DevOps – some risks worth considering

Risk

DevOps specialists are at the core of the digital transformation in IT organizations where consumerization of IT and digitalisation are two of the main driving factors behind traditional IT and new development of products coming together under the same umbrella.  However, while transformation for the better is always good, the main risks that organizations face when they run Continuous Development cycles of customer-facing applications are that automated tasks proliferate, which in turn implies security risks across the entire IT ecosystem.

Risks of DevOps in an enterprise

Most organizations are unaware and unprepared for the explosion of potential vulnerabilities that arise from expanding DevOps functions. As enterprises adopt a cloud-based environment, several confidential material and other credentials could be shared across interconnected business systems. One of the main attributes of automation is that it facilitates machine-to-machine interaction without human intervention and consequently this leads to reliability on machines than human identities. The challenges step-up when systems need to manage privileged accounts which are not always integrated with DevOps processes. Additional challenges include:

  • Critical and regulated workloads, which are moving to the cloud, increasing security risks
  • Speed of deployment of virtualized services, containers, and microservices making it difficult to monitor them without code-based tools.
  • New security gaps where different systems overlap and interconnect due to increased automation

It is true that traditional security programmes have not kept pace with the new vulnerabilities that have cropped up due to increased automation. As the number of tasks that are automated in DevOps increase, the risk of flaws and exploits being shared automatically rises, even as human ability to deal with them falls.

Today, organizations are embracing AI, IoT and Big Data analytics rapidly. DevOps can be applied easily to these technologies, however, as the IT environment becomes more complicated with the advent of hybrid models, near shore, on-premise and others, the security risks continue to rise. Because highly automated systems can also be vulnerable to online data thefts, cyber crimes and more.

Mitigating risks

In order to implement DevOps successfully across organizations quickly, many enterprises look for tools that will unify Development and IT in addition to ensuring collaboration. This search for tools to solve problems exists in many domains but seems particularly prevalent in IT. Each organization is different, but tools that can be used to visualize work (physical card walls, Trello, Jira) are very good for reinforcing collaboration. Predictable deployments are more likely when the deployment pipeline and testing have been automated. And communication usually remains good when teams that work on the same functionality all sit together in one place. How you fit these ideas and processes into your organization depends on how your organization works.

Customers ask for automation, Continuous Delivery, Continuous Integration and DevOps practices. Without addressing underlying challenges like security threats or the ever increasing speed of processing,  implementing DevOps will lead to failure. System failures can lead to loss of catastrophic equipment rupture, potentially leading to significant damage to the surroundings or worse, even physical injuries and can result in irreversible damage to an enterprise. Human strengths, such as judgement, future planning ability and creativity must be quantified and be part of the design. Most of the challenges are not in poor tools but in systemic challenges since DevOps includes people, processes and systems which when addressed, lead to successful DevOps implementation.

In conclusion, automation and DevOps increase speed of operation and production and its benefits far outweigh the risk.

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