In just a little more than three years Aqua Security has set its mark in the container security space. With its major new release of Aqua 3.5, the company has again raised the bar with serverless and container encryption upgrades and feature sets.
I sat down with the Aqua Enforcer himself, Rani Osnat, and “Boston” Andy Feit to discuss the details of this major release. Rani and Andy give us an inside peek.
As usual, the streaming audio is immediately below, followed by the transcript of our conversation.
Alan Shimel: Hey everyone, it’s Alan Shimel, DevOps.com, and you’re listening to another DevOps Chat. Today’s chat is a little bit about cybersecurity, container security, Kubernetes and a major new release coming out of our friends at Aqua, Aqua Security. I’m happy to be joined with the dynamic duo of marketing at Aqua, Andy Feit and Rani Osnat. Andy, Rani, welcome.
Rani Osnat: Hi Alan, thank you.
Andy Feit: Hi Alan, good to talk to you.
Shimel: And just so people know, Andy, you’re joining us from Boston today. And Rani, you’re out in Israel. Is that correct?
Feit: Yes. Yes. Today I am in _____ _____ [Crosstalk].
Shimel: Modern technology. We have a worldwide panel. But guys, the big news is, Aqua just announced version 3.5 of their platform suite of tools. And you know, Aqua’s not a company that every single new time there’s a new release, and the DevOps mantra, you can’t get too excited about any one release. Right? Because there’s always a next one and a next one and a next one. But this is one to get excited about, huh?
Osnat: We certainly think so.
Shimel: So why should we be excited?
Feit: Rani, you want to take that one?
Osnat: Yeah, I’ll take this one. So, with every release we make, especially, and in the beginning of course everything’s new. But we’ve been in this space now for three years. Which is not a long time, but in this space it’s a very long time. And so now we’re at the point where we have a lot of large enterprise customers using our product. And we have a market that’s looking for innovation.
And with every new release we try to balance these factors of, you know, offering something new that the market wants. But at the same time ensuring that our enterprise customers can make use of our platform, as they themselves grow their cloud native container implementations. So there is a maturity factor here as well as an innovation factor.
And so on the innovation side, we’re introducing a few significant innovations. First and foremost, risk assessments for serverless functions. Which is a, you know, a kind of a sideways expansion for us into the serverless technology space, in addition to containers. Thinking that you know, what we see as, it’s basically the same teams and the same benefits that are gotten from containers people expect to get from serverless, it’s just another means to get the same end.
And so we want to provide our customers with all the controls they need to address any challenges they have around securing those technologies. And it doesn’t matter if they use containers or serverless or both, or any sort of mixed environment. We also added something that’s innovative in the space, which is container encryption, and we can talk about that.
And then on the side of enterprise scalability and ease of use, we’ve added quite a significant I would say rearchitecting of how we manage both administrative controls on our platforms and what users can do in terms of access. As well as the policy engine to make it a lot more scalable for multicloud, multiteam, multiapplication use.
Shimel: Got it. Got it. Andy, did Rani leave anything out you want to add?
Feit: No, I mean, those are the big pieces that are in the release. As he said. I mean, it’s very much being driven by our customer base and where they’re headed. And you know, in some aspects, it’s the technology elements. Like adding serverless. And in other aspects, it’s really about living with the solution. You know, as our customers, we now have customers that are we think the largest container deployments in the enterprise.
We have some very large users and span of different industries. As they look to roll out, they’re finding they have multiple teams working on these projects. And they need to implement different levels of security. And in many cases, they’re implementing that on different technology stacks. And some are using containers, some are using serverless environments.
And they may be using even different underlying providers of some of the infrastructure. Whether that’s tools for development or the cloud provider itself. And so we’re really, we’re becoming very heterogeneous in terms of what we need to support. And for our customers who, on the security side, are trying to look at that whole context and manage that whole context and have consistent policies, all our consistent reporting across all of them, and not be monitoring 17 different dashboards. It’s important that it be easy to do, to be able to see that whole network of activity. And that’s really what a lot of this release is about.
Shimel: So guys, one of the things that you mentioned, both of you actually mentioned, was the serverless piece. And this is something that we are, we’re hearing a lot about from our readers and from people we speak to. You know, how quickly, and we live in crazy times, right? So the whole container revolution, if you backed up on hypervisors. And now, how quickly serverless is you know, gaining a foothold and people are building around that type of infrastructure.
