There are really only two repositories of any scale for software components today: the Nexus repo managed by Sonatype and the Artifactory artifact repo managed by JFrog. Up until now they were separate and apart, and working with one was independent of another.
In a big move toward keeping DevOps open and secure, the Sonatype people have released a plugin that will allow their Nexus Firewall to work with Artifactory as well as Nexus.
This means that users of both repos can now use the Nexus firewall to make sure that components or artifacts they download are in compliance with the policies they have set up. They can make sure there are no known vulnerabilities to the version users are downloading to use. This is really a big deal and kudos to Sonatype.
In this DevOps Chat we speak with Wayne Jackson, CEO of Sonatype, and Brian Fox, CTO and co-founder of Sonatype, about what this means for the DevOps community.
Alan Shimel: Hey, everyone. It’s Alan Shimel, DevOps.com, and you’re listening to another DevOps Chat. Today’s DevOps Chat is breaking some big news from our friends at Sonatype. I’m really honored and happy to be joined by Sonatype Wayne Jackson and Sonatype CF – CTO, Brian Fox. I hope I didn’t mess that up, guys. Wayne, Brian, welcome.
Brian Fox: Thanks.
Jackson: Thank you, Alan. Great to be with you and great to be speaking again.
Shimel: Yeah. Well, Wayne, you and I go back just a couple years.
Shimel: Let’s not go and do a history thing. Let’s get right to the breaking news today, and that is kind of a major addition to the Sonatype – I know it’s a firewall. Do you still call it Nexus Firewall or is there a different name for it now?
Jackson: Yes, we – yeah, that’s correct.
Shimel: It is the Nexus Firewall. So before we talk about what the major addition is, let’s lay a little groundwork here. What is the Nexus Firewall? Brian, you’re the CTO, let’s give that one to you.
Fox: Alright, sure. Nexus Firewall is a set of capabilities that allow us to do analysis of components as you pull them into your supply chain through your repository and be able to match that against your policies to enforce things like architecture, quality, license, et cetera, and so specifically it’s intended to be able to stop components from coming into your supply chain when they’re known to be against your policy right up front. So you can stop developers from pulling in a component that has a known vulnerability or pulling in a component that has a incompatible license, those types of things. So that’s the role Firewall plays in the overall portfolio.
Shimel: Perfect. And, you know, let’s be clear; that – you know, a Nexus Firewall, if it’s in place the Equifax breach never happens for all intents and purposes.
Fox: Well, that might – what it doesn’t do – you know, it’s not gonna go back and take out the things you’re already input.
Shimel: You’ve already put in, you’re right.
Fox: Right. Certainly. If – you know, we still see lots of cases – I think we’ve done some of the studies recently that show organizations are still downloading the same thing that got Equifax attacked, right?
Fox: It’s the same version of Strut. So, Firewall would definitely stop that behavior, no doubt, and be able to prevent it from further propagating through your supply chain.
Shimel: And just a little shout out, Equifax is now a Nexus – a Sonatype Nexus customer, correct?
Fox: Yeah, that’s correct.
Jackson: Yes, that’s correct.
Shimel: So hope – well, at least it’ll prevent the next one, hopefully. So – but guys, so we understand what Nexus Firewall is now, and again, to put in context the importance of today’s announcement, Nexus Firewall worked when you were pulling components out of the Nexus repository up until now. Am I right or am I off base here, guys?
Jackson: No, that’s correct.
Shimel: And so the big news today is you’re expanding beyond the Nexus repository to offer protection from artifacts and code and so forth from other repositories.
Jackson: That’s right. It’s – you know, it’s an acknowledgement, and it may be the first one in this category, that just acknowledges that the DevOps world is heterogenous. You know, there are bunches of vendors and, you know, people within organizations make different decisions and we just acknowledge the need to provide universal protection.
Shimel: Absolutely. So Wayne, work with me here. It’s the Nexus repository, and with this new release out today you guys are also announcing support and protection for the Artifactory repository, correct?
Jackson: That’s correct.
Shimel: And –
Jackson: And between those two, you know, I’m not sure what the coverage is but it’s gotta be in the 90th percentile of implemented repositories.
