DevOps Best Practices in the Cloud
Here we highlight best practices for implementing a successful DevOps culture and process within an enterprise.
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In 2021, about 58% of companies were victims of a data breach, and out of them, 41% were the result of software vulnerabilities.
Such vulnerabilities can cost companies millions in revenue and reputational damages.
To mitigate such risks and improve the app development process, many organizations opt for secure DevOps practices. Achieving DevOps transformation by implementing the DevOps model provides an excellent opportunity for organizations to improve speed, agility, and collaboration and gain a competitive advantage.
However, when it comes to security, DevOps practitioners often face challenges. These challenges can be overcome by following the DevOps security best practices discussed below. But first, a quick primer on the DevOps process and best overall DevOps best practices.
What Is DevOps?
The word "DevOps" is a combination of two words, "development" and "operations." DevOps represent a shared or collaborative approach to app development by both your development and your operations teams.
In its simplest form, DevOps can be described as people and automated processes working together to idealize, build, and deliver secure applications at top speed.
DevOps and the Software Development Process
DevOps practices enable app developers (devs) and operation teams (ops) to speed up the software delivery process through collaboration, automated processes, fast feedback, and iterative improvement. Teams that adopt a DevOps culture are more productive and build better products faster for greater customer satisfaction. It can help improve software quality, ease the burden on quality assurance teams, achieve business objectives, help new features reach customers faster, and cut down on manual tasks.
Given the importance of DevOps practices to modern software dev and operations teams, following solid DevOps best practices is essential.
DevOps Security Best Practices
To help your team develop secure apps that meet security requirements and stay ahead of the curve, we've compiled a list of the best DevOps practices to follow in the area of security.
1. Implement DevSecOps Model
DevSecOps is the new buzzword in the DevOps domain and stands for development, security, and operations. It's an approach to DevOps automation that integrates security measures as a shared responsibility throughout the product lifecycle.
DevSecOps is simply a methodology of using security tools in the DevOps lifecycle. So, security has to be a part of it from the beginning to the end. Here are fundamental practices that must be included in the DevSecOps model.
Use security tools, like Checkmarx or Snyk, in the development integration pipeline
Ensure collaboration between software development and security teams to create threat models
All automated tests must be evaluated by security experts
Security policies must be reviewed before deployment
2. Secure Coding Standards
Sometimes, developers focus more on building the application functionalities that they miss out on security aspects.
But with the rising cyber threats, you need to ensure your dev team is aware of the security vulnerabilities inherent in app development. But knowing is not enough; they must apply the best security practices while writing code for the apps. Among other things, this can include using secrets management tools and identity and access management.
Most importantly, they need to be aware of code analysis tools to identify vulnerabilities in the application code so they can modify the code and seal the vulnerabilities.
3. Train your Development and Operations Teams on Security
To enhance security in the overall software development lifecycle (SDLC), you should ensure your DevOps teams are well trained on security.
For instance, if an intern has joined the DevOps team and doesn't know about SQL injection, you have to ensure they're aware of what SQL injection is, what it does, and what harm it can bring to an application.
To enhance security, companies can organize in-house training sessions or sponsor courses that the team can enroll in and learn on their own time.
4. Adopt a Least Privilege Model
A critical rule of thumb in the DevOps security is never to give more privileges to anyone than is required.
The least privilege rule states that a subject should be given only those privileges (access rights) needed for it to complete a task. Enforcing the least privilege rule minimizes the opportunities for internal or external attackers to exploit security vulnerabilities.
For instance, if an engineer doesn't need root access to perform their duties, then assign regular user credentials. Likewise, restrict developers' access to only the system resources they need to complete their assigned tasks.
5. Perform Regular Security Audits
Regular security audits are critical to DevOps security. They can help identify a system's vulnerabilities and ensure that relevant security controls are in place and followed.
Different types of security audits can be conducted, including penetration testing, CloudFormation scripts audits, and coding reviews. It's important to choose the right type of audit for your app development needs.
6. Automate Security Processes
The DevOps approach employs security processes that allow the engineering and operations teams to collaborate seamlessly. These processes must be automated to ensure fast delivery of applications that meet customer expectations.
