What Is Shift Right?

The term 'shift right' refers to an approach in software development and testing where testing and development processes are extended beyond the traditional development environment into the production environment. This means that testing and development do not stop once the software is deployed, but rather continue in the live environment where the software is being used by real users.

Amit Sheps
February 1, 2024

In the shift right approach, feedback from live users is collected and used to make improvements to the software. It’s a continuous process of testing, learning, iterating, and improving. The idea is to detect and fix issues as they arise in the live environment, thereby providing a better user experience and improving software quality.

While shift right is commonly associated with software testing, it is not limited to this area. It can also be applied to software security, where it is known as shift right security. The aim here is to incorporate security checks and measures into the live environment, ensuring that any potential security threats are identified and addressed in real-time.

In this article:

Shift Right Testing vs. Shift Right Security 

Shift right testing and shift right security are approaches that aim to integrate software testing and security testing into the production environment, rather than limiting them to the development phase.

Shift right testing focuses on monitoring the software in the live environment, collecting user feedback, and making iterative improvements based on this feedback. This approach enables organizations to identify and fix issues that may not have been detected during the pre-production testing phase. It also allows them to understand how their software is being used in the real world, and to make improvements based on these insights.

Shift right security involves integrating security tests into the production environment. This means that security checks are carried out continuously in the live environment, and any potential threats are identified and addressed in real-time. By doing so, organizations can ensure that potential security vulnerabilities are identified and fixed before they can be exploited.

Tips from the Expert: In my experience, here are tips that can help you kick start your shift left security process

  • Leverage AI for threat detection: AI/ML algorithms can identify complex attack patterns that might elude traditional detection systems.
  • Implement security posture auditing: Use tools that constantly evaluate configurations, permissions, and security policies and identify drifts from the desired security posture.
  • Use immutable logs: Ensure that your logging mechanism is immutable, meaning that once data is logged, it cannot be altered or deleted. This is crucial for post-incident forensic analysis.
  • Integrate security into service mesh: In microservices architectures, use service meshes to enforce security policies consistently, including end-to-end encryption and access controls.
  • Implement feedback loops for security incidents: Post-incident reviews should not just be a process of identifying what went wrong. Implement a feedback loop where lessons learned are systematically fed back into the development process.

Shift Left vs. Shift Right: What Is the Difference? 

While both ‘shift left‘ and ‘shift right’ are approaches used in software development and testing, they represent different philosophies and focus on different aspects of the software lifecycle.

Shift left is a proactive approach that involves integrating testing and security measures into the early stages of the software development lifecycle. The idea is to identify and fix issues as early as possible, thereby reducing the risk of major issues arising later in the software life cycle. This approach is often associated with the DevOps and Agile methodologies, which emphasize collaboration, continuous integration, and early testing.

Shift right is a reactive approach that focuses on the later stages of the software lifecycle. It involves extending testing and security processes into the live environment, where the software is being used by real users. This enables organizations to collect user feedback, identify issues as they arise in the live environment, and become immediately aware of vulnerabilities and threats facing the live environment.

While these approaches may seem contradictory, they are in fact complementary. By combining shift left and shift right, organizations can ensure that their software is thoroughly tested and secure, while also being able to adapt and respond to user feedback and security challenges in production environments.

Types of Shift Right Tests 

A/B Testing

A/B testing, also known as split testing, involves comparing two versions of a webpage or other user experience to determine which one performs better. It is a way to test changes to a page against the current design and determine which one produces better results. A/B testing is useful in refining and optimizing user experiences.

Synthetic Monitoring

Synthetic monitoring, also known as active monitoring, is another type of shift right testing. It involves using tools and scripts to simulate user behavior and monitor the performance and functionality of software applications. This approach helps identify issues that may not appear during traditional testing but could significantly impact the user experience in a real-world scenario.

Chaos Engineering

Chaos engineering, also known as fuzz testing, is another approach that falls under the shift right testing umbrella. This method involves intentionally introducing failures into a system to test its ability to withstand and recover from various disruptions. It’s a proactive approach to discovering system vulnerabilities, and it has become increasingly popular in a world where software reliability is critical.

Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST)

Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) is a shift right security practice that assesses an application in its running state. DAST tools simulate attacks against a web application, helping to identify security vulnerabilities that could be exploited by malicious users. DAST is particularly effective in detecting issues like SQL injection, Cross-Site Scripting (XSS), and other vulnerabilities that only become apparent when an application is running.

Canary Releases

Canary releases are another technique used in shift right testing. This method involves releasing new features or updates to a small group of users before rolling them out to the entire user base. This allows teams to gather feedback and identify potential issues before a full-scale release, reducing the risk of widespread problems.

Blue-Green Deployment

Blue-green deployment is a release management strategy that reduces downtime and risk by running two identical production environments. Only one of the environments is live at any time (the ‘green’ environment), with the live environment serving all production traffic. In case of an issue, teams can quickly switch back to the ‘blue’ environment, minimizing disruption to users.

6 Ways to Find the Correct Balancer Between Shift Right and Shift Left 

1. Plan the Entire Testing Life Cycle Beforehand

Having a well-thought-out plan for the entire testing life cycle can make a significant difference in the overall software development process. This includes outlining every stage, from the initial design and development to the final deployment and post-production testing.

The first step in planning is to understand the scope of the project, which includes the expected functionality, performance requirements, and possible risks. This information will help define the testing objectives and set a clear path for the testing process. Based on the project’s scope, you can determine the appropriate testing methodologies and tools and identify where shift left and shift right approaches will be most effective.

2. Integrate Testing into Project Management

Integrating the project management process with the testing process can significantly improve efficiency and communication within the team. It allows for a more streamlined workflow and ensures that testing is not an isolated activity but an integral part of the entire project lifecycle.

By integrating these processes, you can ensure that testing activities align with the project’s goals and objectives. This integration also helps in tracking the progress of testing activities and identifying any bottlenecks or challenges that may arise during the process.

3. Specify Quality Standards

Setting quality standards is a crucial aspect of the shift right approach. These standards serve as a benchmark against which the software’s performance can be measured.

The quality standards should be defined based on the project’s requirements and the end-users’ expectations. They should encompass different aspects such as functionality, performance, security, and user experience. The standards should be communicated to all team members to ensure that everyone is on the same page, and should also be extended to tests carried out in the shift left approach.

4. Plan Segmented Deployments

Segmented deployments are a key component of the shift right approach. These deployments involve releasing the software to a small group of users before releasing it to the larger customer base. Common methods include canary deployments and A/B testing.

This approach allows for real-world testing in a controlled environment and provides valuable feedback that can be used to improve the software. It also helps to identify any potential issues or bugs that may have been missed during the initial testing stages.

Segmented deployments can help development teams align themselves with production requirements, because new features are directly tested on live users. This can align requirements between shift left and shift right testing.

5. Encourage Developers to Code with Testability in Mind

One of the unique aspects of the ‘shift right’ approach is the emphasis on testability. This involves designing and developing software in a way that facilitates testing.

Developers play a crucial role in this process. By coding with testability in mind, they can make it easier to test the software at every stage of the development process. This includes writing clean and modular code, using test-driven development practices, and designing the software to be scalable and maintainable.

Furthermore, promoting a culture of testability can foster collaboration between developers and testers. This can lead to more effective testing and ultimately, better quality software.

Learn more in our detailed guide to Code security

6. Setting Up a Continuous Feedback Mechanism

Finally, setting up a continuous feedback mechanism is a key element of the shift right approach. This involves collecting and analyzing feedback from various sources, including end-users, testers, and developers.

This feedback can provide valuable insights into the software’s performance and user experience. It can also help to identify any potential issues or areas for improvement.

A continuous feedback mechanism can foster a culture of continuous improvement within the team. By regularly reviewing and acting on feedback, the team can continually enhance the software’s quality and incorporate lessons learned into earlier testing stages carried out in the shift left approach.

Amit Sheps
Amit is the Director of Technical Product Marketing at Aqua. With an illustrious career spanning renowned companies such as CyberX (acquired by Microsoft) and F5, he has played an instrumental role in fortifying manufacturing floors and telecom networks. Focused on product management and marketing, Amit's expertise lies in the art of transforming applications into cloud-native powerhouses. Amit is an avid runner who relishes the tranquility of early morning runs. You may very well spot him traversing the urban landscape, reveling in the quietude of the city streets before the world awakes.