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Compliance and Audit Readiness: The DevOps Killer?

Compliance and Audit Readiness: The DevOps Killer?

Aug 14, 2023 02:19PM

  Ensuring Compliance and Audit in DevOps

To retain customers and avoid regulatory penalties, regulations, data privacy, and the trust of users must be adhered to. Security and Compliance are now being addressed early in the development stage rather than later during the review phase. Speed and Compliance can be diametrically opposite. To ensure that innovation, privacy, and trust are all moving in the same direction, it is essential to have robust platforms for service or product delivery.

DevOps can bring about rapid change. The unique combination of cultural doctrines, tools, and techniques enables an organisation to deliver services and applications faster. Its agility and automation are its defining features. They go a very long way towards streamlining and rationalizing compliance efforts. Agility allows organisations to serve their customers better and compete.

The DevOps Revolution

DevOps has disrupted traditional development and deployment methodologies by fostering a culture of collaboration and automation. It combines previously siloed teams—developers, quality assurance engineers, operations personnel, and more—into a unified workflow. By promoting cross-functional cooperation and automation tools, DevOps allows for faster and more frequent software releases, reduced errors, and improved customer satisfaction.

The Compliance Conundrum

While the benefits of DevOps are undeniable, it introduces unique challenges for maintaining Compliance and audit readiness, especially in industries where regulatory standards are stringent, such as finance, healthcare, and government. Compliance requirements ensure organisations adhere to legal regulations and industry standards, safeguarding data privacy, security, and ethical practises.

The rapid pace of DevOps can clash with the rigour and documentation demanded by compliance frameworks. Traditional compliance practises often involve meticulous documentation, strict change controls, and well-defined processes—elements that can appear to slow down the streamlined DevOps pipeline. As organisations strive to balance agility with adherence to Compliance, a delicate equilibrium must be struck.

Automated Compliance: A Double-Edged Sword

Automation, a cornerstone of DevOps, has the potential to both aid and challenge compliance efforts. On the one hand, automation can enhance Compliance by enforcing standardised processes, facilitating real-time monitoring, and reducing the risk of human errors. Automated deployment and configuration management tools can ensure consistent configurations are applied across environments, minimising vulnerabilities and drift.

On the other hand, overreliance on automation can lead to blind spots. Critical security and compliance issues might go unnoticed if not adequately addressed in automated scripts and configurations. Moreover, automation can sometimes inadvertently propagate non-compliant practises if not properly designed and monitored. Thus, while automation accelerates the DevOps pipeline, organisations must be cautious not to automate non-compliance.

Integrating Compliance into DevOps

Addressing Compliance and audit readiness requires a strategic and holistic approach. To prevent compliance concerns from becoming the DevOps killer, organisations should consider the following strategies:

  • Incorporate Compliance considerations early:Integrate compliance considerations into the software development life cycle. This involves educating DevOps teams about relevant compliance standards and requirements.

  • Automate Compliance Checks:Leverage automation to perform regular compliance checks. Automated tests and scans can help identify potential compliance violations early in development, reducing the likelihood of costly rework later.

  • Implement Compliance as Code:Treat Compliance as code and version it alongside your application code. This approach, known as "Compliance as Code," ensures compliance requirements are tracked, reviewed, and tested like any other code change.

  • Continuous Monitoring:Implement continuous monitoring practices that keep a vigilant eye on the deployment pipeline. Real-time monitoring can detect deviations from compliance standards, enabling swift corrective actions.

  • Collaboration and Communication:Facilitate open communication between DevOps and compliance teams. Foster a collaborative environment where compliance requirements are understood and integrated seamlessly.

  • Document Smartly: evaluate and adapt documentation processes. Focus on concise and relevant documentation that captures the necessary information without hampering the agility of the DevOps process.

Restricting Shadow IT Practises with Optimised Operations and Infrastructure

  Ensuring Compliance and Audit in DevOps

IT infrastructures are complex enough to make Compliance a problematic job. With complex infrastructures comes the onslaught of poor agility, leading to increased shadow IT activities.

