Sonatype Nexus Lifecycle Review

Gets our developers to think about the third-party libraries they're pulling into the system, in terms of security


What is our primary use case?

We have it implemented and integrated into our CI/CD pipeline, for when we do builds. Every time we do a build, Jenkins reaches out and kicks off a scan from the IQ Server.

We use it to automate open source governance and minimize risk. All of our third-party libraries, everything, comes through our Nexus, which is what the IQ Server and Jenkins are hooked into. Everything being developed for our big application comes through that tool.

We have Nexus Firewall on, but it's only on for the highest level of vulnerabilities. We have the firewall sitting in front to make sure we don't let anything real bad into the system.

Our environment is your standard, three-tiered environment. We have the developers develop in their Dev and Test environments, and as the code moves through each environment — Test and a QA environment — it goes through a build process. We build each time we deploy.

We're addressing anything that is a nine and above. If it's a 10, we don't let it into our system; the firewall server stops it. If we have nines we'll let it in, but I'll tag the developers and they'll have to do a little triage to figure out if the problem that is being reported is something we utilize in our system — if it's something that affects us — and if it's not, we flag it as such and let it go. We either waive it or I'll acknowledge it depending on how much it's used throughout the system and how many different components are being built with that bad library.

How has it helped my organization?

It really hasn't an improved way we function, but it's helped us to get the developers to start thinking about the security posture that we want to have, going forward, with applications that we develop in-house. It's helping to educate the developers who don't think about these things when they're throwing code together.

It has also brought open source intelligence and policy enforcement across our software development life cycle. That's what we're moving to. We're not 100 percent there, but that's the goal. It's getting the developers to actually think about the third-party libraries they're pulling into the system and to think of them in a different light, in terms of the security aspects of them. I was a developer for 20 years before I got into security. As a developer, you don't always think about the security aspect of things. You're looking for a library that does X, Y, and Z. Lifecycle helps keep that security issue front and center, because as you're bringing it into the system, or as you're doing the build, it's breaking a build or it's doing other things.

It's helping to block undesirable open source components from entering our development lifecycle at least once or twice with every round of releases or library upgrades.

It has also improved the time that it takes to release secure apps to market, although we haven't put a number on that. 

And we have seen an increase in developer productivity because the tool allows them to go out and look for the libraries that aren't affected, or that don't have all the negatives in them. The component piece and the IQ Server aspect has saved time. Without this solution in place, the developers wouldn't care. If this tool wasn't in their face, making them care, a lot would slip by. This is our way to make sure we're watching the gate. Without it, we would be in a much worse spot in terms of exposure, risk, and data exfiltration.

What is most valuable?

The component piece, where you can analyze the component, is the most valuable. You can pull the component up and you can look at what versions are bad, what versions are clean, and what versions haven't been reported on yet. You can make decisions based off of that, in terms of where you want to go. I like that it puts all that information right there in a window for you.

The default policies are a good start. Within our environment, I tweaked each level to have its own policy, just because of the control it gives us. It provides us with the flexibility we need.

The data quality is pretty good. I have not had any major problems. It helps us solve problems faster.

It integrates well with the existing DevOps tools. We plugged it right in. It was an "after-the-fact" thing that we added into our pipeline and it integrated quite easily. We use Jenkins and it was a nice fit with that. We don't have it creating tickets yet, so we don't have it integrated with a ticketing system, but it is integrated with our Jenkins platform.

What needs improvement?

One thing that it is lacking, one thing I don't like, is that when you label something or add a status to it, you do it as an overall function, but you can't go back and isolate a library that you want to call out individually and remove a status from it. It's still lacking some functionality-type things for controlling labels and statuses. I'd like to be able to apply it across all of my apps, but then turn it off for one, and I can't do that. I have to go to all 100 apps and do it individually in order to get something on each one, and I don't like that. I should be able to add it as a group and remove it as a single.

Everything else has been really good.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using Sonatype Nexus Lifecycle for a year and a half, going on two years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The stability is good. There have been no problems that I'm aware of.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It's handling a lot of code but if we wanted to roll out more servers and do more build outs, I wouldn't think that it would involve much more than just adding a few servers. So the scalability should be good.

It is being fully utilized in our build process — where our applications are built and deployed. Where we're lacking use is getting the developers to get it plugged into their Eclipse environments and actually using it on a more regular basis. That's where the struggle has been. That's not the tool, that's more an issue with our developer management side. The adoption is just not happening at the pace it should, because of a whole multitude of other things that are going on right now in our company.

The only other thing we might eventually want to do is get it hooked into a ticketing system where it could create tickets if there are libraries that are bad. Outside of that, it's pretty much integrated into our pipeline as far as we're going to integrate it.

How are customer service and technical support?

Their tech support is pretty good. I only know of one or two instances where the gentleman in our company who does the upgrades had a question, and they were answered and resolved quite quickly.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We did not have a previous solution.

As I was moving into my security role, the pipeline team was already looking at something and it played nice with Nexus. It was an extra add-on piece or something like that. They were the ones who actually introduced it. I liked it and pushed it along.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was straightforward and easy. I didn't set it up but I know there weren't any problems. It took less than a day and it took one person to deploy it. We had one person, at that time, setting up the servers. 

Sonatype came in and did a little demo for us and, while they were here, we got the information set up. It was really easy. We didn't have any major issues that I'm aware of.

In terms of maintenance, we just went through a library upgrade and that was done by one person. It took about a day. We have one person who knows the administrative aspect of it at our company. He works on the pipeline team. I'm on the security aspects and the security policies.

Overall, we have over 50 people using it across our organization. They are developers, architects, managers, and in security.

What was our ROI?

I'm not sure it's saving us anything. I don't have a way to gauge that as far as return on investment goes.

The return on investment for us is that we have the process in place that has our security aspects tied into it. That's more the type of return on investment we were looking for, and it is doing that. We're still in the early stages.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

I'm not familiar with the pricing in detail, but I believe it was pretty reasonably priced, compared to the market.

What other advice do I have?

The biggest thing we've learned from using it is that, from a development point of view, we just never realized what types of badness are in those third-party libraries that we pull in and use. It has been an eye-opener as to just how bad they can be.

As far as Lifecycle's integration into developer tooling like IDEs, Git Repos, etc., I don't set that up. But I have not heard of any problems from our guys, from the team that set that stuff up.

I like the tool overall and would rate it at about nine out of 10. There are a few UI-type things that I don't like, that I would like to work a different way. But overall, the tool is good.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
**Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
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