Agent Vs Agentless: Determining the Right Deployment Option for Cloud Workload Protection (CWP)

Feb 29, 2024
4 minutes

Organizations are embracing the cloud to facilitate digital transformation, from lifting and shifting to building cloud-native applications. Utilizing both public and private cloud services, they can swiftly and efficiently deliver applications and services to customers on a large scale. Cloud-native applications rely on various workloads such as VMs, containers, Kubernetes, and serverless functions. According to a recent study, public clouds host 53% of cloud workloads, offering development and DevOps teams adaptable and scalable infrastructure for application development, testing, and deployment.

Figure 1: Different types of cloud workloads
Figure 1: Different types of cloud workloads

Cloud Workload Security Challenges

Securing cloud workloads involves protecting an increasingly large attack and dynamic surface. The dynamic nature of cloud workloads and their software, continually updated by development teams, poses a challenge for security teams to stay abreast of changes.

Gaining visibility stands as a critical initial step in cloud security, essential for comprehending risk and implementing real-time protection to effectively stop attacks. Agentless solutions provide seamless visibility into cloud workloads and the risks they present. Conversely, agent-based solutions offer continuous visibility, risk assessment, and runtime protection to stop attacks. An ideal solution should offer flexible deployment options, encompassing both agentless visibility and agent-based protection.Difference Between Agent-Based and Agentless Solutions

Agentless Security leverages the cloud to scan workloads and systems, meaning there’s no need to install an agent on every device in your network. Agent-based solutions utilize sensors or agents to monitor cloud workloads continuously and employ runtime protection capabilities to stop attacks.

Deciding between agent and agentless for your cloud workload security can feel like picking a lock in the dark. If you’re struggling to determine which approach best addresses your needs, the following pros and cons will shed light on your options, helping you decide between agent-based and agentless deployments.Pros and Cons of Agentless Solutions

The agentless approach is notably simpler compared to agent-based security solutions and can typically be fully automated. Agentless deployment facilitates quicker onboarding and setup of visibility, eliminating the necessity for direct access to all hosts or machines for security scans. Additionally, it entails reduced maintenance and lower provisioning costs.

That said, agentless solutions can't provide runtime monitoring for processes, runtime protection against exploits like cryptomining and malicious attacks.

Pros and Cons of Agent-Based Solutions

Agents enable in-depth monitoring and protection of workloads. Agents can perform specialized scanning of components and services. The biggest differentiator is that agents offer runtime protection to block attacks such as malware, cryptomining, and reverse shell. In addition, some agents have the ability to provide real-time insights into running processes and network traffic that enables advanced capabilities like web app and API security.

On the other hand, agents can be time-consuming to install and may require additional maintenance.

Decision Tree

Recognizing the importance of each deployment option can help you make the correct decision when choosing the right level of protection for your cloud workloads. The following decision tree will guide you through various considerations essential to your selection.

Figure 2: Agent vs Agentless Decision Tree
Figure 2: Agent vs Agentless Decision Tree

Prisma Cloud Capabilities

Prisma Cloud supports both agentless and agent-based deployment options. Below is a table of the capabilities supported for each deployment option.

Figure 3: Capabilities table
Figure 3: Capabilities table

Learn More

Don't let the decision between agent and agentless workload security leave you in the dark. Find the guidance you need to choose the best approach for your organization in our quick-access infographic.

Prisma Cloud secures applications from code to cloud, enabling security and DevOps teams to effectively collaborate to accelerate secure cloud-native application development and deployment. If you haven’t experienced the advantage, take Prisma Cloud for a test drive with a free 30-day Prisma Cloud trial.




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