Shimel: Let’s, just baseline, what are some of the security challenges that you guys are seeing around this?
Osnat: Right. So I’ll preamble that, you know, just add one more thing. There’s, you know serverless has been around almost as long as containers have, in terms of the, you know, its current incarnation of the use in the cloud. But, the use cases is quite different. And while it is gaining traction, the use cases are much more limited than containers. There’s a whole kind of religious war, you know, between the proponents of containers and the proponents of serverless. Personally I don’t believe it’s a zero sum game. I think that both are going to end up being used, and both are going to end up being used in hybrid architectures.
Shimel: Yeah, I don’t think it’s either or.
Osnat: Yeah, I know, but some people would like you to think it is. I don’t think it is. I think it’s both. And so we, but there are some fundamental differences between containers and serverless when it comes to security. First of all, most of the serverless workloads that happen today are cloud based and specific to a cloud provider, right? Mostly Amazon, because Amazon is the larger cloud provider in general, as well as in serverless specifically with Lambda.
But basically you run those functions and it’s quite cloud specific. That’s one area of difference. The other is of course that you know, these are very small single-function entities that can run for a fraction of a second. So when we talk about run time security for serverless, for example, there is a lot less to do there than you have with containers.
Containers are, there are applications that can run, they could run for a minute but they often run for a lot longer than that. With something that runs for a split of a second, there is really only so much you can do when it’s already running. So a lot of the stuff you need to do is before it ever runs. You want to make sure that what you’re running is actually something that is secure, that passed your policy, and that you know about, right?
So when you look at the challenges, one of those is actually discovery. What functions do you have in your inventory, and what are you using them for? The second is ensuring that what’s in them is secure and not vulnerable, configured properly. And that also includes permissions. So, when you define for example a Lambda function to run on AWS, there is a set of permissions you can give it.
And depending on how you configure it, this can be very liberal or not. And of course you want it to be less, the least liberal you can. So as not to allow it to do anything outside the scope of what it’s supposed to be doing. So right now we’re primarily concerned, and that’s also where our customers are, with preventive controls. Basically ensuring that you are, that when you run something you actually know what it is. You know that you’ve approved it. And you can run it safely. That’s the first step in what we think is the right approach to securing serverless functions.
Shimel: Fair enough, fair enough. And back to what you said kind of right at the get go with the either or thing. It was the same arguments about, would container replace hypervisor type of thing. And I think what we see is the majority of people want containers on hypervisor.
Osnat: That’s true. It’s –
Feit: Yeah, and I would also add that the data centers with lots of VMware and hyper-v haven’t gone away yet either. And they won’t. They probably will never entirely go away. New development today is cloud native development. Most of your mobile customer facing development.
It makes sense to do that in the cloud and as long as you’re doing new development, why not do it on the latest and greatest. But, and the flexibility that you get from doing something on containers or serverless or a hybrid approach of those, makes it a lot smoother, easier, scalable. You get all these wonderful benefits. But we don’t see people going in wholesale and saying, I must clean out this data center now. So I think that –
Shimel: _____ [Crosstalk] throw out the baby with the bathwater. And people –
Osnat: Yeah. So I think that’s one thing that we did. The other, I think very interesting and innovative feature that we’re announcing is container encryption. And I want to explain the use case. So we work with, you know, we work with many organizations. For example, we work, some of our customers are ISVs, who create software for customers to use.
And that software is proprietary IP that they’ve developed and invested in. And they often want to make sure for those reasons as well as for reasons of governance, to make sure only the latest stuff is being used, et cetera, that they have some control over where it’s running and who’s using it. And so one of the things we provide here is an ability to encrypt, you basically encrypt the container image when it’s built.
And then in order to run it, you need to decrypt all its contents, so there’s basically a key that the customer will have, the end user will have. And that will decrypt the image as it’s running. And if you don’t have that key, the image will not run. So the container itself once it’s running is not encrypted. But up till that point, it’s encrypted and you have to decrypt it in order to run it. And then of course this prevents the sort of, someone reusing or forwarding your software and you can imagine various use cases except the ISV one where companies would want this sort of deep security control over their containers.