Shimel: I would agree with you. I think between Artifactory and Nexus it’s gotta be I would say high 90’s even, right? We’re not talking 91 or 92 percent. I think it’s probably way up there, and it’s certainly in the billions when you look at the amount of whether it be code or components or artifacts that are contained between the two of them. And Wayne, you hit on it before about the heterogenous nature of today’s DevOps world. It really is; it’s become Artifactory and Nexus as the two big ones.
But there’s another aspect to the heterogenous nature of today’s DevOps world and that is this whole notion of the software development life cycle, managing the software pipeline, the modern software factory; different companies are calling it different things but it all refers to kind of the way that software is being both written and assembled in – by, you know, modern IT departments today. Why don’t you guys expand on that a little bit.
Jackson: Yeah, I – it’s been fascinating to watch. As you know, I came from the network security world before Sonatype and had no grasp of just how much software was being written. As I’m sure you know, you know, one of the assets that we manage in the ecosystem is this thing called Maven Central, and last year we served 142 billion download requests, and so – and that’s just in the Java ecosystem and, you know, other ecosystems like NPM are just as big.
Jackson: And so as we started looking at the patterns in these download requests we started to see this weird disconnect. You know, the disclosure of a vulnerability had almost no impact on usage patterns, and that led us to thinking about, you know, why that might be and how we might think about solving these problems more systematically, and it dawned on us that we had a massive supply chain problem. You know, where the producers of things didn’t have a very effective mechanism for communicating to the consumers of those things because there were just millions and millions of projects that had to be monitored. And so, you know, we started looking at the works of Edwards Deming, who was the guy that transformed Toyota from being a textile manufacturer to the world’s most efficient automobile producer, and it really wasn’t all that complicated. You know, you have fewer, better suppliers, you use the highest quality parts, maintain transparency throughout the system, and don’t pass defects downstream.
If you can do those four things, lo and behold, [laughs] producing cars becomes a lot easier. And, you know, we concluded that those exact same principles applied perfectly to software where, you know, to your point, you know, now all of a sudden these software development functions, especially in the more modern organizations, look like a software factory, and so let’s use fewer, better projects, let’s use the versions of those projects that don’t have security defects, that have the kind of license that matches our distribution model and, you know, let’s build a model where we know [laughs] what’s in the system. And if along the software factory assembly line we discover that there’s an issue, stop it there. You know, don’t pass it downstream.
So anyway, so it’s a model – you know, I’m a little bit of a car guy so it [laughs] certainly works for me, but it feels like a model that’s right.
Shimel: I agree. It absolutely does. And even before you mentioned Deming, and of course it’s obvious, I was thinking third-party suppliers just like we do see in the automobile industry. But what’s interesting is as you referenced, the sheer magnitude of the numbers here – you know, 142 billion – think about what that means. I mean it’s just an incredible, incredible amount of downloads of usage and everything else and, you know, it doesn’t take many bad apples to spoil the party for everyone, obviously. You know what’s interesting though, guys? Again, getting back to the DevOps community, the DevOps market today, Sonatype is very much – you know, who you are and what – it seems to me anyway – you know who you are, what you are, where you play and how you fit into this.
And I think that’s in contrast to – you know, we’re in a little bit of a time of upheaval in the DevOps spaces as the market matures and vendors are jostling and trying to – I think some of them might, you know, even be going through an awkward teenage phase, you know, where they’re trying to figure out who they are and what they’re gonna be when they grow up. You know, what – Wayne, you’re the CEO there – what’s the vision for Sonatype? Are you kind of comfortable in your own skin now and what is that role?
Jackson: Yeah. I think we are comfortable in our skin. I think this embrace of software supply chain management is who we are, it’s who we’re going to be, it’s sort of a unique position to take in the DevOps category, and it allows us to play very nicely with the vendors that are all a part of the assembly line, you know, whether it’s Artifactory or CloudBees or any of the other vendors. And so being able to produce information that gets translated into knowledge that, you know, automates decision-making with regard to supply chain integrity, I think is a good spot for us.
