In 2024, Prepare to Shift Down, Not Left

Sustainable innovation requires balancing developer capabilities with support from advanced tools.

DevSecOps-security-kubernetes

Over the last two decades, we’ve heard a lot about shifting left, the workflow philosophy that encourages developers to incorporate security tests earlier in the software development lifecycle (SDLC) — ergo, to shift the priority of secure software “left.” In the past five years, these considerations have influenced the rise of DevSecOps, a mindset further entwining the concepts of development, security and operations.

But as DevSecOps and DevOps engineers know well, development, security and operations are essential and burdensome functions, making these hats very heavy and challenging to wear simultaneously.

Development has become a tricky industry to specialize in. We ask developers to become experts in security and operations just as we ask them to learn new coding languages on the dime. Yes, versatility is a critical asset in software engineering, but there may come a time when those asks simply become too much.

Richard Seroter, Director of Outbound Strategy and Engagement for Google Cloud’s Modern Infrastructure team, calls this challenge the modernization imperative. His suggested solution? For developers to shift down by relying more thoroughly on a platform management strategy that facilitates better outcomes through greater layers of abstraction.

Shifting too far left = overloaded developers

Seroter’s frank critique on shifting left points out that most modern developers have an unsustainable number of responsibilities. The industry’s push for full-stack engineers has created an unrealistic expectation: Developers must balance various complex and highly critical tasks. Furthermore, they must do so without under-prioritizing any one responsibility (development, security or operations).

But, as we all know, “full-stack engineers” are a scarce commodity. Few industry professionals can genuinely build software during all phases of the SDLC, from front-end development to server configuration and network management. The industry’s demands don’t align with the reality of developers’ capabilities and cognitive loads. As a result, developers are habitually overworked, hindering their ability to be productive and innovative.

Yet eight in 10 developers believe a DevOps mindset is at least somewhat important. The fundamental principles of shifting left still ring true. Therefore, the next evolution of developer workflows will make good on the promise to imbed considerations like security earlier in the SDLC by aiding developer toil and providing better resources for success.

Enter: shifting down. 

When we shift down, we encourage deeper layers of abstraction

Rather than burdening individual developers with DevSecOps, the shifting down philosophy places that burden on a developer’s toolkit. The benefits of a high-performing software engineering tech stack include more secure software infrastructure, sustainability, efficiency and a better developer experience (DevEx).

Tools enabled by automation, AI and machine learning (ML) have already entered the developer zeitgeist, powering critical workflows like continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD). These advanced solutions allow developers to spend less time configuring their decisions’ technical details and more time actually spinning up and deploying software. In other words, these tools enable thinking in terms of “what” and “why,” not “how” — a massive stumbling block for even the largest software organizations.

2024 will be defined by the industry’s gradual shift downward. The advancement of large-language models (LLMs) and other GenAI tools will accelerate this transition, enabling the incorporation of AI-assisted technologies that boost collaborative potential and developer efficiency during the SDLC.

We’re already seeing the industry embrace heightened attention to tools, as evidenced by the growth of platform engineering and management. Gartner predicts that 80% of software organizations will have a platform engineering team by 2026. Enterprises further investing in platform infrastructure signal their intent to rely on their tech stack instead of over-taxing their developers.

DevSecOps isn’t dead; it’s evolving

The shift left mentality has served us well, creating an era of more secure innovations in the software industry. However, as digital interfaces become more complicated and we shift even further left, the cognitive load on developers increases, leading to burnout and reduced productivity. The solution to these issues lies in shifting down — relying more on sophisticated tools and platforms to automate and abstract away low-level details.

Ultimately, sustainable innovation requires balancing developer capabilities with support from advanced tools. By shifting down instead of left, we realize the promise of DevSecOps without overburdening developers.

Adam Frank

Adam Frank is a product and technology leader with more than 20 years of Development and Operations experience. His imagination and passion for creating development and operations solutions are helping developers and innovations around the world. As Armory’s Senior Vice President of Product, he’s focused on delivering products and strategies that help businesses to digitally transform, carry out organizational change, attain optimal business agility, and unlock innovation through software.


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Adam Frank

Adam Frank is a product and technology leader with more than 20 years of Development and Operations experience. His imagination and passion for creating development and operations solutions are helping developers and innovations around the world. As Armory’s Senior Vice President of Product, he’s focused on delivering products and strategies that help businesses to digitally transform, carry out organizational change, attain optimal business agility, and unlock innovation through software.