Future of NOC transformation unifies IT teams programmable network (network programmability)

NetOps vs. DevOps vs. NetSecOps: What's the difference?

DevOps, NetOps and NetSecOps ... oh my! These IT concepts have their differences, but at the end of the day, they're family. Here's how they relate.

At the dawn of DevOps, circa 2008, an idealistic IT pro might have envisioned an immediate future in which development and operations teams would work in harmony to seamlessly and continuously create, test, deploy, iterate, and maintain secure applications and services.

But, it turns out, networking pros were slow to join systems administrators in the DevOps fold. Many enterprise IT leaders cited unresponsive, sluggish and change-resistant infrastructure as a top impediment to DevOps' success, according to Gartner analyst Andrew Lerner.

Theoretically, IT operations -- the Ops in DevOps -- includes the network. But, in fulfilling their longstanding mandate to minimize risk and maximize uptime, networking pros have historically prioritized change control over speed and innovation, putting them at odds with DevOps' iterative, fail fast approach.

As a result, the concept and practice of DevOps matured without significant network involvement. Traditionally, when a DevOps team finished developing an application, they threw it over the wall to the network team, which then began the time-consuming work of manually provisioning deployment. Meanwhile, the security team operated separately in another silo.

As one IT pro commented in response to a 2017 DevOps/NetOps survey by application networking vendor F5, "app developers aren't thinking about network or security; security is only marginally aware of development; networking learns of the operational changes once development is done."

But the era of digital transformation demands a more efficient, holistic and unified approach.

What is NetOps vs. DevOps?

Today's enterprises live and die by their ability to quickly build, launch, and improve apps and services to meet business goals. With that in mind, NetOps and DevOps are complementary concepts that support continuous integration, delivery and deployment of software.

DevOps explained

DevOps is a software development approach related to the Agile methodology, in which developers and systems administrators work together to continuously build, test, deliver, and improve apps and services. Proponents say DevOps can better keep pace with the digital needs of today's businesses than can siloed development and operations teams using the traditional, slow-to-market Waterfall model. Core DevOps principles include collaboration, automation, continuous integration (CI), continuous testing and continuous delivery (CD).

NetOps explained

Historically, the term NetOps was shorthand for network operations, the activities related to maintaining, monitoring and troubleshooting the network. But, today, NetOps often refers to the use of DevOps principles and tools in networking. This modern approach is also known as NetOps 2.0, DevNetOps, NetDevOps, network as code and Super-NetOps.

NetOps 2.0 incorporates network automation, orchestration and virtualization to treat infrastructure as code (IaC). This results in a more flexible, programmable and scalable network infrastructure that requires less manual intervention and can keep up with the accelerated pace that DevOps sets.

In some cases, IaC enables DevOps teams to manage an application's operational environment throughout the development and testing phases via automation and self-service. By shifting networking left in the CI/CD pipeline, NetOps helps increase efficiency in the software development lifecycle (SDLC) and minimizes late-stage deployment problems.

Key differences between NetOps and DevOps

DevOps is primarily the purview of software developers and systems administrators, while NetOps is a DevOps-influenced approach to networking. DevOps facilitates fast and efficient application development, while NetOps supports the speedy and effective deployment of those apps.

What is NetSecOps?

NetSecOps is a term for embedding automated network security testing throughout DevOps CI/CD pipelines. It is essentially a security-oriented subset of NetOps 2.0 that shifts network security left in the development lifecycle. NetSecOps requires a high level of collaboration among application development, network security and IT operations teams.

It's worth noting that NetSecOps also has another meaning, unrelated to DevOps: partnerships between networking operations and security operations teams. Used this way, NetSecOps means network and security staff share tools, data and processes. More than 75% of organizations have seen an increase in this type of partnership in recent years, due to drivers such as cloud adoption and remote work, according to a 2021 Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) report. Formalized collaboration between networking and security teams, while challenging, improves operational efficiency and lowers cybersecurity risk, EMA found.

Comparison of NetOps, DevOps and NetSecOps
Find out what the terms NetOps, DevOps and NetSecOps mean and how they relate to each other.

How is NetSecOps different from NetOps?

NetSecOps is essentially a subset of NetOps. NetSecOps automates network security testing and incorporates it into CI/CD workflows alongside broader network-as-code -- i.e., NetOps -- functionality.

Note: In this instance, NetOps and NetSecOps refer to DevOps-inspired networking and network security. As mentioned above, in other contexts, NetOps may denote network operations of any kind, and NetSecOps may refer to a networking-security partnership -- both unrelated to DevOps.

How is NetSecOps different from DevSecOps?

While NetSecOps addresses network security in a DevOps environment, DevSecOps does the same for application security. In a DevSecOps model, app security shifts left to become part of the SDLC from the earliest stages.

This was last published in March 2022

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