What Is a Cloud Native Application Protection Platform (CNAPP)?

4 min. read

Cloud Native Application Protection Platforms (CNAPPs) integrate and centralize otherwise disparate security functions into a single user interface. CNAPP – a category designated by Gartner, which we at Palo Alto Networks have historically called Cloud Native Security Platforms (CNSPs) – combine functionality for Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM), Cloud Workload Protection Platforms (CWPP), Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management (CIEM) and CI/CD security into a unified, end-to-end solution to secure cloud native applications across the full application lifecycle.

This approach provides visibility across silos and ensures security, cloud infrastructure and DevOps teams can deliver full-stack security. With CNAPPs, a single platform can protect applications at runtime while also integrating security into development workflows to identify and fix flaws early in the application lifecycle.

From Code to Cloud: Why You Need a Platform Like CNAPP

The problem for many organizations is that responses to cloud native security have been reactive, rather than proactive – dealing with issues as one-off problems, rather than addressing cloud security more holistically. They have adopted individual solutions or tools for each issue that comes up, and end up with a patchwork approach, which introduces even more problems, like:

  • Point solutions create more work. Managing a growing stack of tools eventually becomes its own workstream, and because most solutions don't communicate with each other without yet more work, teams get limited visibility and protection.

  • You can't apply consistent protections. Dozens of security tools can perform checks at single points in the application lifecycle, but without consistent controls across development, deployment and runtime, security and risk teams are stuck comparing disparate vulnerability and misconfiguration findings.

  • Separation creates blind spots. Most cloud security teams need to analyze threats across cloud services, workloads or applications, networks, data, and permissions. Without a single tool, blind spots emerge in the gaps between solutions.

For all this, CNAPPs offer a number of clear benefits.

Distributed Problems Need Integrated Solutions

One of the primary drivers for a comprehensive, integrated security platform is that cloud security requires multiple teams to navigate a difficult combination of both granular and overlapping duties across functional areas.


Teams need to understand where their responsibilities begin and end regarding the shared responsibility model – data consistently shows that organizations tend to overestimate the protections and alerts their CSP will provide on their behalf. In addition, there are overlapping needs from networking, storage and compute instances for CSPM, but each of those environments also need controls for access and permissions that stem from CIEM.

Workloads and Applications

Similarly, the workloads and applications on that infrastructure require vulnerability management, compliance monitoring, policy enforcement and runtime protection. These are traditionally areas where either security teams or DevOps teams are expected to ensure protections are in place. However, those tools must be integrated with the data coming from CI/CD pipelines and extending into runtime for web applications and APIs.


These applications require a network that delivers reliable and safe connectivity. Securing network communications requires least-privileged access for workloads accessing other workloads and inline threat prevention.

Identity and Permissions

Underlying all of these areas, entitlements and permissions for cloud infrastructure and services must balance the need for distributed access with risk management to ensure there aren't excessive or outdated permissions that undermine all of your other efforts.

Coding and Development

Developers and DevOps teams are responsible for delivering high-quality code, which in most cases also means secure code, but it's up to security teams to provide the insights that DevOps needs to create secure code. Injecting security guardrails as early as possible requires cohesive tools that can cross the entire application lifecycle.

Each team needs to work closely to ensure these protections are consistently enforced, and CNAPPs are the integrated tools that help break down the silos that currently separate them.

How Did We Get Here?

Cloud native application development has matured to the point where certain assumptions can be taken more or less as facts. One early realization was that cloud environments are inherently diverse, disparate and distributed. For the professionals responsible for managing these dynamic, complex environments, a natural response was to turn around and impose consistency and uniformity. The logic is that managing risk in these environments would be made more difficult when coordinating a large set of point products suited to a specific set of requirements.

In order to secure cloud native applications and infrastructure, organizations need to adapt to be more agile and integrated. They need to be able to proactively address threats beginning in development and provide continuous security throughout the full development lifecycle, all the way through to runtime environments. In order to achieve this agility, they need new tools that are purpose-built for cloud native environments, which can span the full application development lifecycle and provide critical security information at the right point and right time.

We strongly believe that Prisma Cloud maps to the Gartner CNAPP category. You can download the complimentary report and review the full set of recommendations for yourself.

