and protocols across all Kubernetes clusters with a single click. We also implement these enterprise policy checks for your cloud environments with rules that closely fit your organization's specific requirements.
If you would like to learn more about enforcing policy-as-code and get a feel for how Magalix works.