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Why Infrastructure-as-Code Scanning Matters for Kubernetes Configuration

Infrastructure as code (IaC) is the ability to provision and manage infrastructure using a configuration language. It offers the repeatability, transparency, and testing of modern software development to the management of infrastructure such as networks, load balancers, virtual machines, Kubernetes clusters, and monitoring. Its primary goal is to reduce error and configuration drift, while allowing engineers to spend time on higher value tasks. IaC is a major benefit for Kubernetes users

But with every technology, it can also introduce a few bumps along the way. Kubernetes infrastructure as code scanning is the next step in helping to further reduce errors or K8s misconfigurations. It’s especially important in the areas of security and cost - prevent risk, avoid wasted spend.  

Infrastructure as code scanning is the ability to scan IaC files against a set of policies and Kubernetes best practices. While some might only use IaC to look for vulnerabilities, it is a much more powerful tool. It helps ensure proper Kubernetes configuration around application security, reliability and cost.

Who Needs IaC scanning?

Infrastructure as code (IaC) scanning might be manually doable in a small team with one or two Kubernetes clusters, but the problem becomes increasingly challenging as organizations scale with numerous development teams deploying to multiple clusters. DevOps teams, along with platform and security leaders, can quickly lose visibility and control into what is happening. This reality points to the need for automation and policies to enforce consistency and guardrails to downstream development teams who deploy their apps in multi-tenant clusters. 

Infrastructure as Code Security Scanning

Human error is the most cited cause of security breaches. When developer friendly (unsecure) default configurations are combined with human oversight, container security lies in the balance. Moreover, configuration management poses a unique challenge for Kubernetes users because it requires more consideration. While many tools are available for vulnerability scanning of container images, ensuring proper configuration from the start is just as important.

IaC scanning can check Kubernetes security policies to proactively identify security holes before they become full-blown breaches. Policies can include checking against security context (privilege escalation, root access, etc), host settings or dangerous capabilities. 

IaC Scanning for Cost Allocation and Resource Optimization Issues

Misconfigurations of Kubernetes workloads often involve inefficient provisioning of compute resources—and that leads to an oversized bill. To maximize CPU efficiency and memory utilization for a workload, teams need to set resource limits and requests properly, as mentioned earlier. But here is the catch—knowing the right limits to set for smooth application performance can be tricky at best. 

Gaining visibility into application resource usage can help teams better understand how their application performs with different CPU and memory settings. These can then be adjusted to improve app performance or to increase the efficiency of Kubernetes compute resources, ultimately helping organizations save money.

Larger organizations may be adopting FinOps initiatives, which require granular allocation of container costs. To facilitate this reporting, IaC scanning can be used to enforce policies around required labels – ensuring teams are properly tagging and identifying their workloads before they are deployed.

Infrastructure as Code Reliability Scanning

IaC scanning for reliability policies can help avoid application downtime and production incidents. In Kubernetes, reliability is about building a stable platform so development teams can streamline their development process and ship applications faster. 

Workload configuration, typically made in YAML files and Helm charts, affect the security and reliability of services, as well as the efficiency of workloads in a cluster. There are numerous factors to consider when assembling a stable and reliable Kubernetes cluster, including the potential need for application changes and alterations to cluster configuration. These considerations include things like setting resource requests and limits, autoscaling pods with the right metrics and using liveness and readiness probes.

IaC Scanning Solutions 

Infrastructure as code scanning solutions, such as those available in Fairwinds Insights, can inspect YAML and Helm configurations when developers make a pull request. Like traditional infrastructure as code scanning solutions, Insights examines configuration for security violations, and reliability and efficiency misconfigurations. The software goes further by also incorporating efficiency and reliability checks for platform engineering teams, who rely on them for running stable and scalable infrastructure.

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