DevOps vs DevSecOps is a question that often sparks lively debate among IT industry professionals. But how do they differ, and which approach to software development is best for your organization?
The similarities between the two terms often lead to some confusion, but although they share many traits, DevOps and DevSecOps are subtly distinct practices. While DevOps generally treats security as a separate process, the DevSecOps model, quite literally, places security front and center.
In this article, we will outline the key differences in the DevOps vs DevSecOps debate and arm you with the knowledge needed to make an informed decision about which approach to invest in to improve your organization’s security posture.
DevOps: Speed and Collaboration
The term ‘DevOps’ stands for ‘Development and Operations.’ It is a modern approach to software creation that combines typical coding and development activities with IT operations and quality assurance.
DevOps aims to speed up the software development process by focusing on frequent release cycles, efficient communication and collaboration among team members, and the use of automation technologies to streamline operations.
Historically, development and operations were treated as separate entities. Under the traditional Waterfall model, for example, the developers wrote the code while the system administrators took charge of its integration and deployment.
However, as newer methodologies such as Agile came to the fore, a fresh approach was needed. This was, in part, due to the sprint-led nature of these new models, which emphasized the need for more frequent software releases (ranging from once every few weeks to multiple times a day).
DevOps was the ideal solution to address the evolving demands of software development, as it seamlessly joined the dots between planning, coding, testing, deployment, and monitoring.
Today, DevOps has become so ubiquitous that it is often used as shorthand for all the ‘doing’ of modern software development – from the coding of programs and applications to software deployment and backend operations.
The Guiding Principles of DevOps
The term ‘DevOps’ was coined in 2009 by Patrick Debois. Since then, the approach has been adopted by organizations of all sizes.
The key principles of DevOps include:
- Rapid software releases through automation
At its core, DevOps aims to speed up the software development lifecycle. Long gone are the days of the Waterfall model, where development could be held up due to each phase being dependent on the completion of the previous one. Using Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) platforms and other automation tools, DevOps focuses on short, sharp release cycles. These deployments can range from once every few weeks to several times per day, leading to continuous improvements and efficiency at scale.
- Collaboration and communication
DevOps also places a strong emphasis on collaboration and communication. Rather than having teams across the business working in silos, all stakeholders are encouraged to work collaboratively and maintain a holistic understanding of the organization’s goals. In turn, a strong DevOps culture leads to increased productivity and a better working environment.
- Focus on customer needs
One further benefit of DevOps is that the short release cycles allow development teams to make fast, iterative changes and improvements to their codebase. Now, instead of having to wait weeks or even months for changes to be made, new features or bug fixes can be implemented quickly. Making rapid improvements based on feedback from customers or internal stakeholders is vital in today’s highly competitive technology space.
- Continuous improvement and ‘failing fast’
The fast-moving and agile nature of DevOps allows any changes to be rolled back just as easily as they are implemented. This allows teams to ‘fail fast’ and prevents any software bugs or operational issues from having a long-term impact on the team.
DevSecOps: Integrating Security into DevOps
DevSecOps stands for Development, Security, and Operations. Building on the successful DevOps model, DevSecOps is an approach to culture, automation, and platform design that treats security as a shared responsibility throughout the entire IT lifecycle.
DevSecOps aims to reduce the number of security issues going into production by catching them at an earlier stage in the development process.
DevSecOps engineers typically test and monitor a company’s system for vulnerabilities on an ongoing basis. They will collaborate with program developers to patch any holes in the current security program, add countermeasures to prevent new threats, or make the program stronger and more effective.
Application security is already a mainstream skill and is heavily in demand, but DevSecOps is a rising star. Gartner indicates that DevSecOps is in the early stages of mainstream adoption. They quote a 20%-50% market penetration among DevSecOps’ target audience.
Gartner projects that DevSecOps will reach mainstream adoption within one to four years. Indeed, this approach is currently being used by many leading companies, including Amazon, HP, and Netflix.
Key Goals of DevSecOps
DevSecOps inherits many of the guiding principles of DevOps but with an even sharper focus on improving an organization’s security posture.
DevSecOps teams will focus on the following:
- Security as a shared responsibility: Rather than the security responsibility falling under the remit of one or two specialist employees, a culture of security awareness is engrained across all members of the software development team.
- Secure coding best practices: Security is never treated as an afterthought. Secure coding best practices are integrated throughout the development process.
- Implementation of security automation: Continuous security monitoring is achieved through security automation tools. This means potential bugs or vulnerabilities can be mitigated quickly.
DevSecOps: What does ‘shift left’ mean?
The term ‘shift left’ is commonly associated with DevSecOps. It emphasizes how security testing activities have been moved to an earlier stage of the development process.
Within the DevSecOps model, security is integral to the entire software lifecycle, and ‘shifting left’ is a synonym for organizations seeking to embrace these goals.
The ‘shift left’ trend is further illustrated by the fact that security itself is embedded within DevSecOps as an industry term.
