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Insights  |  November 11, 2020

How low code can help enterprises “left-shift” application security

Modern enterprise application needs have become intricate. They demand application development and deployment to be cloud-native, agile, scalable, and secure. The app ecosystem has become intertwined, and enterprise applications have become complex beasts, built on monolithic systems. The transformation continues. Modern application development is becoming more agile and scalable and deployment of applications on the cloud is increasing. Application architecture is transforming from monolithic to microservice-oriented architecture. Developers and IT Ops are collaborating giving rise to the culture of DevOps. With the increasing pressure on high performance, DevOps teams are urged to use more sophisticated technology and techniques.

Besides achieving agility and scalability, DevOps teams are also entrusted with achieving application security goals. App Security has become a high priority goal and a shared responsibility. It’s reflected in Gartner’s “Magic Quadrant for Application Security Testing, 2020” report, there’s a 50% increase in the number of end-user and client conversations about AST (Application Security Testing) tools and DevSecOps in 2020.

To embed application security across the development cycle requires various levels of automation testing and setting up of configurations at different stages of the application development and deployment process. What development teams are doing is that they are using container technology and microservices to “pull security” early into the DevOps process. In addition to application security, another trend highlighted in Gartner’s report is the increasing attention (of 65%) on container security.

While many enterprises are already running cloud-native, microservices-based, containerized applications in production, there are several challenges; from technology immaturity, a steep learning curve, to the lack of operational expertise and know-how. What’s taking precedence today in high-performance development teams is the left-shift application security earlier in the stages of development.

“Shift Left” App Security – The Guiding Force Behind High Performance Development Teams

App Security has become a business imperative. In the Forrester’s Report on “The Top Security Technology Trends To Watch, 2020”, integration of application security tools with CI/CD pipeline is a major priority in 2020. Application security has become the primary focus of high-performance DevOps teams and by “left-shift application security” parameters, security is a shared responsibility and is being implemented by developers. Moreover, with the rise of DevSecOps the silos of application and infrastructure security are being bridged.

AppSec – The Primary Focus of DevOps in a Containerized Environment

DevOps teams not only have to mitigate operational issues related to performance, integrity, availability of containers in production environments, they also need to ensure security is embedded early in the DevOps process. With greater urgency to automate application security testing (AST) in the DevOps process, the attention of DevOps teams needs to be directed towards the integration of the CI/CD toolchain with application security tools such as software composition analysis (SCA), static application security testing (SAST), and container security.

When embracing the DevOps culture and migrating applications to the cloud in a containerized environment, security must be embedded across the development lifecycle. To ensure compliance of performance and resiliency, the focus needs to shift to service-level and container-specific monitoring. DevOps teams need to monitor applications within containers and across containers at a service-level. “Pulling in” application security earlier into the development lifecycle would form the beginning of what is called DevSecOps.

DevSecOps – Breaking the Silo of Application and Infrastructure Security

The ‘mantra’ of DevSecOps is “shift left”, encouraging developers to move security from the right end of the development and delivery process to the left end (beginning). True to its abbreviation, DevSecOps – development, security, and operations – ensures the integration of security is automated across the lifecycle, from application design, testing, deployment, and delivery.

With the essence of DevSecOps being “software, safer, sooner”, it enables seamless integration of application and infrastructure security with the DevOps process. By allowing developers to address application security issues earlier before the application goes into production, it makes security issues easier to fix without disrupting the development cycle. Breaking the security silo, DevSecOps makes security a shared responsibility of IT Ops, security, and development teams.

Integrating security and testing across the development lifecycle may seem like a daunting challenge. However, there are emerging technology and tools available to ensure security is pulled in early enough. Low code platforms give enterprises the leverage to embedded security when developing cloud-native applications, managing containers, and adopting microservices-based architecture. To implement the practice of DevSecOps, low code gives the opportunity to address and improve application security across the development lifecycle.

The Window of Opportunity – How Low Code Enables Enterprises to “Shift Left” Application Security 

Low code platforms help enterprises by integrating application-level, security features such as authorization, authentication, auditability, certification, performance monitoring, and security architecture, across the application development lifecycle. By automating application-level security features, low code platforms ensure robust authorization and authentication systems that have built-in encryption and provide XSS and CSRF configurations to address security threats and vulnerabilities. To help developers configure security features when building applications, low code platforms provide fine-grained controls, built-in encryption options, comprehensive authentication and authorization processes, OWASP compliance support, and data protection.

While application development and deployment processes are transforming so is application architecture, which is moving from monolithic legacy systems to microservices-based architecture. With microservices, there are many hands-on the deck. Enterprise applications are made into smaller components and many developers are working on different functionalities at various stages of the development cycle. At this time, when application architecture is transforming, security goals remain unchanged. In fact, the demands for application security are heightened and they need to be imbibed in the development process. Low code platforms support microservices-based architecture and enable the “left-shift application security” of security parameters by allowing developers to configure security protocols, set privileges, and automate testing before the application goes into production. Moreover, as enterprises leverage next-generation app delivery tools such as container technology, low code platforms help to embrace containerization at scale without disruption in existing processes and without requiring the reskilling of existing resources.

Low code’s promise is that of “Zero Complexity” DevOps Automation. It ensures minimal disruption of existing development teams, enables on-premise and cloud deployments seamlessly, automates CI/CD processes, saves on security infrastructure costs, and enables DevOps teams to focus on core application needs.

If you think the “left-shift application security” principle of pulling security earlier into the DevOps process may slow down the speed of development, think again. It shouldn’t be a trade-off to choose between accelerating application development and managing application security threats and fixing failures.  Achieving time-to-market delivery and security goals can be simultaneously achieved if you manage the DevOps process using emerging application development and deployment tools. The window of opportunity here is to streamline processes, using a sophisticated technology stack, and utilizing next-gen technology that low code offers to nurture AppSec innovation across the development cycle.