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Key takeaway

This article delves into the concept of policy as code, where policies and compliance rules are defined and enforced through code. It explores the benefits of implementing policy as code in ensuring consistency, security, and governance across cloud environments and infrastructure.


Policy as Code (PaC) is an innovative approach that combines policy management and software development practices to ensure the consistent enforcement of policies within an organization. It involves writing policies in a machine-readable format, typically using a programming language, which can be executed and enforced automatically.

In traditional approaches, policies are often documented in lengthy documents or manuals, making it difficult to ensure consistent enforcement across different systems and environments. Policy as code addresses this challenge by treating policies as code, which can be version-controlled, tested, and deployed like any other software artifact.

At its core, Policy as Code treats policies as code, enabling organizations to define, version, test, and deploy policies just like any other software artifact. This approach brings several benefits, including increased agility, scalability, and transparency in policy enforcement.

The process of implementing Policy as Code begins with defining policies using a domain-specific language (DSL) or a general-purpose programming language. These policies describe the desired behavior, rules, and constraints that need to be enforced within an organization. The policies can cover various aspects such as security, compliance, governance, and operational guidelines.

Once the policies are defined, they can be stored in a version control system, allowing for easy tracking of changes and collaboration among team members. This ensures that policies can be reviewed, modified, and audited over time, providing a transparent and accountable approach to policy management.

To enforce policies, organizations use specialized tools and frameworks that can interpret and execute the policy code. These tools integrate with existing infrastructure and systems, allowing for real-time evaluation and enforcement of policies. For example, in cloud environments, PaC tools can integrate with infrastructure-as-code frameworks to automatically validate and enforce policies during the deployment and configuration of resources.

What are the Benefits of Policy as Code?

One of the key advantages of Policy as Code is its ability to automate policy enforcement at scale. By integrating policy evaluation into the software development lifecycle, organizations can ensure that policies are consistently applied across all stages of application development and deployment. This reduces the risk of human error and enables proactive identification and remediation of policy violations.

Policy as Code promotes collaboration between policy makers, developers, and operations teams. By using a common language and tooling, these stakeholders can work together to define, test, and deploy policies in a collaborative and iterative manner. This fosters a culture of shared responsibility and empowers teams to take ownership of policy enforcement.

Policy as code also allows for automated testing and validation of policies. Just like software code, policies can be subjected to unit tests, integration tests, and even continuous integration and deployment pipelines. This ensures that policies are effective and reliable before being deployed in production environments.

Lastly, policy as code enables organizations to leverage existing software development tools and practices. Developers can use familiar tools such as version control systems, code editors, and integrated development environments (IDEs) to manage policies. This reduces the learning curve and increases the efficiency of policy management.

What is the Difference Between Compliance as Code and Policy as Code?

Compliance as code and policy as code are two related concepts that aim to automate and streamline the enforcement of policies and compliance requirements within an organization. While they share similarities, there are distinct differences between the two approaches.

Policy as code, as discussed earlier, involves expressing policies in a machine-readable format, typically using a programming language. The focus is on automating the enforcement of policies by treating them as code artifacts. This approach enables policies to be version-controlled, tested, and deployed like software code. Policy as code ensures consistent policy enforcement across different systems and environments, reduces the risk of misconfigurations, and promotes collaboration and transparency among stakeholders.

On the other hand, compliance as code focuses specifically on automating the enforcement of compliance requirements. Compliance requirements refer to regulations, standards, or industry best practices that an organization must adhere to. Compliance as code involves translating these requirements into executable code, allowing for automated validation and enforcement. It ensures that the organization's systems and processes meet the necessary compliance standards.

The key difference between compliance as code and policy as code lies in their scope and purpose. Policy as code is a broader concept that encompasses all types of policies within an organization, including security policies, operational policies, and governance policies. It aims to automate the enforcement of these policies throughout the software development lifecycle.

Compliance as code, on the other hand, is more specific and focuses solely on automating compliance requirements. It addresses the need to ensure that an organization meets regulatory obligations, industry standards, and internal policies related to security, privacy, data protection, and other areas. Compliance as code helps organizations demonstrate compliance, reduce manual effort, and minimize the risk of non-compliance.

Ultimately, while both compliance as code and policy as code involve automating policy enforcement, compliance as code specifically targets the automation of compliance requirements. Policy as code, on the other hand, is a broader approach that encompasses all types of policies within an organization. Both approaches contribute to improved consistency, reliability, and efficiency in policy enforcement, ultimately helping organizations meet their compliance and governance objectives.

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