Much of the productivity waste associated with compliance requirements stems from the fact that most developers and IT operations teams aren’t aware how an application might be non-compliant until it’s too late. Aiming to eliminate that fundamentally inefficient approach to meeting compliance mandates, Chef this week tightened the integration between its Automate continuous automation platform and InSpec, an open-source project lead by Chef for specifying compliance and security policies.
At the same time, Chef enhanced support for Docker within InSpec and released InSpec-AWS, InSpec-Azure and InSpec-vSphere as incubation projects that IT operations teams can employ to test and audit for compliance. Chef also pledged to extend InSpec beyond operating systems to include support for middleware to address compliance issues across an entire platform. The announcements were made at the ChefConf 2017 conference.
Chef CEO says Barry Crist says that in much the same way Chef automation software turns infrastructure into code, InSpec turns compliance into code. Tighter integration between the two platforms should enable IT operations teams to automate compliance testing before code gets deployed in a production environment. In effect, Crist says, compliance becomes just another continuous process automated by Chef. This approach not only leads to faster application deployments, it also reduces the amount of time auditors must spend checking on where production applications comply with a particular mandate, as all the documentation has already been generated.
Compliance mandates are, in many ways, the enemy of innovation. In fact, it often takes longer these days to navigate compliance issues than it does to write a piece of code. Rewriting code to comply with multiple compliance requirements over several different manual tests is a waste of time and money. InSpec makes it possible to make compliance testing a part of an integrated DevOps process in much the same way security testing is fueling DevSecOps.
As the number of platforms that IT operations teams now need to support has expanded, the compliance testing process has become even more complicated. Crist notes that for DevOps to be truly effective, it needs to encompass not just the deployment of code but also making it possible to make compliance and security testing an integrated component of the application deployment process. Of course, as an open-source project there’s no reason developers can’t incorporate InSpec into any continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) framework they choose. Chef is just moving to make InSpec a more natural extension of its IT automation framework.
There’s a lot of commonality in the controls implemented across various compliance specifications. That creates opportunity to automate controls to reduce the need to rework an application, either before it gets deployed or, worse, after it has been deployed into production. Longer-term, the level of commonality across compliance controls also creates an opportunity to leverage machine-learning algorithms to automate implementing those controls.
Of course, there will also be controls that will be unique to one compliance standard or another. But the days when IT organizations need to manually address those compliance controls one application at a time are coming to an end.