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Strategies to accelerate dependency management for modern enterprise software development

Strategies to accelerate dependency management for modern enterprise software development
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Contrary to common belief, security and productivity are not necessarily at odds in modern software development.

Industry surveys and data-driven insights debunk that myth and demonstrate how your organization can bolster security while maintaining innovation, even in the face of evolving threats.

To balance security with productivity, you need to utilize the right tools and strategies to take charge of your software dependencies and optimize your software supply chain without compromise.

This article explores effective practices to accelerate dependency management in enterprise software development.

Steps to being secure and productive

Below we cover a few best practices to secure and streamline your dependency management.

Utilize binary repository managers

Binary repository managers play a crucial role in managing software dependencies efficiently. These tools serve as centralized hubs where all open source and proprietary components of software are stored and managed.

Sonatype Nexus Repository stands as a robust, scalable platform that gives your developers a single source of truth for software components. With its universal repository support and role-based access controls, it not only simplifies the governance of components but also fortifies the security and consistency of build environments, accommodating a diverse array of package formats and languages.

Centralized management of components

By centralizing the storage of all software artifacts — including binaries, files, and containers — you ensure all your development teams can access necessary components effortlessly. This approach reduces redundant efforts and accelerates development cycles.

Software composition analysis (SCA) tools play a crucial role in tracking and managing software dependencies throughout the software development life cycle (SDLC). SCA tools provide comprehensive visibility into the open source components used within your projects, helping your teams avoid vulnerabilities and stay compliant with security policies.

Ensure regular updates for robust systems

Effective dependency management involves more than just identifying vulnerabilities. It includes making strategic decisions about when and how to update components to minimize risks without disrupting the development workflow. SCA tools also aid in identifying safe and optimal upgrade paths, significantly reducing the incidence of rework and improving overall code quality.

Keeping software components up-to-date is crucial for maintaining system robustness and security. Regular updates help prevent vulnerabilities and ensure that the software uses the latest and most secure versions of its dependencies.

Automated update tools

Automation tools can significantly streamline the update process. These tools assist in identifying outdated components and suggest optimal updates, reducing the manual workload on developers and ensuring timely updates.

Advanced tools such as Sonatype Lifecycle offer features that help prioritize remediation efforts based on the impact of potential security breaches. Automation features can also streamline the update process by suggesting secure and stable versions of components and facilitating the integration of these updates into the development process.

Importance of vulnerability data

Accurate and up-to-date vulnerability data is essential for effective dependency management. Tools that provide comprehensive vulnerability assessments help teams make informed decisions about which components need urgent updates, thereby maintaining a secure and efficient development environment.

Optimize timing for efficient updates

Timing updates efficiently can significantly enhance productivity and reduce downtime. Understanding the best times to introduce updates can prevent disruptions and ensure that the development process remains smooth.

Embedding security and dependency management tools into the existing developer workflows (e.g., pull requests, IDEs) increases their effectiveness. Providing developers with real-time, actionable feedback during the coding process leads to higher fix rates and better compliance with security standards.

Scheduling updates

Strategically scheduling updates during periods of low activity can minimize the impact on the development process. Utilizing downtime for updates ensures that developers have uninterrupted time during peak hours for feature development and bug fixes.

Monitoring update impact

Closely monitoring the impact of updates on the system helps in understanding their effects on software performance and security. This monitoring allows teams to optimize the timing of future updates based on empirical data, ensuring that updates contribute positively to the system’s health without introducing new issues.

Addressing risks associated with transitive dependencies — which can extend several layers deep into the software dependency tree — is another critical aspect of advanced dependency management. Tools that provide comprehensive scanning capabilities ensure that even indirect dependencies are monitored and managed effectively.

A proactive, efficient approach to supply chain management

To ensure optimal outcomes in software development, establish a proactive approach to software supply chain management. By integrating strategic methods to manage dependencies, organizations can significantly enhance both security and productivity.

Below we cover a few steps of a detailed breakdown for a proactive and efficient approach.

Step 1: Know when you're vulnerable and then move to a safer version

The first step involves promptly identifying vulnerabilities within the dependency chain. Utilizing tools like Sonatype Lifecycle, teams can quickly determine when components are vulnerable.

If you use an SCA tool like Sonatype Lifecycle, you have the capability to remediate 80% of instances involving vulnerable versions of Log4j within just four days — a very rapid response. This quick identification and action not only reduce risks but also save costs — approximately $2.5 million on average per year.

Step 2: Higher quality components

Choosing high-quality components is crucial. This means selecting versions of software that are not just newer but also stable and less prone to vulnerabilities.

Tools that provide detailed visibility into the various versions and their security status allow teams to remain on more secure, up-to-date versions. This proactive stance prevents future complications and enhances the overall security and functionality of the software.

Step 3: Avoid rework

To minimize wasteful rework, it's essential to adopt components that align well with your organization’s security policies from the start.

Enforcing policies at the repository level ensures that only secure, compliant components are used in development, significantly reducing the need for later corrections. This approach saves time and resources by eliminating unnecessary rework and helps maintain a steady development pace.

Step 4: Automate when you can

Automation is a key factor in optimizing the software development process. By automating routine tasks, especially those related to dependency updates and security compliance, teams can focus more on innovation and less on maintenance.

Automation tools can generate recommendations, update paths, and even initiate pull requests for component updates, streamlining the development process and ensuring timely interventions.

Beyond the myth: Proactive security and enhanced productivity in software development

The integration of security and productivity is not just possible but essential. Adopting a proactive approach to software supply chain management enables organizations to not only respond swiftly to vulnerabilities but also maintain a continuous improvement in code quality and security.

By centralizing component management, enforcing security policies from the start, and embracing automation, development teams can drastically reduce rework and expedite product delivery without compromising security.

These strategies not only safeguard against potential vulnerabilities but also make it possible to deliver high-quality software products faster and more reliably.

To see these practices in action and further expand your understanding, watch our webinar, where we dug deeper into these topics and discussed real-world applications, or check out our overall DevOps Download webinar series.

Picture of Aaron Linskens

Written by Aaron Linskens

Aaron is a technical writer on Sonatype's Marketing team. He works at a crossroads of technical writing, developer advocacy, software development, and open source. He aims to get developers and non-technical collaborators to work well together via experimentation, feedback, and iteration so they can build the right software.