Cloud Native Application Protection Platform FAQs

Microservices security involves protecting individual, loosely coupled services that comprise an application. Each microservice requires its own authentication, authorization, and encryption mechanisms to secure inter-service communication and prevent unauthorized access. Security teams implement service meshes and enforce policies to manage traffic and apply consistent security across all microservices, thereby reducing the attack surface within containerized environments.
Cloud security posture management (CSPM) automates the identification and remediation of risks across cloud infrastructures. CSPM tools continuously scan for misconfigurations, enforce security policies, and ensure compliance with industry standards. They provide visibility into cloud assets and their configurations, enabling teams to maintain a strong security posture in dynamic cloud environments.
A cloud-native application protection platform (CNAPP) is an integrated suite providing comprehensive security for cloud-native applications. CNAPP combines capabilities such as CSPM, CWPP, and application security to protect cloud environments throughout the software lifecycle. It addresses risks from code to runtime, offering threat detection, vulnerability management, and compliance monitoring.
A cloud access security broker (CASB) acts as an intermediary between users and cloud service providers to enforce security policies. CASBs offer visibility into cloud application usage, data protection, threat prevention, and compliance across multiple cloud services. They enable organizations to extend their security controls from their on-premises infrastructure to the cloud.
A cloud workload protection platform (CWPP) secures workloads across virtual machines, containers, and serverless functions in public, private, and hybrid cloud environments. CWPP solutions offer runtime protection, system integrity monitoring, network controls, and vulnerability management to safeguard workloads from threats and ensure compliance.
DSPM, or data security posture management, involves tools and practices designed to identify and mitigate risks to data across cloud environments. It automates the discovery of data stores, classifies sensitive data, and evaluates and enforces data protection policies. DSPM solutions provide visibility into data access patterns, detect anomalies, and help maintain compliance with data protection regulations.
AI-SPM, or artificial intelligence security posture management, leverages machine learning algorithms to enhance the identification and remediation of security risks. AI-SPM tools analyze vast datasets to detect unusual behaviors, uncover hidden threats, and predict potential vulnerabilities. These tools adapt over time, learning from patterns to improve security measures and response strategies.
Application protection encompasses security measures designed to safeguard applications from threats at all stages of their lifecycle. It includes implementing application firewalls, encrypting data, conducting regular security assessments, and addressing vulnerabilities during development. Protection strategies ensure the integrity of applications and the confidentiality of the data they process.
Continuous monitoring refers to the ongoing scrutiny of security controls, vulnerabilities, and threat intelligence to ensure the integrity and security of IT systems. It involves automated tools that provide real-time alerts on security incidents, enabling rapid response to potential threats. Continuous monitoring is vital for maintaining situational awareness and managing the security posture in dynamic cloud environments.
Threat intelligence involves collecting and analyzing information about emerging or existing threat actors and threats to inform security decisions. By leveraging data from a variety of sources, organizations can anticipate, identify, and mitigate potential security threats before they impact business operations.
Runtime protection secures applications during execution, actively monitoring for and mitigating attacks in real time. It employs measures such as behavioral analysis, memory protection, and process monitoring to detect and block malicious activity, ensuring applications remain uncompromised while in operation.
Compliance automation streamlines the enforcement of regulatory and policy requirements using technology. Automated tools assess systems against compliance benchmarks, report deviations, and can remediate issues to maintain continuous compliance. By reducing manual efforts and errors, compliance automation supports a robust governance framework.
Vulnerability management is a proactive approach to managing cybersecurity risks. It involves the identification, categorization, prioritization, and remediation of software vulnerabilities. With a focus on continuous improvement, vulnerability management tools scan environments to detect weaknesses and deploy patches or other remedial actions to mitigate potential threats.
Serverless function security focuses on protecting serverless computing architectures where developers deploy individual functions without managing the underlying servers. Security measures include function-level permission controls, event-driven security monitoring, and securing the execution environment against threats. As the infrastructure is managed by the cloud provider, security strategies primarily target code vulnerabilities, ensuring data is securely handled and transmitted.
API security ensures that interfaces exposing application functionality are defended against misuse and attack. Secure APIs require robust authentication, access controls, encryption, and activity monitoring to safeguard data exchanges. Strategies include using OAuth for authorization, implementing rate limiting to prevent abuse, and employing API gateways for traffic filtering and threat detection, keeping APIs resilient against threats.