Shimel: I agree. I mean and not only is a good spot I think it’s a pivotal role to play at this – you know, as we see the continued maturation of the market and, you know, it’s all wrapped around the digital transformation and everything going on. Brian, you know, your background, you were an early chair of the Maven Project. You’ve been in this opensource, you know, world for some time, and Wayne did too coming from the Sourcefire Snort folks, but what’s your take as we see this, you know, maturation? I mean at some level it’s gotta be – I would imagine it’s gotta be encouraging to see cross – like, you know, being able to protect across different repositories, whether it be Maven and Java or Artifacts or what have you, right? It’s gotta feel like we’re making progress. What do you think?
Fox: Yeah, I think so. I mean our approach since we kind of went down this path, what, 2012 or so is to take an approach that sits above all of the tools, because we recognize from the early days when we were doing a lot of Maven training and consulting and we had the privilege I guess to go to companies and see lots of horrifying processes and all the ways in which attempts to make this better inadvertently made things worse, and we recognize that it requires a sort of across-the-life cycle approach, which means you can’t solve the problem just by adding features to, you know, the repository or the CI. And frankly, given that we were building Nexus Repo Pro back then – I mean we still are, but that was our main product back then – adding it as features on top of the Repo would’ve been the most natural thing for us to do, but we understood through all of that learning that that wasn’t going to be sufficient.
It required integration to the Repo and to the CI and to the build and to the release automation tools, et cetera, et cetera, right, to be able to most effectively nuance the process of the components that flow through that, because you may choose to respond to a policy violation differently when something is about to actually be pushed into production versus something that’s just happening in your – you know, on every commit CI build. And so for that reason, being able to integrate into all of these tools, including all of the different repos, is just natural. It’s a natural evolution of the approach we’ve been taking the whole time.
Shimel: Got it. So, I guess the next question is now that we have – you know, between the two repositories we’ve got high 90 percent of the market – how do we get 90 percent coverage with this Firewall product, right? I think we’d all sleep better. You know, what is the key, guys, to getting more people to realize this is kind of a no-brainer that they need to get done here, right? I mean what do you think is preventing us from really seeing this?
Fox: Culture. Culture and history. I think there’s a history of application security tools specifically that, you know, are prone to false-positives just by the way they worked and led – and a history of bad approaches, like I was talking about before, that tried to force bad tools onto development that ultimately led to rebellion or disuse and gear grinding, and so in some ways the security tribe I think has become a little bit afraid to engage development in a lot of organizations, right? So they very much try to work at the end of the process, try to produce lists. We know that those things tend to get ignored, that they don’t usually have a profound effect on what’s happening, and so the organizations that are really successful are the ones that, you know, can set all of that history aside and still work together in a DevSecOps type of way and, you know, look at the problem holistically and understand that, yeah, actually it makes sense. If we can stop the bad things from coming into the process to start with we don’t have to chase them out later.
The security guys don’t have to track it in the list and the Dev guys don’t have to go rework it, right? And so, you know, that’s kind of the approach that we’ve been trying to take, that all of these different constituents have an important job to play in the success of a business and it works best when [laughs] they’re all working together, not working against each other and throwing grenades over the walls.
Fox: And so really, you know, the biggest hurdle to adoption in most places just simply is that culture and the history of disdain and things like that.
Shimel: Yeah, I agree, Brian. And guys, I’m gonna tell you something. Here’s a private theory that I’ve been working on and I’m gonna be speaking about it in the months ahead. You know, we’ve worked really hard – Sonatype more than most any other vendor I can think of – to advance the cause of DevSecOps. You know, Derek and Mark on your team and myself have been putting on DevSecOps events at RSA for the last five years now, and we do it in Singapore at RSA and we go all over the world with this DevSecOps thing. And recently, in the last couple months, I’m starting to see sort of a bifurcation in how security is dealing with DevSecOps, right?
