Sonatype Nexus Lifecycle Review

Gives our teams visibility into copyright and security risks in our code


What is our primary use case?

We are in the education industry, but we are a developer-based company. We heavily use lots of public libraries. We use Sonatype Nexus Lifecycle mainly for protecting us from vulnerabilities and license copyright issues. We heavily depend on its database.

It's a hybrid. We have our on-premises instance for our internal security. With Sonatype itself, we use the cloud service, but we have a few modules on-premises, such as IQ Server and the report server. We have deployed those modules on AWS. As a company, we use cloud services 100 percent.

How has it helped my organization?

We have started rolling out to each of our feature teams and so far we have rolled it out to about 30 percent, but we can already see the benefit. It gives our teams easy visibility into the risk inside our code. "Risk" in this case can be copyright, more along the lines of compliance, and security itself, such as vulnerabilities.

From the legal and security perspectives, we have a huge concern about what we use in our product and our platform. Before using Sonatype we had a huge business risk. Since bringing in Sonatype, we have visibility for both the legal and security teams. It enables us to maintain the quality from the third-party libraries.

We follow the CI/CD methodology and Sonatype's impact is really huge because we are able to meet our continuous integration in the DevOps pipeline. The speed of that flow is noticeable. The impact is on both development and operations, together. The integration with the CI/CD pipeline is easy.

What is most valuable?

From the integration perspective, it is easy to use, out-of-the-box. The GUI is not complex.

I mainly use two modules, the report server and IQ Server. The value I get from IQ Server is that I get information on real business risks. Is something compliant, are we using the proper license?

With IQ Server we are currently running the default policy. We started deploying six months back and our main objectives were identifying any bad licenses in our library or product, and whether we are using any critically vulnerable assets. We have stuck with the default policies and they are giving us huge visibility and, as a result, we are putting a lot of effort into remediation.

In terms of the data quality and the database they have for open source, I'm impressed. For our requirements, the data we get seems to be updated well when it comes to license-type and vulnerabilities.

The solution also blocks undesirable open source components from entering our development lifecycle. We use it for controlling third-party libraries.

What needs improvement?

Nexus Lifecycle is multiple products. One drawback I've noticed is that there are some differences in the features between the products within Lifecycle. They need to maintain the same structure, but there are some slight differences.

Other than that, the tool is very user-friendly and gives the right reports to the right teams.

For how long have I used the solution?

We have been using Sonatype Nexus Lifecycle for about the last six months.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Until now, we haven't faced any challenges on the stability front. If there's a challenge, if something is down, we definitely get a direct alert. We are happy with the stability part. Both the software and the infrastructure are good.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

There are two aspects to the solution's scalability. The infrastructure scalability is the first part, and that is good. The second part is the developer and the licensing front. When we started the program, we had 60 developers but we now have double that number. There's flexibility on both the infra and the licensing. That is good, as of now.

How are customer service and technical support?

When it comes to cultural adoption, when we put something new in the DevOps pipeline, the positive side is that we have a dedicated professional support team and there is a dedicated person. I'm on the security side, I'm not a developer. So the challenge for me is that when I go to the developers, they have a different language. That support person is always there to support me and I'm very happy with that support and the way they handle us as a customer. I can go to the development team or the department and say that, "If we need any support, let me know." I know that dedicated support person will be there for us. That's very much appreciated. That model is actually helping me to push our development teams to get into this new integration. The support model, with a dedicated person, is very useful.

We have frequent meetings with the person who manages the team, and our dedicated support person from Sonatype. If there's a new update it's like we have permanent support. They help us to update.

I would rate their support at nine out of 10.

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

We were using Sonatype open source, the repository server, for a long time, as a free edition and as a PoC. That's why we picked Sonatype Nexus Lifecycle. 

Before that, we were using a different solution for a period of time. We jumped to Sonatype from our previous solution because it had a limitation on the modules. If I go for a multiple module integration, there is additional cost, whereas with Sonatype, they bundle licenses. There's no limitation. I can go for any number of integrations. That's the reason we switched to Sonatype.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was triggered from a template in the cloud, so it was easily set up.

With this implementation, the challenge is awareness. We have 14 development teams, but when we started the program there were 10. The number of development teams continues to increase and they use different tools and techniques in the CI/CD. From my side, in security, the idea is to make them aware. This would be the same whether the product was Sonatype or something else. Making them aware has been a very big challenge for me, to onboard them and make the product effective.

So the initial, technical deployment is easy, but to make it effective, we have had to bring that awareness into focus and do repeated training.

The initial deployment took one or two days, taking into account the infrastructure requirements in AWS. But that's not the issue. We deployed the server, but if nobody's using it there's no value from it. The value comes from being able to integrate all the developers. The dedicated support person was very useful in helping me create that awareness and value from it.

We use a lot of tools in our CI/CD, so the initial month was more of a feasibility test and proof of concept which was validated with multiple scenarios. Then we started onboarding teams, one per month. We work with the Agile methodology in two-week sprints. Each team picked the integration per its own Agile sprint timeline, based on the product owner's priorities. Within the two-week sprint for a given team, we are able to do a full integration for that team. But within those two weeks, if you look at the real effort, it would be a maximum of about two days, including troubleshooting. We have covered 30 to 40 percent of our teams so far. Within the next three to four months we may be able to complete the process and cover 100 percent.

What was our ROI?

When I started with Sonatype six months back, I knew that I wanted to do 10 integrations. When I started integrating with a development team, and getting them more usability, I understood the reality was not 10, it was actually 100. When I ran with another vendor, even though I started with a small price, when I looked at the total cost of ownership or the return on investment, it was totally different. With Sonatype there is definitely a return on investment in the number of integrations and the personal support. In that sense, there has been a lot of value. 

In addition, the bundled licensing is a huge difference and provides flexibility. We are not limited by the number of integrations, like in other products. We have flexibility and scalability. For us, the return of investment or value is huge, when it comes to the licensing model.

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

Cost is a drawback. It's somewhat costly.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

As part of the procurement process in Alef, we have to do a minimum three-product evaluation. We evaluated Sonatype, a different solution, and there were two more in the pipeline. Based on that evaluation, technical and other, Sonatype came into the picture. 

The competing solution was actually cheaper, no doubt, but when we looked at the overall picture, the total cost of ownership after one year of integration, we understood it would be less with Sonatype, even though the initial price was less with the other products.

If you're going to be scaling and growing quickly, in a way you cannot predict, the Sonatype licensing model and feature set are definitely good.

What other advice do I have?

Look at the scenario of the total cost after one year, not the initial stage. When we looked into the initial stage costs, there were vendors that cost less. But when you come to the integrations and real scenarios, that bill goes up. We had to clearly evaluate, not only the initial moment, but one year or two years down the line and consider the total cost of ownership.

Also, be sure to properly utilize the engineer allocated to your site to help support the developers.

**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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