What is a Digital Immune System?
Gartner defines a digital immune system (DIS) as a combination of “practices and technologies for software design, development, operations and analytics to mitigate business risks. A robust digital immune system protects applications and services from anomalies, such as the effects of software bugs or security issues by making applications more resilient so that they recover quickly from failures.
It can reduce business continuity risks created when critical applications and services are severely compromised or stop working altogether.”
Why is a Digital Immune System Important?
A DIS matters – it addresses issues that arise when software engineering cannot manage fast change rates or complex systems inhibit building robust, resilient applications. DIS helps software companies develop applications that combat those issues so developers create resilient, robust platforms.
DIS has a combination of technologies and practices that provides engineering teams with insights to assess and address threats and vulnerabilities. These threats and vulnerabilities include functional bugs, security weaknesses and inconsistent data. A DIS matters because it enables developers to create better applications with enhanced user experiences and stronger systems.
In a Gartner survey about overcoming challenges related to digital execution, almost half (48%) of respondents said the primary objective of digital investments is to improve customer experiences (CX).
Therefore, a DIS is critical to ensuring CX remains uncompromised by failures, defects or anomalies like bugs and security issues. Gartner expects that by 2025, “organizations that invest in building digital immunity will increase customer satisfaction by decreasing downtime by 80%.”
Building Digital Immunity
To build digital immunity, start with a strong vision statement that helps align the organziation and ensures a seamless implementation. Then, check for the following six practices and technologies:
- Observability. This makes platforms and systems visible. Embedding visibility into applications gives the appropriate information when issues need reliable mitigation. By observing user behavior, UX improves.
- AI-augmented testing. This helps organizations create application testing independent of human intervention. Furthermore, it complements and extends traditional test automation with automated planning, development, maintenance and analysis of tests.
- Chaos engineering uses experimental tests to discover vulnerabilities and weaknesses in a complex system. When used before production, it permits teams to safely master practices in non-intrusive, test-only environments, then using what is learned in regular operations and production.
- Autoremediation focuses on creating context-sensitive monitoring capabilities and automated remediation functions into a platform. This monitors itself and fixes problems automatically upon detection, returning everything to a normal state with needing operations staff. Also, it helps prevent issues with observability in combination with chaos engineering to repair failing UX.
- Site reliability engineering (SRE) is a selection of engineering fundamentals and practices that centers on improving customer experience and retention by using service-level objectives to govern service management. It level-sets the need for got velocity against stability and risk. Furthermore, it takes the burden of remediation and tech debt on development teams so they can focus on building compelling UX.
- Software supply chain security focuses on the risk supply chain application risks.
A Deeper Dive
Organizations depend on revenue from platform development, therefore making digital immunity a priority. DevOps professionals must have software delivery practices that apply security and resilience to deliver high-quality solutions.
Gercel Silva, Stefanini’s Senior Manager of Agile DevOps Solutions explains:
“Digital immunity is supported by an efficient DevSecOps approach that not only integrates Development and Operations, but also makes Security an important priority throughout the entire cycle (see image below).
We [Stefanini] can greatly improve our applications security by adding a few practices to the development lifecycle and ensuring feedback is used to improve based on security issues that arise.
For better security and resiliency, we hold periodic training on Secure Development Best Practices so that engineers are always up to date with the best approaches to writing secure code. We also incorporate Automated Vulnerability Scan into the Continuous Integration Pipeline to provide fast feedback to developers about possible security gaps in newly developed code.
Finally, each release goes through Penetration Testing to catch whatever issues are left before the code goes to production, where it is continuously monitored for suspicious activity.
Continuous improvement is achieved when all monitoring and security reports are used as inputs to refine training content, adopt better practices, and leverage tools for maximum security.”
Furthermore, as organizations progress through a digital transformation into delivery applications that support revenue generation there is a higher demand for application performance. Fulfilling that demand is becoming the CIO team’s responsibility.
Here is what Silva had to say:
“Since application performance may be affected by various aspects it is important that CIOs have a holistic approach to addressing digital immune systems. By setting up cross-functional teams with the appropriate autonomy to make decisions CIOs create an environment in which complex problems are dealt with efficiently by the people that have the most knowledge about the systems: the engineers.
Traditional org-structures that are siloed by technology and rely heavily on close management don’t provide the required ownership and velocity to deal with today’s challenges, so agile thinking is needed when defining the boundaries of each team to focus on value streams instead of departments.
User experience, product management, cloud engineering, development, quality assurance, data engineering, infrastructure, cybersecurity, and other experts all need to work together to deliver digital immune systems that are fast, scalable, resilient and that are focused on generating business value.”
The Benefits of a Digital Immune System
Recently, Forbes Magazine reported that older development and testing approaches are insufficient for robust, resilient solution delivery. So, a DIS is warranted for optimal customer experience because it thwarts security risks. Gartner predicts that organizations that invest in digital immunity will experience higher end-user experience due to higher application uptimes.
“Applications are becoming increasingly more complex and with complexity grows the number of possible points of failure. Systems are more interconnected, relying more heavily on data and network availability, with demand for real-time services on a variety of new devices while IOT brings yet another layer of complexity.
New hardware for virtual reality, augmented reality and wearables create new ways of interacting with systems and reduce the distance between the virtual and physical worlds. But none of that amazing technology can help us generate more business value and customer satisfaction if they don’t work.
The applications that are managed with a digital immune system lens will stand out as failure-prune systems are abandoned by customers that grow frustrated with bad user experiences. Market competition will dictate the need for digital immune systems in the coming years.”
A DIS is essential for security. Consider that there are a multitude of new attack scenarios. Organizations work anywhere and at any time. Applications and infrastructures are in various delivery models; for example, public cloud, private cloud, SaaS, multi-cloud, etc. It is vital to revamp security and modify them for new conditions.
Cyberattacks and increasing numbers of hackers cause incidents and leaks for businesses, authorities and other institutions. As the risk is spread out equally across organizations and around the world, everyone must be attentive to security.
When implementing a DIS, we suggest concentrating on:
- Security. Deactivate the security department by integrating the people and functions into every department in the organization. Security needs to be involved in every implementation and part of an application landscape.
- AI testing and automation. Platform and application testing with AI and automation means it (the testing) is independent of human intervention – it concentrates on context-sensitive monitoring and automatic remediation directly in the application. The application self-monitors and fixes issues automatically, returning the platform to a fully functional state.
Ensuring an application landscape is secure and functioning well requires the most up-to-date technology and expertise. Stefanini recognizes this, and we acknowledge every organization needs a customized solution. This is why we work in a co-creation model, building the solution that suits you best and can be scaled up or down as needed.
Partner with us for your digital journey – reach out to an expert today.