Shimel: Sure. Sure. And I think it’s just the, you know it’s funny, Rani. I think you said right in the beginning that over the last three years, you know, the progress that Aqua has made, and the progress the whole industry has made in securing their containers. Like everything that’s come before it, right, with each new release, with each light bulb, _____ security we see like more polish being applied.
So, to me this idea of container encryption is you know, maybe first we have to concentrate on just getting the containers to work in a somewhat secure manner. But now we can start thinking about next level, next, you know, how do we turn it up a notch? Things like container _____. What’s the word I’m thinking. Like the standard, the, you know, the container encryption becomes ubiquitous over time?
Osnat: I don’t know if it will become ubiquitous. I mean, certainly today you have a lot of encryption happening with TLS and all the stuff, all the pipes that handle containers. But as for the code itself, you know, even in highly regulated environments, I don’t necessarily see everyone encrypting everything. But certainly there are some crown jewels that you will want to encrypt.
And it’s especially those areas where you’re not talking about reusable components, right? A lot of the containers that our customers use are reusable based on open source components, that’s fine. You don’t need to encrypt your NGINX webserver container, right? That’s, it’s identical to the same, other NGINX containers people use. But if you have proprietary stuff, that’s where you want to, or something that’s especially sensitive, whether it’s for any kind of security, confidentiality reasons, or for IP reasons. That’s when you would want to use something like that.
But what you said actually, you know, brought me to the other topic I wanted to talk about, which is how the use of these technologies has matured with some of the more leading or pioneering companies that we work with, which is why we’ve invested in these scalability, manageability features. So I want to kind of explain what it looks like in a customer environment.
So when we started out, and we started out kind of together with the market, the companies we were talking to, even larger companies, would typically have one or two teams that actually use containers, right? And so, you were talking about isolated projects. And that’s one level of doing things. But as we move forward, you know, now we have customers that have hundreds of development teams working with containers. They make thousands of images on a daily basis, because it’s all in a CI pipeline.
And it all gets, it all goes into this large blender where it’s being spit out at the end, through Kubernetes or mesosphere, basically through an orchestrator to a variety of delivery platforms, whether it’s OnPrem or cloud or a mix of both. And if you look at it from an enterprise perspective, what they want is a way for them to apply security policies but maintain segregation of duties. Maintain compartmentalization and multitendency models that they have. So what we’ve done is really change both our administrative access model as well as the policy engine to enable that.
So basically, you’re talking about people who use the Aqua platform. They have one installation of the Aqua platform. But they can basically distinguish between what different teams can see and do, what different roles can see and do, and how those policies apply.
I’ll give an example. Let’s say that you have an application that is PCI DSS related. Handling credit card transactions. And so it has to comply with certain criteria that are requirements of the PCI DSS standard. You want, and you’re, but at the basis you’re using some basic elements like, I don’t know, MongoDB or MySQL. That same MySQL image that you apply a policy to within the PCI contexts will have a different policy than in non-PCI contexts. So having contextual policy is important.
So that’s one area. The other area is who’s got access to what. So of course the people who handle the PCI application, the developers, the DevOps team, will need to handle certain aspects of this. But they don’t necessarily need to control the policy. That’s expected to be done by the security and compliance team. And the same token, they don’t need to access, or other teams don’t need to access that PCI application.
So we’re talking about a matrix that really separates who’s got access to what and what they can do with that access, according to the specific application or geographic location, or what cloud it’s on or what registry it uses. All of these parameters. So you know, we’ve done this and we have, now both of these models combine to basically give you this matrix that is, that has you know, dozens of parameters on each facet to basically determine who’s got access to what, and who can do, whether it’s view access or edit access or only access to the logs, for example, for auditors and so forth. And so, it’s really a step up in terms of enabling these large deployments to work in an enterprise environments.
Shimel: Absolutely. Good stuff. Guys, I want to _____ two other topics or areas I want you to hit on. One specific to 3.5, one specific to the market. And we’re coming up on the end of our time. So you know, we hear about immutable infrastructure, and you know one of the advantages of a container environment.