I’m seeing some companies that are embracing the Dev sides of things, and let’s call that DevSec. They’re working with developers to make the code more secure and make sure that pre deployment and everything is tested, everything is secure, and we release really tight, good quality, right? Security is synonymous with quality, and let’s call that DevSec. Then there’s another group of vendors, Brian, that are dead into what you’re talking about, right? They’re almost afraid, intimidated, or just fed up with dealing with developers, and they’re really focusing on the post deployment aspect of things here, right, and let’s call that SecOps, because they want to work more with the Ops folks, post deployment, you know, monitoring and that kind of thing.
And I’m not saying that there’s not a reason to do that or it’s not right to do that – it absolutely is – but when we start looking at it as DevSec and SecOps, we’re committing the same mistakes that we did to begin with and we’re losing that it is DevSecOps for a reason. It’s Dev and Ops and Sec all working together. We can’t say, “Oh, we’re gonna work with the Ops guys but not the Dev guys or vice versa.” It’s gotta be everyone’s in it to win it. And I –
Fox: Completely agree.
Shimel: But I’m – yeah – but I’m seeing security vendors now kind of, you know, taking sides here on this. I’ve recently done a few podcasts – and some of them are new companies that are launching or coming out of stealth and RSA, and they’re growing this distinction that they’re SecOps, not DevSecOps, or they’re DevSec, not Dev – and I think it’s a huge mistake, a huge mistake.
Fox: I think that’s largely led by the constituent. If you go and talk to the security guys, that’s what they’re gonna tell you that they want, right? It’s part of that history.
Fox: You know, so if you allow yourselves to be pulled directly in the direction of what people want based on their perceived understanding of just how things work and that’s the way it’s always gonna be, that’s I think where you end up, so you have to buck that trend a little bit and say, “Guys, it doesn’t have to be this way. It can be better.” But we have to work together to do it, right, and we have to think about things a little bit differently. You know, and I have many conversations – you know, it’s happening more and more as AppSec and OPSEC is becoming more generally aware of the opensource component, you know, risk. They’re starting to come at the problem, but unfortunately they’re just trying to add more data to their existing process, and I have to remind those guys all the time that developers are picking new components all the time, they’re picking new versions of those components all the time.
They’re not only doing it because you handed them a list of vulnerable components or a list of CVEs and said, “Fix it or else,” right? So wouldn’t it be nice if you had a process and a set of tools that could support them in that behavior so they don’t come on your list later? [Laughs] Right? And a lot of times that is like a shocking realization to that tribe, right, and that’s that culture that I was talking about. It’s a big challenge.
Shimel: Agreed. And look, our work is not done, right? That’s what that means to me. We still have more work to do evangelizing DevSecOps and making sure people under – take a whole holistic aspect to it, and it goes back, Wayne, to what you were talking about in terms of the pipeline and the software, you know, automation and pipeline kind of thing, is it’s not bifurcated at the pre deployment versus post deployment juncture or junction. It – DevSecOps is about the whole thing from end to end.
Jackson: Yeah, the organizations that can think about this holistically are just bound to be more effective and more efficient and, you know, to your point about evangelism, I mean one of the things that we’re going to see, and I think we are seeing, is that the most highly-performing organizations are the ones that are getting it.
Jackson: They’re the ones that are gonna be leveraging software to more effectively differentiate their business. [Laughs] And at some point, unless you want to lose, you’re gonna have to start thinking about the ways that these, you know, forward-thinking, advanced organizations are doing what they do to make themselves better every day.
Shimel: Absolutely. And you’ll have winners and losers, and look, that’s capitalism and that’s the market dynamics at play, right? You can adapt or die or not, right? I mean it’s up to you. Guys, we’ve spent a lot of time talking, you know, about this at a macro level. Brian, if you don’t mind, I’d like to get a little geeky on you and ask if you can explain to our audience at a nuts and bolts level really what’s going on with the Nexus Firewall.
It’s software, right? It’s not an appliance, per se. Where does it sit, how does it intersect, how do you set policies in it? You know what I’m saying? Let’s give our audience a little bit of a…
Fox: So our Nexus platform is kind of composed of maybe three parts. At the core is a piece of software that you run on prem or in your cloud that we call the IQ Server, and this is the thing were you define your policies, it’s the database of all of the components and which applications they’re used in, the dashboarding, the reporting; you know, all of that type of stuff occurs within the IQ Server. The IQ Server works with services that we have in our cloud to provide the real-time information around the components and the security and the licensing and all that type of stuff, right? So that’s a real-time feed, it’s not a data dump that you have to download periodically.
