Shared Responsibility: More Agility, Less Risk
May 11, 2022 | Updated: May 24, 2022
The tension between agility, security, and operational uptime can keep IT organizations from innovating as fast as they’d like. On one side, application developers want to move fast and continually deliver innovative new releases. On the other side, InfoSec and IT operations teams aim to continually reduce risk, which can result in a slowed down process.
This perception couldn’t be further from the truth. Modern InfoSec and IT operations are evolving into SecOps and DevOps, and the idea that they want to stop developers from innovating by restricting them to old, centrally controlled paradigms is a long-held prejudice that needs to be resolved. What security and site reliability teams really want is for developers to operate with agility as well as safety so that risks are appropriately governed. The shared responsibility model can reduce risk while still allowing for innovation.
The challenge of how to enable developers to move fast while ensuring the level of security necessary for SecOps and DevOps is to abstract granular controls away from developers so they can focus on building applications while, in the background, secure defaults that cannot be disabled are in place at every level.
Doers get more done
Working with a cloud provider, whether you’re talking about infrastructure as a service (IaaS) or a hyperscaler, is like going into a home improvement store and seeing all the tools and materials. It gives you a sense of empowerment. That’s the same feeling you get when you’re in front of an administrative console for AWS, Google Cloud, or Azure.
The aisles at home improvement stores, however, can contain some pretty raw materials. Imagine asking a team of developers to build a new, state-of-the-art kitchen out of lumber, pipes, and fittings without even a blueprint. You’re going to wind up with pipes that leak, drawers that don’t close, and cabinets that don’t fit. This approach understandably worries InfoSec and IT operations teams and can cause them to be perceived as innovation blockers because they don’t want developers attempting do-it-yourself security.
So how do you find a place where the raw materials provide exactly what you need so that you can build with confidence? That’s the best of both worlds. Developers can move faster by not having to deal with the plumbing, and InfoSec and IT operations get the security and reliability assurance they need. This is where the shared responsibility model comes in.
Shared responsibility in the cloud
When considering cloud security and resilience, some responsibilities fall clearly on the business. Others fall on public cloud providers, and still others fall on the vendors of the cloud services being used. This is known as the shared responsibility model.
Security and resilience in the cloud are only possible when everyone is clear on their roles and responsibilities. Shared responsibility recognizes that cloud vendors, such as MongoDB, must ensure the security and availability of their services and infrastructure, and customers must also take appropriate steps to protect the data they keep in the cloud.
The security defaults in MongoDB Atlas enable developers to be agile while also reducing risk. Atlas gives developers the necessary building blocks to move fast without having to worry about the minutiae of administrative security tasks. Atlas enforces strict security policies for things like authentication and network isolation, and it provides tools for ensuring secure best practices, such as encryption, database access, auto-scaling, and granular auditing.
Testing for resilience
The shared responsibility model attempts to strike a balance between agility, security, and resilience. Cloud vendors must meet the responsibilities of their service-level agreements (SLAs), but businesses also have to be conscientious of their cloud resources. Real-world scenarios can cause businesses to experience outages, and avoiding them is the essence of the shared responsibility model.
To avoid such outages, MongoDB Atlas does everything possible to keep database clusters continuously available; the customer holds the responsibility of provisioning appropriately sized workloads. That can be an uphill battle when you’re talking about an intensive workload for which the cluster is undersized.
Consider a typical laptop as an example. It has an SLA in so far as it has specifications that determine what it can do. If you try to drive a workload that exceeds the laptop’s specifications, it will freeze. Was the laptop to blame, or was it the workload? With the cloud, there’s an even greater expectation that there are more than enough resources to handle any given workload. But those resources are based on real infrastructure with specs, just like the laptop.
This example illustrates both the essence and the ambiguity of the shared responsibility model. As the customer, you’re supposed to know whether that stream of data is something your compute resources can handle. The challenge is that you don’t know it until you start running into the boundaries of your resources, and pushing the limits of those boundaries means risking the availability of those resources. It’s not hard to imagine a developer, who may be working under considerable stress, over-provisioning a workload, which then leads to a freeze or outage.
It’s essential, therefore, for companies to have a test environment that closely mimics their production environment. This allows them to validate that the MongoDB Atlas cluster can keep up with what they’re throwing at it. Anytime companies make changes to their applications, there is a risk. Some of that risk may be mitigated by things like auto-scaling and elasticity, but the level of protection they afford is limited. Having a test environment can help companies better predict the outcome of changes they make.
The cloud has evolved to a point where security, resilience, and agility can peacefully coexist. MongoDB Atlas comes with strict security policies right out of the box. It offers automated infrastructure provisioning, default security features, database setup, maintenance, and version upgrades so that developers can shift their focus from administrative tasks to innovation when building applications. By abstracting away some of the security and resilience responsibilities through the shared responsibility model, MongoDB Atlas allows developers to move fast while giving SecOps the reassurances they need to support their efforts.