By applying automated security protocols at each stage of the software development lifecycle, your team can minimize human error, vulnerabilities, and downtime.
7. Implement Vulnerability Assessment
Vulnerability management is essential. Implementing vulnerability assessment is recommended as it helps to spot apps' vulnerabilities and fix them before they're deployed in the production environment.
Vulnerability assessment needs to be done frequently. Many vulnerability scanning tools are available that your teams could use to identify weaknesses in the applications. If security loopholes are identified, your teams need to work on their code to fix them.
DevOps Automation Best Practices
Automation is at the heart of successful DevOps and DevSecOps practices. Automating the process of developing, testing, and delivering software make it easier for all teams who collaborate in a DevOps environment.
To automate the DevOps processes, you'll need DevOps tools in your arsenal—from automated tools for scanning security vulnerabilities to tools for tracking performance metrics and more. Besides the tools, you'll also need to follow DevOps automation practices discussed below.
1. Adopt Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Delivery (CD)
One of the core principles of DevOps is connected with continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD)
CI and CD let your team build, test, and deploy code changes safely and consistently. With CI and CD tools, you can remove the manual processes from your operations or even human intervention when creating a deployment pipeline.
This starts from a commit in a version control system, then proceeds to the assessment of the code in a series of checks and tests, and if all works fine, it then ends with deployment of the version into production.
There are many tools available for the CI/CD stage of the DevOps lifecycle, like CircleCI, BitBucket Pipelines, GitHub Actions, Jenkins, and AWS services like CodePipeline among many others.
2. Prioritize Infrastructure and Event Logging
Logs provide DevOps teams with the operational insights they need to understand the performance and behavior of their deployment in production. Your teams can use the logs data to tweak code and infrastructure configurations for improved performance.
3. Follow the Don't Repeat Yourself Approach
The don't repeat yourself (DRY) approach helps users reduce redundancy and repetition by dividing codes into modules. This ensures each code has a single, unambiguous representation. Additionally, the DRY approach significantly minimizes the amount of code developers need to write, saving time and effort while reducing weaknesses in the code.
4. Implement Shift-Left Thinking
One of the principle tenets of DevOps is shift-left thinking. This means that operations tasks are shifted to the left of the software engineering process, so that they can be completed earlier and more efficiently. Shift-left thinking enables DevOps teams to identify and fix problems more quickly, before they cause major disruptions. Shift-left also helps to improve communication and collaboration between your development team and operations. By shifting operations tasks to the left of the process, operations and engineering can move closer together, making it easier to identify and solve problems.
5. Embrace Infrastructure as Code
Infrastructure as a code is managing and provisioning infrastructure through code rather than through manual processes.
This approach enables the setup and configurations of IT resources using pre-defined templates. Further, the approach speeds up the deployment process and update of infrastructure services, enabling agility and scalability.
DevOps Configuration Management Best Practices
As the name suggests, configuration management is the process of managing all the configurations of the environments the software applications host upon.
Essentially, there are different environments throughout the software development lifecycle in DevOps, starting with unit testing, system testing, integration testing, acceptance testing, and end-user testing. Configuration management is the process of managing configurations in all of these environments.
Key practices in managing configuration allows companies to keep track of changes in a way that will enable quick feature updates without service disruptions. Once configuration management is established, several practices can be implemented to optimize the processes. These include:
For optimal network consistency, the following standards should be created: software version/source control management, configuration upgrade procedures, and IP addressing standards
Integrity checks configurations
This entails routinely checking the integrity of the configurations for any potential problems, such as protocol mismatches and duplicate IP addresses.
Version control system configurations
Having a configuration source control system helps to compare current configurations to the previous versions to identify the source of the problem.
Update procedures configurations
Update procedures help ensure upgrades happen smoothly with minimal system downtime. These procedures include testing requirements, vendor installation references, configuration guidelines, etc.
Documenting network changes in real-time is crucial as it makes audits, troubleshooting, and inventory validation more efficient.
Configuration management in a DevOps environment is critical for consistent releases.
DevOps Deployment Best Practices
A DevOps deployment pipeline is the process of taking the code from source control and making it readily available to end users in an automated fashion. Here are the DevOps deployment practices for your teams.
