Maintaining the integrity of a software supply chain is an issue that has long bedeviled IT organizations. With the rise of microservices based on containers, however, this issue has become more acute. As a result, software supply chains are an issue that Google now plans to tackle.
Google, along with JFrog, Red Hat, IBM, Black Duck, Twistlock, Aqua Security and CoreOS, is taking the lead on an open-source Grafeas initiative that aims to create a standard application programming interface (API) through which metadata about the software components that make up an IT environment can be more easily captured. The whole software supply chain issue has become even more challenging now that enterprise IT organizations regularly make use of open-source software within larger applications. There are now more dependencies on software modules that are being created and updated outside the IT organization, most of which are not prepared to keep track of the modules’ history.
One of the first instances of Grafeas is going to manifest itself in the form of Kritis, a policy engine that Google has developed for the Kubernetes container orchestration engine. Because of its long history with Kubernetes, Stephen Elliott, product manager for developer platforms at Google, says Google tends to approach every issue these days through a container prism. But the expectation is that the Grafeas API will be more broadly applied to collect data about and enforce policies across a broad range of types of software components, he says.
Elliott says that while there is no shortage of tools for managing software life cycle, each of those tools generate their own proprietary metadata. Grafeas promises to provide a consistent means to, for example, identity developers, determine when the code was checked in and built, what vulnerabilities have been detected, and what tests were passed or failed. Trying to manage those issues is at the heart of any approach to DevOps. A standard API would not only go a long way toward simplifying those issues, it also should also serve to make many of the tools DevOps teams rely on today more interoperable. That would also go a long way toward preventing IT organizations from finding themselves locked into a specific set of DevOps tools.
Obviously, the launching of an initiative represents only the beginning of a process that should extend well into 2018. The number of IT vendors that have a vested interest in software supply chain issues exceeds that number that has signed on to the Grafeas initiative, and when this API issue is addressed by an industry standards body remains to be seen. Google is betting that as IT organizations become more familiar with microservices-based containers, there will be lot more support for addressing these issues now than anytime in the past. In the meantime, IT leaders should take some comfort in the fact that, at the very least, the IT vendor community is starting to better appreciate their software supply chain pain.