Survey: Security Continues to be Major Factor for DevOps Platforms

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Shifting left and other security measures are an important part of the development process and an increasing number of respondents are or intend to utilize this practice.

Security continues to be an important factor when choosing a DevOps platform, with more than half of organizations shifting left or planning to shift left this year in addition to security being the top investment priority this year, according to a survey released by open-core company GitLab on Tuesday. 

Specifically, 28% of respondents indicated that their organizations are shifting left, which means for DevOps teams to ensure security at the beginning stages of the development cycle. However, over the next three years, 49% of respondents plan to shift left. 

“We like to say shift security everywhere, rather than just shift left,” Bob Stevens, vice president of public sector at GitLab told Nextgov. “When you deploy a DevSecOps platform, especially if you’re using GitLab, you can perform a security check or vulnerability assessment, every time you check a line of code, and you don’t have to wait until the application is completed. And secondly, it’s secure. Now the security folks want things to go slowly to make sure that it’s secure and the developer wants to go as fast as possible, because they’re under immense pressure to produce the software and work together in order to produce both and get a win-win for everyone involved.”

The GitLab 2022 Global DevSecOps Survey had more than 5,000 respondents, including developers, operations and security practitioners as well as organizational leaders. Two percent of respondents worked in the government and 75% of respondents are based in the United States. The survey found that factors for selecting a DevOps platform centered around security, compliance, consolidating toolchains and delivering software faster. 

“Compliance, that can be an ugly word in the government, but it’s also a necessary word,” Stevens said. “You can actually build compliance into the development processes.”

The survey highlighted the disconnect between security and development. More than half of respondents noted that security is a developer performance metric at their organizations, but only half of security professionals indicate that developers failed to identify security issues. 

“On the government side, security is super important,” Stevens said. “With speed to mission, being able to get applications out as fast as they possibly can in a secure manner, I think, is very important for the government.”

According to the survey, 60% of respondents are implementing security capabilities for cloud native or server-less or plan to do so in the next year. 

“It’s interesting, even though there’s still this big push to move to the cloud, the respondents said that they’re still going to spend more money on security than they will [on] cloud or the adoption of cloud,” he said. “So that was also interesting, considering how heavily [the] cloud is pushed in all aspects of the government.”

However, he added, “both are necessary. By moving to the cloud, you can actually become more secure too.”

The survey showed that 59% of government respondents said their organizations released software at the same rate or slower than last year. The survey indicated that overall, delays while testing were previously the main cause for delays, but now this includes code development, code review, security analysis, test data management and course testing. However, testing is becoming more automated, according to the survey. In comparison, about 60% of respondents said that they are releasing code faster than before. 

Moreover, 53% of government respondents agreed or strongly agreed that red tape slows their efforts to quickly address vulnerabilities. Stevens noted that it is also important for the government to update legacy systems. 

There is an increased effort to consolidate toolchains with 69% of respondents wanting to consolidate because of issues with monitoring, development delays and the negative impact on developers. Specifically, 44% of DevOps teams use two to five tools and 41% use six to ten tools, as noted in the survey. The main issue is it is becoming challenging to monitor lots of tools and to switch between them, have them work together and it makes it harder for organizations to be agile. 

Stevens had several suggestions for best practices for the government and other entities.

“They should be implementing a DevOps platform because that allows them to integrate the tools that they have,” he said. “It allows them to serve their customers faster and more securely, it also reduces cost because if I don’t have to train on 14 different DevOps tools, I can train on one platform and allow people to bring whatever it is they like and integrate into it. … It’s a lot more productive if everyone’s trained on the same thing and a whole bunch of collaboration occurs.”