So how do you deploy, you know, now you’ve got a bunch of customers. They want to upgrade to Aqua 3.5. Talk a little bit about how do you actually upgrade or run out this upgrade deployment. Is it a question of throw out what you have and just stand up new? Because Aqua itself is containerized. Or is, what, give us a little insight, nuts and bolts if people want to upgrade. Do you know what I’m saying.
Osnat: Yeah. So our upgrade process is you know, it is simpler because we use containers, right? So there’s nothing to install. You simply run the new container. We do have backward compatibility with our previous versions, so when there’s an upgrade path for anyone using older versions of Aqua to this version.
We actually, we’re the last, we don’t, I mean, we release software more often than what some of our customers would like to follow, in terms of their upgrade schedule, right? And we don’t force them to do that. But in the last version, the last major release, 3.2, we actually had a lot of customers move to that. So we’re in good shape from that respect.
And they can of course upgrade to 3.5 when it becomes available at the end of the month. So there’s really no, there’s nothing in particular they need to do except of course, we always, always recommend doing it in a test environment first. And then once you see everything works, you move that to production.
Shimel: Excellent. Excellent. So let me add –
Feit: There’s one more thing now I was going to jump in with, which is, we’re sort of talking about as our organizations of scale and especially if they have multiple teams that are working on different platforms and policies that need to be implemented. In some of these larger enterprises, it’s become very hard to really even see everything and know about it and track, you know, who’s running what and where, and who are these owners. And so one of the things that’s new in the product is a pretty slick interface.
Probably that’s the prettiest part of our product right now. The dashboard’s always looked great. But you can now go in and do what we call workload explorer. And visually view all of your running workloads, whether they’re on Kubernetes or Docker or OpenShift, and you can see everything that’s running across a large distributed runtime environment. And drill down into them, and you can start doing things like highlighting those that are vulnerable or high-risk, and those that are PCI compliant can be coded to jump out, and you’ll see that much more easily.
You can then do tabular mechanisms. Begin to filter. Show them only those running on this platform. Let’s say that there’s a vulnerability that’s exposed in a certain component. You can show me just those, and start drilling down and looking at them, seeing where are they running? Is this one on-prem? Is this one on the cloud? Which cloud provider is it running on?
So you know, as companies have become multiteam, multicloud, multistack, it’s the matrix of what you’re looking at has become pretty complex. And as workload explorers, it’s a great way to just sort of move around in a large enterprise. See what you have and understand what you need to work on right now.
Shimel: You know, and let’s not trivialize it. Let’s not belittle. I’m having a tough time with the word. Let’s not belittle it. You’re a hundred percent right, Andy. Today’s organizations are multi everything.
Osnat: I agree.
Shimel: _____ _____ distributed on so many different levels, that really, having a 360 degree view of, just of the lay of the land, where all this, how it all plays together. That in and of itself, someone could make a product out of. I mean, it’s crazy.
Feit: It’s eye opening for customers. Just in the last, we’ve been working with this product for about a month or six weeks, with some of our early adopter customers. And some of our sales engineers have been implementing it in proof of concept environments. And when the customers see this map, and they, you start drilling down, they say wait a sec – where’s that running? Show me that one.
They’re finding things that they didn’t realize they had because you can now visualize it and see it. You know, when it was coming in as yet another alert or a text field or you know, something coming in to your SIM system, that was one thing. You had to look at the logs and know the query to type. But when you see it visually and you jump in and start looking around, and says wait, what’s that?
And people were, it was eye opening. Okay, I need to go talk to that person. Literally, people were discovering things they didn’t know they had in their environments. And that’s exactly how, in a big environment, this tool can be very helpful in organizing things and showing you what’s out there.
Shimel: Absolutely, absolutely. Guys, that last question for you is not really 3.5 related but more mark related. You know, we seem to be undergoing a, well, it’s constant. But recently we’ve seen just more and more consolidation in the tech vector general within containers, around Kubernetes, you know, IBM’s Red Hat –
Feit: Cloud, right?
Shimel: IBM’s Red Hat acquisition, $34 billion. I mean, is the king of it. But we saw for instance, CA or Broadcom CA, whatever they call it now, spin on _____ for near a billion dollars. To Tom or Bravo. We saw, who, someone just bought, was it _____ just bought a –
Osnat: Later insight, yep.
Shimel: Container something.
