Different Approach, Same Mission: The DevOps vs. DevSecOps Breakdown

DevSecOps is now driving a fundamental shift in IT culture — recent survey data found that of the top three elements of DevSecOps, 43% of the respondents included involving DevOps in security processes in this list.

DevOps, meanwhile, continues to transform organizations with a focus on “shifting left” to deliver more applications, more quickly and with less downtime.

For many companies, the concurrent rise of both methodologies begs a question: What’s the difference? How do these two approaches overlap, and where do they diverge? Here’s a DevOps vs. DevSecOps breakdown.

DevOps: Critical Combination

What is DevOps? The collaboration of developers and operations teams to create a more agile, streamlined deployment framework. It’s a critical shift away from the traditionally “siloed” mentality of many IT teams that prioritized areas of specialization over communication.

Born from a need to deliver software and services more reliably and quickly to market — and with fewer calls for revision — DevOps has become a driving force in many forward-thinking organizations. Essential to DevOps implementations are the ideals of continuous testing and automation: New deployments must be tested from the moment code is written to the hour the final product is released, while leveraging automation makes it possible to address form and function issues at speed rather than relying on outdated manual testing frameworks.

DevSecOps: Logical Next Steps

DevSecOps, meanwhile, introduces the concept of information security (infosec) into the existing DevOps paradigm. Critical here is the notion of developing a “security as code” culture that prioritizes secure development and speed rather than attempting to separate the concepts.

The cultivation of shared responsibility is vital. All DevSecOps team members must see the delivery of secure services as their responsibility rather than something handled by other teams during development or after services are deployed. DevSecOps integrates key security policies such as code analysis, compliance monitoring, threat investigation and vulnerabilities assessments into typical DevOps workflows. The ideal result? Native security already built in to new product deployments, in turn limiting the risk of zero-day flaws and software recalls.

DevOps Vs. DevSecOps: Key Similarities

Beyond the name, how are DevOps and DevSecOps similar?

Most importantly, they share the same overall mandate: Deliver great IT outcomes as quickly as possible. They also share the agile mentality of continuous testing and evaluation; DevOps teams know that code can always be made better and implement continuous analysis to discover potential improvements. Infosec pros, meanwhile, know that security is never “job done” — continuous monitoring and evaluation helps identify key issues and discover emerging threats before they impact ready-to-be-deployed software or services.

In addition, both concepts focus on “shifting left” by moving testing and evaluation closer to the beginning of development cycles — where issues can be easily corrected — instead of right before it goes live.

Fundamental Differences

Speed is the key driver of DevOps. Shifting processes left and building in automation makes it easier to test new products, design revisions and start again. But speed is often seen as the enemy of security — more accurately, however, it’s the close friend of risk. And fundamentally, this is the goal of DevSecOps: implementing best practices that reduce total corporate risk. As a result, the move from DevOps to DevSecOps can be problematic as developers push for speed and security pros ask for time to ensure critical vulnerabilities aren’t being overlooked.

Also worth noting is the critical divide in responsibility. While implementing a “security is everyone’s business” policy can help reduce overall risk, the fundamental difference between infosec and developer skill sets means that security implementation ultimately rests with infosec pros. Code development and streamlining, meanwhile, is the province of experienced developers while operations teams are uniquely suited to ensure new deployments are in line with current business objectives.

What does this mean for DevSecOps? While overlap in assessment and outcomes is critical, responsibilities must be clearly defined to give Development, Security and Operations teams the best chance of succeeding.

DevOps vs. DevSecOps: Final Thoughts

Need to improve automation, monitoring and eventual outcomes of IT deployments? Start with DevOps to align IT efforts. Then, consider the implementation of DevSecOps layers to incorporate security at speed and develop a secure-code mentality across your organization — without sacrificing speed.