Why Infrastructure Access is the New Strategic Priority for DevOps Teams
April 12, 2022

Cameron Delano

DevOps teams are dealing with more complex issues than ever before — but do you ever feel like you're spending too much time bogged down with the mundane details of infrastructure access?

When DevOps professionals can't get easy, secure access to the systems and platforms that they need to do their jobs, the entire organization's productivity suffers.

Good news: you're not alone. A recent survey found that most organizations are struggling with these same problems — and infrastructure access is becoming a new strategic priority.

strongDM recently commissioned a survey of 600 DevOps professionals, called 2022: The Year of Access. The survey respondents told us that in the next 12 months, 80% of organizations are looking to address access management as a strategic initiative.

Let's take a closer look at the landscape of access management and see why this topic has become top-of-mind for DevOps leaders as they look to stay agile and keep delivering high-quality code as efficiently as possible.

Access Management Is More Complicated Than Ever Before

Legacy access management presents several complex challenges. Many organizations are combining legacy approaches with new technologies in a way that causes confusion or duplicated effort. Some are still using manual processes or requiring multiple approvals in a way that runs counter to operational efficiencies.

The survey found a few troubling trends that illustrate why access management has become so complicated:

■ 93% of organizations' technical staff have access to sensitive infrastructure

■ 60% of respondents have access challenges with cloud providers

■ 57% have access challenges with databases, data centers, and servers

Access management has become more time-consuming, especially for fast-growing organizations. 41% of survey respondents said that gathering evidence for compliance is a top challenge. 88% of organizations require two or more employees to review and approve access requests, which might require days or weeks to fulfill.

Other big challenges identified by the survey of DevOps professionals include: time required to request and grant access (mentioned by 52% of respondents), and the task of assigning, rotating, and tracking credentials (51%).

Less Than Best Practices for Access Management? Hello Security Risk

The complexity and time-consuming effort of access management is leading some teams to take shortcuts in a way that might compromise their organization's security. Unfortunately, the survey found that many organizations are using unsecure practices for access management:

■ 65% of organizations use shared logins

■ 42% use shared SSH keys

At the other extreme, some organizations are requiring lengthy processes to grant access, which can hinder workforce productivity. 53% of organizations take hours to weeks before infrastructure access can be granted; 88% of organizations require 2 or more people to grant and approve access, and 25% require 4 or more people to approve.

Best Practices for the Future of Access Management

As organizations adopt more advanced systems like Kubernetes, embrace security initiatives like Zero Trust, and grow the size of their teams, they're going to need a better approach to access management.

As modern infrastructure becomes more complicated, access management needs to be safer and simpler, in a way that works for the entire team, including:

■ Simplified access with one control plane

■ Reduction of provisioning time while maintaining SOC 2-compliant auditing

■ One credential per person

■ Visibility and automatic logging of every single backend activity

Today's DevOps teams demand better ways of managing access to infrastructure. With the right approach, it's possible for organizations to maintain a high level of security while simplifying their team's access for more operational efficiencies across the stack as well as protect your systems and drive results for all of your other strategic goals.

Cameron Delano is Sr. Solutions Architect at strongDM
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