Dependency Mapping: A Complete Guide to Reducing Business Risk

Jul 14, 2021

Speed and efficiency are top priorities for most businesses that are producing software today. Simply put, software engineers need to move as quickly as possible when creating, deploying, and managing applications. 

There’s just one problem: Moving quickly often requires workarounds and shortcuts. This leads to a problem called software dependency, which adds a significant amount of risk to the development process. 

Keep reading to learn about software dependency, why it occurs, and how forward-thinking DevOps managers can prevent it from negatively impacting operations.  

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What Is Software Dependency?

Software dependency can mean a few different things, depending on who you ask. But most of the time, it occurs when a piece of code requires another piece of code to function. As the name suggests, the ancillary piece of code performs a critical operational task, enabling a specific function. 

Dependencies usually arise when developers integrate third-party libraries into their code from sources such as Maven, GitHub, Docker Hub, and Amazon ECR. Suffice it to say that there are many libraries that developers use, which vary from language to language. 

For example, this type of bundle is called an artifact in the Java language. Very simply, artifacts let developers use software in their applications that someone else has written, eliminating the need to build code from scratch. This strategy saves a significant amount of time and effort and keeps production pipelines fluid. Teams don’t have to constantly reinvent the wheel.  

In today’s digital age, software dependency is very common, which should come as no surprise. In fact, most applications have one or more dependencies in place. Operating an application without any form of dependency is almost impossible in today’s complex, fast-moving production environment that involves tight deadlines and multiple teams and user groups. 

Why Dependency Is Risky

One way to think about dependency is to imagine someone who has a famous cookie recipe that relies on a specific proprietary ingredient, like a local syrup from a specialty store. If something were to happen to the syrup, such as the syrup going out of stock or the owner no longer making it, the flavor of the cookie would change and wouldn’t taste right. 

The same logic can be applied to coding. When you rely on someone else’s code to make your application function, removing or altering that code will have a direct impact on the application’s performance. In extreme examples, unmanaged dependency can lead to critical application failure. Depending on how bad it gets, a major portion of the application becomes inoperable.  

Common Dependency Risks You Need to Know

When it boils down to it, dependency is almost inevitable. In fact, resisting it could result in pushback from developers, as well as administrators who want to complete software projects as quickly as possible. When dependency works right, it’s one of the most powerful shortcuts in software engineering. 

DevOps managers, therefore, have a key role to play with dependency management. For the best results, they need to set firm policies, require engineers to follow them, and monitor for variations. DevOps engineers should keep the following risks top of mind when managing software dependencies.  

Poor Uniformity 

When working with dependencies, it’s absolutely critical to use strict versions. In other words, code needs to be completely uniform every time you use it. Otherwise, it will be incompatible with your application.  

Managers need to watch out for software that has a range of versions. In many cases, this can happen when people who release bundles make mistakes or don’t follow best practices.  

Limited Updates

In the age of high-profile data breaches, it’s very risky to use outdated code. When there are few updates being released, it may be a sign that the code is getting phased out, making it dangerous to add into an existing software project. Outdated code could also have security vulnerabilities. 

Limited Visibility 

As applications age, a Frankenstein scenario usually begins to emerge. It’s not uncommon for multiple teams to be using different coding sources. It’s easy to lose track of coding sources—and even the developers who may have had a hand in production. 

DevOps managers need to keep a running tab on applications as they move throughout the development life cycle. That way, teams can trace and resolve errors proactively. 

Low Adoption

One easy way to tell the strength and reliability of a particular dependency is to analyze the health of the supporting community. Code with a large and active user base is typically much safer and more reliable than code that is lesser-known and less widely used.  

Internal Dependency 

Oftentimes, businesses become reliant on internal code, which gets developed by in-house developers. Proprietary code needs to be carefully tracked, vetted, and documented so that multiple team members have a working knowledge of how it’s constructed and where it’s getting used.  

In other words, it’s important to decouple the code from the developer to avoid being overly reliant on the creators. 

What Is Dependency Mapping? 

DevOps managers ultimately need to assume full responsibility for dependency control. Looking forward, dependency will continue to be a major issue for software teams as production timelines accelerate and applications keep getting more complex. 

One of the best ways to stay on top of software dependency is by using a strategy called dependency mapping. This involves managing the process end to end with discovery, version tracking, and interdependency management. With dependency mapping, DevOps managers should ideally be able to analyze an application at any time and trace where code came from. 

In the past, dependency mapping was typically managed manually via spreadsheets, which was both extremely time-consuming and error-prone. Today, DevOps managers can easily map dependencies using purpose-built software, such as Plutora’s release management software—a complete toolkit for application discovery and delivery.  

Plutora’s Approach to Dependency Mapping

Plutora offers a one-stop-shop for dependency mapping, centralizing the process in a single cloud-based dashboard that managers can access from any location. Plutora creates and manages dependencies, making it easy for DevOps managers to remain in full control as applications evolve and switch hands from developer to developer. 

Using Plutora can lead to the following transformative benefits for DevOps teams.  

Faster Risk Assessment 

Prior to releasing code, teams can thoroughly vet it through an automated risk assessment process. This reduces the likelihood of errors slipping into production. 

Instant Visibility 

Plutora’s innovative platform enables DevOps managers to view interdependencies across multiple projects through the System Impact Matrix feature. This makes tracking projects and releases easy and intuitive. It also serves as a viable alternative to traditional spreadsheet-based tracking. 

No Silos

The solution seamlessly integrates with existing DevOps tools, enabling greater visibility across different projects and teams. By using Plutora, DevOps managers won’t have to worry about information silos and miscommunication.  

Turning Dependency Into a Strategic Advantage 

At the end of the day, there is little that DevOps managers can do to avoid software dependencies. However, it’s possible to manage dependencies and mitigate risk by using a cutting-edge platform like Plutora.  

By using Plutora for release management, teams can identify errors and assess risk before putting code into production. This, in turn, saves time and improves system performance. Plutora improves communication and collaboration, enabling DevOps teams to work faster and more efficiently than ever before.  
If you’re thinking about changing the way your team manages dependencies, Plutora can help. Access your free demo today and experience the difference for yourself. 

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