And then there’s all of the plugins, the plugins that go into all of the places I mentioned before; your build, your IDE, your CI, your repository, your automation tools, et cetera, right? And so what we’re talking about here is we’ve added a new plugin that plugs into JFrog Artifactory. So when a component is being proxied from an external repo, such as Maven Central, the plugin will do the analysis of the thing being requested, it will understand what it is, work with the IQ Server to understand if it’s in compliance with the policy or not, and the depending on how the policy is configured it can either allow it, it can quarantine it, or it can just outright block it, right? So that’s the same capability that we’ve had for a couple of years now inside of the Nexus repository, so it replicates that functionality for our JFrog users.
Shimel: Fantastic. Wayne, how are we going to market with this?
Jackson: I get that question asked to me a fair bit, and we have a very multifaceted go-to-market model. You know, we still have folks that are very senior out in key regions that are evangelizing, because this is still an immature market, but increasingly as the market’s maturing are starting to lead with product and product capabilities in our marketing function. So, a mixed model, but one that we think aligns with where the market is in terms of its maturity, you know, that will change over time.
Shimel: Understood. Guys, we’re almost out of time. If it’s okay I wanted to return back to the DevOps market in general. Wayne, you know, you and I kind of saw the security industry mushroom, right, from let’s say early 2000’s through even 2008, ’09, ’10, you know? I – and we now have both – and have both seen the DevOps market mushroom, you know, from 2013, ’14 to today. It’s only been four or five years. And, you know, we touched on it earlier with companies trying to kind of jostle for where they are, what they do and how they fit into this brave new world. You know, put on your visionary hat, if you will. Where’s this going? Where is it – you know, is there a logical sort of conjunction of security in the DevOps? And if so, what does that mean for the broader market? What do you think?
Jackson: I disagree with you a little bit in that – with regard to DevOps having mushroomed. I think we in the industry kind of feel like it has because now all of the sudden people are starting to use our words back at us, but I think in terms of, you know, DevSecOps being a mainstream thing that’s just a part of how people work is still a bit away, and I think, you know, the work that you’re doing, I think the work that we’re doing and other vendors in this space is still enormously critical because even organizations that aspire to DevSecOps still need help. It’s not an easy thing to embrace and implement, as you know, and so there’s still some work to do, which I think is cool.
Shimel: Yeah. Well, it keeps me going every day and gets me up. And you’re right, you know, we tend to forget that we live in a bubble. When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail, right?
Jackson: [Laughs] Right.
Shimel: When you’re talking DevSecOps all the time people tend not to look at you and say, “What are you talking about?” So, you know, we kind of breathe our own exhaust, if you will. But there is, there’s a lot of work to be done, even – forget DevSecOps – even in the basic DevOps level, right? When you – a lot of companies have dabbled in DevOps but how many are truly end-to-end DevOps, right, and that number I’m gonna guess is well – is below 20 percent, probably closer to 10 percent.
Jackson: I think you’re right, I think you’re right.
Shimel: Yep. So our work is still in front of us. But hey, you know what? It wouldn’t be fun if it wasn’t, right? I mean that’s what keeps us –
Shimel: Anyway, guys, when is this new plugin for Nexus Firewall available?
Jackson: More or less now.
Jackson: I think the official release date is March 1, but yeah, happy to show it to anyone who’s curious to see and very proud of the technology.
Shimel: Absolutely. And they can get more information at Sonatype.com?
Jackson: That’s right.
Shimel: Fantastic. Wayne Jackson, Brian Fox, CEO and CTO, cofounder of Sonatype, respectively. Thanks for being our guests on this episode of DevOps Chat.
Wayne Jackson: Thank you. It’s been our pleasure.
Fox: Thanks for having us.
Shimel: Always a pleasure. Always a great time, guys. Okay, this is Alan Shimel for DevOps.com. You’ve just listened to another DevOps Chat. Have a great day, everyone.
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