Enforcing AWS Well-Architected Principles Using DevOps

Leveraging improved efficiency and reduced costs while ensuring availability, cloud native development is a must for complex enterprise modernization projects. Modern cloud native architectures involve applications developed and deployed through cloud service providers such as AWS. These use services like AWS VPC, EC2, S3, Kinesis, DynamoDB, RDS, and others.

An image of the DevOps infinity symbol plus a lock representing security.

While utilizing cloud native architecture can provide impressive operational improvements, maintaining security and compliance standards using manual processes can quickly limit those outcomes. This is a common concern for our agency customers. Applications deployed in federal agencies obtain Authorization to Operate, an ATO. 

Getting an ATO involves categorizing the information system, then selecting, implementing, and assessing the controls. Risks are identified based on this assessment, and final authorization is provided to operate the system. In most cases, this process relies on manual tasks, like copying security control documentation into a  Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC) document, then manually updating this documentation on a regular basis. Continuous deployment of new workloads and features in an agile environment being a necessity, manual processes and massive documentation effort adds significant delays to the authorization process.

AWS DevOps and OSCAL Compliance for cATO and Zero Trust

One solution is the Open Security Controls Assessment Language (OSCAL). OSCAL is a set of formats expressed in XML, JSON, and YAML developed by NIST. These formats provide machine-readable representations of control catalogs, control baselines, system security plans, and assessment plans and results. Govready-q is an open source GRC platform for highly automated, user-friendly, self-service compliance assessments and documentation which supports OSCAL. AWS is the first cloud service provider to provide OSCAL formatted system security plan (SSP). Integrating a GRC tool like Goveread-q part of the DevSecOps toolchain and using OSCAL for documenting all the controls automates most aspects of the ATO process enables us to do continuous ATO (cATO) and alleviates the documentation burden and most manual processes associated with it.

Enabling DevOps with Karsun Solutions 

At Karsun, we promote the adoption of OSCAL for the documentation of security controls and use automated GRC tools like GovReady-q. When applications deploy on AWS, we can leverage OSCAL documentation created by AWS. This enables faster, more accurate authorization packages, decreases customers’ security documentation burden and reduces service authorization timelines.

Working with an experienced cloud solutions partner such as Karsun ensures you do not need to trade security for efficiency. In particular, we are an AWS Advanced Consulting Partner with both a Government Services Competency and a Migration Services Competency. Partner with our experts, modernize with cloud native architecture, and optimize both operations and security.

Judewin Gabriel is a Subject Matter Expert and the DevSecOps Practice Lead at Karsun Solutions. An advocate for DevSecOps best practices, he drives Driving CI/CD, security engineering, SRE, pipelines, and observability excellence.

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