DevOps vs DevSecOps
DevOps and DevSecOps share many core traits, but they each offer a nuanced approach to software development. These similarities and differences are highlighted in the table below:
|The Differences Between DevOps vs DevSecOps|
|Combination of development and operations||Integration of security into DevOps practices|
|Rapid software delivery and continuous feedback||Faster and more secure software delivery|
|Collaboration, automation, CI/CD||Collaboration, automation, security integration|
|Emphasis on speed, efficiency, agility||Emphasis on security, risk mitigation, compliance|
|Basic security measures; security is addressed later in the process||Security is ‘shifted left’ and addressed at an earlier stage|
The DevOps vs DevSecOps debate is often reduced to one of speed and collaboration vs security integration.
However, while it is true that the added security focus of DevSecOps may result in a slightly slower product delivery, the fact that security bugs are ironed out at an earlier stage means that, in the long term, these time savings are negligible.
Likewise, although DevOps practitioners generally treat security as a separate, rather than parallel, process, this doesn’t mean it is discounted entirely.
For example, according to Google’s State of DevOps 2022 report, 63% of organizations surveyed said they used application-level security scanning as part of their CI/CD delivery.
The report stated:
“Overall, we found surprisingly broad adoption of emerging security practices, with a majority of respondents reporting at least partial adoption of every practice we asked about.”
The DevSecOps Jobs Market
According to our research, demand for security software engineers and DevSecOps-related jobs remains high.
We discovered more than 70,000 online job listings for DevSecOps-specific roles over a 12-month period. The average advertised salary listed in online job openings for these roles was $140,000.
The following is a list of the skills most requested by employers in job listings for DeSecOps-related roles:
- Information Systems
- System Administration
- Software Development & Software Engineering
- Microsoft C#
- Amazon Web Services (AWS)
- Google Cloud Platform (GCP)
- Structured Query Language (SQL)
Are you thinking about pursuing a career in DevSecOps and wondering if this role would be a good fit for your skill set?
We’ve found the people best suited for a career in DevSecOps are those with a coding background who are interested in security, or people with a security background who also enjoy coding. If you’re new to the field but have an interest in both these skill sets, this could be a natural choice of career for you.
Top DevSecOps tools
DevSecOps engineers have a wealth of tools at their disposal as they look to enhance their security posture throughout the development process. They can be divided into several broad categories, many of which have been inherited from the DevOps model:
- CI/CD tools: Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) solutions facilitate the automation of the application build, test, and deployment process. Popular tools include Jenkins, TeamCity GitLab CI/CD, CircleCI, and Travis CI.
- Static Application Security Testing (SAST) tools: Static Application Security Testing (SAST) tools proactively detect and address security issues early on, mitigating risks and protecting applications and users from potential threats. Examples include Checkmarx, SonarQube, Veracode, and Semgrep.
- Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) tools: Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) tools play a key role in a layered security defense by simulating real-world attack scenarios and uncovering vulnerabilities. OWASP ZAP, Acunetix, Burp Suite, and Netsparker are among the popular choices.
- Container security tools: By adopting strong container security practices, you can shield your applications against a wide array of threats. Solutions providers in this area include Aqua Security, Snyk, Qualys, and Palo Alto.
- Infrastructure security tools: By adopting strong container security practices, you can shield your applications against a wide array of threats. Solutions providers in this area include Aqua Security, Snyk, Qualys, and Palo Alto.
DevSecOps is at the forefront of modern software development and IT operations. As such, it’s vital for DevSecOps practitioners and enthusiasts to continually keep track of the latest developments in this fast-moving space.
For those outside the UK, it’s worth keeping an eye on your local IT event listings to see what’s on the horizon.
Another leading light of the DevSecOps movement is Glenn Wilson.
His book on DevSecOps provides a clear path to building systems and protocols that promote taking ownership of software security and support the DevOps philosophy.
DevSecOps: A leader’s guide to producing secure software without compromising flow, feedback, and continuous improvement
Despite the similarities between the two terms, the DevOps vs DevSecOps debate highlights the dynamic interplay between speed, collaboration, and security that software developers must consider as part of their day-to-day operations.
DevOps is characterized by its emphasis on rapid releases, automation, and collaboration among stakeholders. This revolutionary approach has led to increased agility and improved communication, both of which have streamlined the software development process.
As an extension of the DevOps philosophy, DevSecOps inherits many of these key traits but with a renewed focus on security. By weaving security through every facet of the software development lifecycle, DevSecOps ensures that vulnerabilities are detected and mitigated at an early stage.
Ultimately, the choice between DevOps vs DevSecOps should be guided by your organization’s specific goals, priorities, and risk profile. In today’s fast-paced tech world, time to market remains crucial, but the importance of security should never be underestimated.
As the industry evolves, embracing the principles of DevSecOps, with its ‘shift left’ approach to security, is becoming increasingly essential to safeguarding sensitive data, maintaining compliance, and maintaining trust with users.
If you are interested in learning more about DevSecOps, take a look at some of the courses available at StationX.
For organizations interested in strengthening their cyber security posture through expert partnerships, StationX offers a comprehensive DevSecOps consulting service.
Our DevSecOps consulting service allows you to embrace this modern approach to software development without having to use internal resources to establish and develop a specialist DevSecOps team.