Today’s networks are far more complex than the networks used in the past. Companies need flexibility and elasticity to support their ever-evolving business needs. On top of that, they must also respond to threats as they change and grow. Infrastructure as code (IaC) offers a unique opportunity to support today’s dynamic businesses while enhancing data and cybersecurity.
At face value, infrastructure as code seems quite simple. It’s a means of replacing physical hardware configuration with code that is adaptable and repeatable. With it, companies enjoy the benefits of cost savings and system support; however, there are some security risks to consider. By following DevSecOps best practices, business leaders can appreciate the help of this unique infrastructure while minimizing risks.
How Infrastructure Needs Have Changed
Modern infrastructure needs do not allow for the traditional approach to management. In the centralized infrastructures of the past, changes could take several days, weeks, or even longer. Requests from the manager would trigger the work and cause an update to the data center to carry new applications or frameworks. When infrastructure upgrades were prohibitively expensive and modularity was still a dream yet to be realized, this approach was the best option we had. However, in today’s world, we can do better.
Today’s networks are far more complex and decentralized. Changes that would previously have taken months or years to implement now happen in days. This has been especially true as COVID-19 accelerated digital transformation. Many businesses’ digital adoption strategies that were initially estimated to take five years occurred in a couple of months. Today’s infrastructure must be able to manage these rapid changes.
This is where infrastructure as code comes in. It provides scalability and elasticity by leveraging API calls in a repeatable fashion. It allows companies to save money by only using the infrastructure they need to support their operations—with the added bonus of auto-scaling. Even security updates are scalable now that security professionals can write modules to manage their settings, allowing them to adapt to threats as they emerge.
The Crucial Components of Infrastructure as Code
The approach to infrastructure as code can vary widely across industries as it’s still a relatively new philosophy in the DevOps world. Gartner has established five critical components of an IaC implementation that all businesses should consider as part of their program:
|Specific triggers drive tasks that establish a new project for engineers. Notification channels keep all stakeholders informed.|
Single Source of Truth
|Primary standards establish what all subsequent works must follow. Guidance is provided on this both at the outset and as an ongoing resource.|
|Use cases and goals are set. Governance frameworks, roles and responsibilities, and data policies are established. Automation tools are integrated.|
|Testing occurs before the implementation and solutions are ironed out. Stakeholders provide feedback and suggest additions.|
|This is a continuous process where follow-up is regular. Changes will occur with the addition of new software.|
Migrating to the infrastructure as code methodology creates many benefits, but it also comes with some risks. It’s a DevOps program designed to be agile; but without protection, it’s vulnerable. That’s why security must become part of the integration. The approach must be one of DevSecOps.
Managing IaC Security Through DevSecOps
Managing your infrastructure as code is all about starting with automation in mind. With the right parameters established early on, much of the infrastructure becomes a turnkey process. Of course, when installing infrastructure, the company opens itself up to certain levels of risk. These risks don’t just stem from the frameworks themselves, but also from the individuals involved. As your developers write more and more code, the risk of security holes created by human error increases.
Oversight is key, and much of this comes from immutable logs. Viewing the incremental history of the infrastructure should provide evidence of all changes. This strategy builds accountability and observability into the process while preventing the tampering of needed records of access.
Cyber threat intelligence is another crucial factor in managing security in an Infrastructure as Code environment. As the process itself is continuous, so are the threats it faces. Cyber threat intelligence provides insight on current risks and threat trends, and can be integrated into the infrastructure to provide greater protection.
Infrastructure as code is a scalable solution that can naturally incorporate DevSecOps principles. This will better help you integrate security into your processes. This Lean Security approach is one that New Context champions. It allows for the ability to pivot in the face of risks and opportunities. A dynamic infrastructure is needed to support ever-changing business needs. Infrastructure as code offers the scalability and flexibility companies need while supporting robust security.