Ensuring Compliance in a DevOps Model: 4 Things to Consider

Just like in other industries, software developers face compliance requirements that they must adhere to. Organizations today need to prove their security stature to customers, business partners, shareholders, government agencies, and other relevant stakeholders. Compliance regulations can be part of internal policy, industry best practices, or actual statutes.

In the past compliance requirements were put down in spreadsheets and teams would go through checklists manually. However, with DevOps, compliance is being codified even as the IT infrastructure of companies becomes more complex with cloud-based operations. Compliance in a DevOps environment is about ensuring that security checks are part of the CI/CD (continuous integration and continuous development) process.

DevOps Compliance

The main reason for the adoption of DevOps culture in software development is to create a process that is followed consistently within a company to ensure the smooth release of high-quality software. DevOps is as much about cultural philosophy within an organization as it is about tools. An organization that follows a DevOps model seeks to deliver applications quickly. Products evolve quickly with improvements as well as new features being shipped every few days or weeks.

DevOps compliance involves integrating regulations that the company is subject to into its operating model. One common problem in recent times has been a growing number of serious data breaches thus raising concerns among stakeholders on the efforts being taken to avert future breaches. One result was more laws being passed such as the General Data Protection Rule in the EU.

Companies now must develop a DevOps compliance approach. Automation is a major part of compliance to ensure consistency in the checks as well as quick detection of vulnerabilities. Here are a few ways to implement security compliance in the DevOps model of application delivery.

1. Standardized Team-Based Development

A decade ago, before the popularity of DevOps, organizations had siloed development teams with operations teams. Similarly, there were application developers and database developers. This created problems that no team wanted to take care of because they were outside their domain.

A DevOps model eliminates this approach with application developers also taking charge of database building. To enhance compliance, organizations can enforce collaborative coding whereby security is built into the system at the early stages of development. By standardizing things like development languages in your organization and coding styles, conflicts are eliminated.

2. Secure Coding

Compliance enforcement in a DevOps model involves implementing compliance checks into the production process as opposed to waiting for a review at the end of the development phase. Today, there are static code analyzers and vulnerability scanners to help with these checks. Errors are caught and fixed early thus minimizing the chance that there are present in deployment.

There are plenty of code scanning tools, but SonarQube is perhaps the most popular. It runs automatic reviews on Docker with free and paid versions available.

Besides these, organizations should also use license detection tools. These tools detect license agreements that govern third-party as well as open-source technologies used in an application. These checks ensure all dependent software are properly licensed to avoid liability for the company.

3. Version Control

Version control is essential when enforcing compliance because it allows the organization to maintain a singular source of truth. All developers should push all changes to a common repository. There should also be a standard way of narrating changes so that it is always clear what was changed and by who. Version control applies not only to the application code but also to the database code.

4. Automation of Deployment

Deployment automation tools enable developers to deploy features or changes to features and applications through a single push of a button. The code runs through tests before moving on to the production environment. The main advantage of this in DevOps is the ability to provide quick feedback to the development team on the code quality based on comprehensive tests.

As pointed out, compliance in DevOps is about the adoption of a culture coupled with technology tools. By subjecting all code changes to tests, the organization is guaranteed to never have the production environment compromised.  

The Challenge for Compliance Managers

To ensure compliance with regulations that the development teams are expected to adhere to, companies will often hire a compliance and audit manager. Their work is to ensure internal processes are in line with existing laws and to advise on what new laws being discussed may affect the organization. Their job description could be viewed as a form of risk management. However, it is often a complicated task given that organizations today can have thousands of microservices.

First, compliance policies are contained in documents and any changes are quite difficult to propagate to all microservices of the company in real time. In addition, checking for compliance to all policies needs to be done manually and systematically, which requires man-hours an organization may simply not afford. Developers are constantly pushing out changes to applications and one compliance manager cannot keep pace. This explains the rationale for test automation.

Benefits of Test Automation

Test automation as the basis for compliance and audit in a DevOps model, presents numerous quantifiable benefits. First, it reduces the manual work that would otherwise be required to ensure policy compliance across all microservices in use within an organization. There is also a round-the-clock assurance of compliance, and the organization is protected from legal liability and possible reputational damage due to security breaches. It is also important to reiterate the need to always prevent bugs and vulnerabilities from getting to the production environment.

If your company is looking to create a framework to ensure compliance in your DevOps, reach out to Transcendent Software LLC. We are an IT services company with multiple Cloud and DevOps projects handled for clients. Our team will help you understand regulations, develop internal policies, and implement such policies in your operations. Schedule a call with us here.