1. Embrace CI/CD
Continuous integration and Continuous delivery (CI/CD)reduce the time needed to issue updates or deliver software while improving the software quality due to automation and is central to DevOps.
In CI, the source code is continually merged into a central repository, after which automated tests are run to validate the quality of the code.
CI aims to identify and fix bugs earlier in the SDLC, improve the overall code quality, and maximize deployment efficiency. Finding bugs earlier in the app development lifecycle helps to avoid problems once the code is released.
CD is a critical part of the DevOps release management practices and an extension of continuous integration.
In CD, your team produces the code in short cycles, which can automatically be released at any time. Code changes are automatically built, tested, and released into production. This process aims to get changes of all types—including bug fixes, new features, configuration changes, and experiments- into production environments or in the hands of users.
CI/CD practices are at the heart of DevOps culture. Implementing them makes the software development process faster, easier, and less risky for developers. Here are the best CI/CD practices to follow.
- Fully automate the build process
- Maintain a single source repository
- Make fixing broken builds a top priority
- Commit to the mainline daily
- Make the build self-testing
2. Ensure Continuous Monitoring
Continuous monitoring is also vital to the success of your DevOps deployment processes. It ensures complete visibility into the health and performance of the overall application stack. Continuous monitoring also enhances the visibility of your system's operations, especially those that can trigger security breaches.
DevOps Testing Best Practices
DevOps testing is all about smoothing out the entire delivery lifecycle. A DevOps testing strategy must be focused on continuous testing. Without continuous testing, there will likely be missed defects, late delivery, and unhappy customers.
As such, organizations must employ DevOps testing practices to ensure the application is free from defects and that it will provide a great customer experience. Here are the DevOps testing practices for your team to follow.
1. Scale Test Automation
To build a successful DevOps testing strategy, you'll need to scale test automation—on mobile and web. There are two ways organizations can scale test automation on mobile and web. One option is to use open-source frameworks, such as Cucumber, and the other is to go codeless—automate testing with Selenium.
2. Use Advanced Reporting and Analysis
At the end of DevOps testing, you'll need to produce a testing report. Ensure you're using an advanced reporting platform. The more detailed and actionable the report is, the faster your team can determine the root cause of problems and take action.
3. Leverage Test Automation
A common practice in a DevOps environment is to merge the code into a single repository. This way, the code updates automatically and continuously through continuous integration.
To minimize errors, developers have to test the code through different types of tests, including unit tests, integration tests, and functional tests. A good practice is to automate these tests, which can speed up the process and produce high-quality code. Of course, the prerequisite for this is to have tests in the first place. Too many teams fail to write unit tests as they write code which is a fatal error.
4. Track Performance with Metrics
Using metrics to evaluate the performance of a code is another good practice. This gives the management a clear picture of how the changes introduced to the application have impacted the organization. Key metrics to track include:
- Number of tests carried out
- Number of bugs identified
- Execution time of the automation suite
- Frequency of failing test cases
These metrics can also provide insights into the areas more vulnerable to failures, so developers can focus on these areas.
Adopt Agile Methodology
Agile methodology is a very popular approach for a software engineering team that emphasizes collaboration, flexible planning, and continuous improvement. The goal of agile is to allow for rapid and rapid delivery of valuable software features to customers.
One of the key features of agile project management is the use of short, iterative sprints. A sprint is a time-boxed period during which a certain amount of work is completed. When each sprint ends, the engineering team evaluates how well they met their goals and sets new goals for the next sprint.
This continuous feedback loop enables agile teams to quickly adapt to changes in customer requirements or market conditions.
Agile allows for rapid and flexible response to change, which makes it well-suited for projects with rapidly changing requirements.
Agile project management has a number of core tenets, including the following:
- Customer feedback and collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Collective ownership over individual responsibility
Agile and DevOps work together by sharing a common goal of shortening the feedback loop. This allows for quick course corrections and improved efficiency. The DevOps approach relies on automation to speed up the process, while agile relies on communication and collaboration. By working together, these two approaches can achieve great results.
DevOps is a set of practices that combine the development and operation teams.
This approach aims to accelerate delivery through collaboration, automation, fast feedback, and iterative improvement. Teams that adopt a DevOps culture are more productive and build better products faster for greater customer satisfaction.
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