Shimel: I mean, at some point, consolidation to what Aqua’s been out here preaching for three plus years. How do you think that affects, I mean certainly now, 3.5, you’ve raised the bar again. Let everyone else try to catch up. But in this atmosphere, talk to us a little bit. What does that mean around Aqua? Or do you just keep doing your thing?
Osnat: Yeah, that’s a good question, Alan. I mean really, I think you keep doing your thing. Because your thing is understanding where customers are headed and building solutions that address what they really need. We’ve tried to keep our eye on that ball. And we’ve been big pushers of the concept of supporting multiple platforms, from the early days.
We were Docker first, but today we support all kinds of things including things, less broadly used technologies. But pivotal, and Microsoft containers. Supporting all the cloud. So you keep your eye on that ball with the goal of building a customer base that is satisfied and loves your product, is excited about working with you.
And one of the things that’s important to us is our customers are going to continue to renew with us and retain. You know, we’ve only been around three years. But we look at, our largest customers are very happy and using us, and expanding their use of us. They’ve put us in a pilot two years ago, and now they’re in production and they’ve put us in production with five applications. And now they’re on 50 applications. So this is all good. We’re not very focused on hey, we must be acquired by some time or we must be public by some time.
It’s, let’s build the right products, continue to see adoption. We’re growing very rapidly, both within our base and customers deploying more, and new names, new logos, that are using our solution. And that’s what’s important to us. And the market, you know, the market will be the market. If somebody says wait, I can’t let these guys get that much bigger. I’m going to try to snap them up. That may happen. But it’s not something that we’re really focused on. We’re focusing on building the business organically in the right way.
I have to say, we’re all old enough to have been through the dot com boom. And you know, the craze that went on back then. And I think it’s important to keep level headed. We’ve been around for three years now. We’ve just crossed the 100-employee mark. Celebrated that. You know, we work with our customers, we’re happy about that. We keep our heads, you know, leveled and we keep doing the work. You know, someone comes along and offers $35 billion to buy us, like Red Hat, I’m sure the board will approve.
Shimel: They might think about it as –
Feit: They’ll think about it a couple of days, you know. But in the meantime, we’re trying to keep things sane.
Shimel: I hear you. Guys, just one last reminder while I have you both on. I’ll see you both out at the TubeCon Native, cloud native, Linux foundation event, along with Red Hat, right? Sponsoring a Monday conference on container security. I think we spoke about it last time. And I just, I don’t want to mess up the date, but I thought it was December 9th, or 10th.
Feit: Nope, December 10th. So it’s the Monday right before KubeCon starts, and it’s collocated with the event in Seattle. And you can register on the CNCF site when you register for KubeCon, or if you already did you can go back there and add on one of these collocated events. Ours is very focused on enterprise security, so it’s called KubeSec Enterprise Summit.
So for larger organizations, facing you know compliance requirements and deploying containers in production, it’s a great way to learn what others are doing. We have a great lineup of speakers. We have, JPNC is speaking. We have Tinder speaking. We have Starbucks talking about their journey towards secure containers. We have Liz Rice and Michael Hassenboss, who wrote the recent book on Kubernetes security. Which is not even published in paper yet, it’s still an eBook, but it will be first delivered in paper form at KubeCon. We’ll have them in our booth, and they’ll be signing books there.
So it’s kind of a great event that people can get exposed to all of these technologies, and hear from a lot of different people. We ran an open call for presentations, so we have everything from technology to compliance to best practices. It’s going to be a great event. We’ve got a couple hundred people already signed up. We only have room for 300. So, if any of your readers do want to attend, they should do that soon.
Shimel: Absolutely. Well, I’ll be there as well. We’ll be reporting for it. Andy, Rani, we’re way over time as usual. I ____ _____, we’ll need to call a wrap here. Congratulations on Aqua 3.5. I’m sure it’s going to be a great benefit, and the customer base will really appreciate it, and we’ll look forward to seeing you in Seattle.
Feit: Look forward to seeing you, Alan. It’s always great to talk to you. And share what’s going on with your listeners.
Shimel: Thank you. Andy Feit, Rani Osnat, Aqua Security. This is Alan Shimel for DevOps.com, and you’ve just listened to another DevOps Chat.