Netskope keeps enterprises and their data secure despite the unbridled mix of approved and unapproved mobile apps in the market and on employee devices. Employees use unapproved mobile apps (BYOA) on their BYOD smartphones, tablets, and laptops when connected to networks away from the enterprise. IT professionals are keenly interested in tools that help them to have visibility into these apps and devices and to secure them.
Enterprises face many issues with mobile apps. They confront challenges where data location and access as well as security are concerned when complying with PCI DSS, HIPAA, SOX, GLBA, FISMA, FERPA, and the ISO standards. Netskope works to control app usage, protect enterprise data, and maintain compliance on various endpoints whether the device is on premise or remote / mobile, all in real-time.
“Netskope uses a distributed policy enforcement model that lets your people use these apps securely so you don’t have to block them completely,” says Abhay Kulkarni, VP of Engineering, Netskope.
Netskope’s Security Duties Dictate Its Development Path
“We do not follow Continuous Delivery,” says Kulkarni. Here are two of the many reasons for that.
First, Netskope’s customers demand that software releases are predictable. “Our customers are large enterprises that want predictable change windows so they can ensure that they make the necessary changes on their side or that they prepare for our updates,” says Kulkarni.
Second, because Netskope is a SOC-1 Type-II and SOC-2 Type-II certified company, it must comply with the requirements that comprise these certifications. Tightly-knit change management is critical to SOC certification. “As we do each change, we need to make sure that all changes meet the security, availability, integrity, and confidentiality criteria of these certifications by testing the entire product end-to-end,” says Kulkarni.
But Netskope follows other DevOps principles such as using its own adaptation of a well-accepted source control workflow model as well as an automation model, a model for bootstrapping machines, and also models for software installation and change management.
Netskope performs a balancing act between complying with SOC-1 and -2 trust services criteria and principles and maintaining rapid feature development. On the one hand, they manage to limit what individual developers can do on production machines—many times disallowing access. On the other hand, they use Sumo Logic to enable their coders to peruse anonymized logs in order to gauge how the service they instantiated is working.
Goals, Tools, & Challenges
“The key goal for Netskope’s DevOps approach is to ensure developer responsibility for running, monitoring, and scaling their services,” says Kulkarni. Netskope’s developers and operations staff work together from design through development while complying with a common framework, which helps in resolving development issues and brings consistency to data center operations, according to Kulkarni.
Netskope holds developers individually accountable for making their software ready for automated deployment. To help with that, Netskope uses familiar tools such as Ansible, which helps Netskope to automate everything in production. “Right from bootstrapping a machine to changing network configurations, we automate all commonly repeated tasks,” says Kulkarni.
Netskope deploys Sumo Logic agents using Ansible as a part of bootstrapping so that machines are configured from the get go to send logs to Sumo Logic. “Each service has standard logging methods that allow Netskope to create performance dashboards and to track errors,” says Kulkarni. Netskope uses a number of other tools that are commonplace in DevOps, such as Nagios, a monitoring tool and various external monitoring tools for tracking end user performance.
The biggest challenge for Netskope was not in tooling but in building a DevOps culture where developers lead the charge in responsibility for quality, error-free operation of their services. “In a non-SaaS world, developers ship a version of their product and celebrate. However, shipping a SaaS product is just the beginning. There is really no celebration since you are now responsible for the upkeep of the services,” explains Kulkarni.
A Trip Through Netskope’s Development Process
Netskope starts with a Scrum sprint planning meeting where in they decide what features to address for the given sprint. “We try to be realistic about our expectations in delivering code in a sprint by applying quality criteria—i.e. we expect code to be of a certain quality or else we cannot deploy it,” says Kulkarni.
Then developers bundle various modules on a single branch, which they test for functionality, security, performance, and integration. As the modules and the branch increase in stability, the developers upgrade them from one stack to the next until everything is deemed fit for a production deployment, explains Kulkarni.
“Often we see proactive notifications from developers about issues they see in production. Detecting problems before our customers see them is a key benefit of the DevOps model,” says Kulkarni.