Businesses have a pressing need to serve and exceed customer expectations, and, in the process, they may bypass their internal IT organisations, responding to competition. Such activities threaten the organisation's security protections, endangering subscription management. Hence, optimising IT operations to reduce shadow IT activities is crucial.

Organisations can improve their speed and agility in service delivery by employing efficient servers and container infrastructures. With proficient tools available, infrastructure simplicity can be easily achieved. These tools can optimise operations with rationalised and simplified management across DevOps activities. I&O teams can also build and deliver container images, improving configuration management. When practised in unison, it supports continuous integration, which is characteristic of an actual DevOps environment. IT activities and Compliance with security, licencing, and system standards are achieved with fewer shadows.

Monitoring Deployments

Besides optimising operations, Compliance also requires monitoring deployments to ensure internal requirements are easily met. IT can conveniently track Compliance with a single infrastructure management tool with well-defined system standards and finely etched subscription standards. Licence tracking is one of the ways that I&O leaders aid in simplifying and automating software licences for the continuation of long-term Compliance and imposing software usage policies that warrant security. Easy and rapid monitoring significantly reduces oversights into container and cloud VM compliance across DevOps environments. Compliance control and validation across the entire infrastructure can be augmented by managing configuration changes with a single tool. Infrastructure management automation and heightened monitoring can ensure system compliance using automated patch management with regular notifications of systems that breach compliance regulations set in the current patch level.

Collaboration is the Key

The key to successful Compliance is a dedicated collaboration with the primary stakeholders in the entire process, including development, legal, internal audit, and security. I&O leaders should open a podium to discuss the organisation's risk-taking appetite and solutions to overcome it. Before documenting these initiatives, all stakeholders must agree to the risk mitigation guidelines. DevOps teams must learn the rudimentary basics of security and risk practise with a mindset to offset a threat whenever it arises. The routine operations of the teams should include compliance assessments at all steps. The documented risk mitigation plan must be reviewed periodically, and changes made as necessary.

Compliance is not just one team's responsibility; it should resonate with the entire organisation. Hence, a collaborative effort with the leaders and the team will go a long way towards pushing towards fulfilling regulatory requirements.

The Need for Compliance as Code (CAC)

Organisations that followed the waterfall development methodology defied the very purpose of DevOps. It was a traditional approach that offered preventive control measures that took longer and promoted manual labour. Regulatory Compliance was complex for I&O leaders because they had to present every document and proof validating controls.

DevOps is all about the rapid delivery of services at a consistent level, and I&O leaders should make sure that Compliance follows the same principle. Every little step taken to make the service endowment efficient has to be backed by rapid automation, continuous testing, validation, and collaboration. When the entire process is automated, it removes manual efforts, reducing the scope for human errors and making the whole system more flexible and consistent. A significant difference is that the new approach overcomes the hurdles of costs associated with meeting compliance and substantially reduces the timeline for meeting regulatory compliance standards.

CAC needs to be implemented to ensure continuous automation of Compliance. This will help in active monitoring, testing, and evaluation for report generation on the latest compliance status. DevOps and CAC should go hand in hand. The entire initiative should be applied holistically to all the old and new processes to meet old Compliance, with new ones following suit.

Securing Data Access Control

Regulations around data privacy and security are grave and still growing. Organisations must seriously consider data access controls right from the start. Go with the building of applications. At the project's outset, the organisation may impose or implement restrictions. However, such controls may be tossed if the system does not reinforce these restrictions. Automated mechanisms detect any potential data leak even before it hits production.

Conclusion

DevOps has undoubtedly revolutionized the software development and deployment landscape, but its rapid pace and emphasis on automation can pose challenges to Compliance and audit readiness. However, these challenges are not insurmountable. Organizations can strike a harmonious balance between DevOps agility and compliance adherence by incorporating compliance considerations early, leveraging automation intelligently, and fostering collaboration between teams. The key lies in recognizing that Compliance should not be an afterthought but an integral part of the DevOps journey. Ultimately, with the right strategies in place, Compliance can coexist with DevOps, ensuring both innovation and accountability thrives hand in hand.

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