CNAPP vs. CWPP: Understanding the key differences

In the rapidly evolving landscape of cloud security, it's crucial to understand the distinctions between different protection platforms. Two important terms that often come up in discussions are CNAPP and CWPP. In this article, we will delve into the definitions of CNAPP and CWPP, explore their functionalities, and highlight the key differences between the two.

CNAPP definition

CNAPP stands for cloud-native application protection platform. Coined by Gartner, a CNAPP is a comprehensive security and compliance solutions specifically designed to safeguard cloud-native applications across the software development lifecycle from build to production. CNAPP promises an automated approach that will unify security capabilities that were previously siloed, reduce complexity, and put an end to inefficient solutions that can’t scale.

By consolidating disparate point tools, CNAPPs offer end-to-end security coverage and complete visibility across any cloud environment — all from a single platform. This unified cloud security platform encompasses essential functions like cloud security posture management (CSPM), cloud workload protection program (CWPP), infrastructure as code (IaC) security, cloud infrastructure entitlement management (CIEM), vulnerability management (VM), cloud detection and response (CDR), and more.

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CWPP definition

CWPP stands for cloud workload protection platform. As defined by Gartner, a CWPP is a security solution that focuses on protecting workloads within modern environments. Workloads can take various forms, including those running on virtual machine hosts , containers, and serverless functions.

The core objective of CWPP is to continuously monitor, detect, and alert on any unusual, at-risk, or malicious states or behaviors exhibited by workloads. This includes activities such as the appearance of a malicious file or a connection to a suspicious host or network. To achieve comprehensive protection, a CWPP employs a combination of agentless and agent-based approaches, enabling extensive security coverage and continuous workload monitoring, which provides critical visibility and insights.

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Key differences between CNAPP and CWPP

While both CNAPP and CWPP are essential components of cloud security, there are notable distinctions between them. Understanding these differences will help organizations make informed decisions regarding their security strategies. Here are the key differentiators:

Focus and scope

  • CNAPP: CNAPP solutions offer a holistic approach to cloud security, encompassing various security and compliance capabilities throughout the software development lifecycle. This includes securing cloud-native applications, containerized environments, infrastructure as code, and more. CNAPP solutions consolidate multiple security functions into a single platform, ensuring comprehensive protection across diverse areas.
  • CWPP: On the other hand, CWPP solutions have a narrower focus, primarily concentrating on securing workloads within modern environments. This includes protecting virtual machines, containers, and serverless functions. CWPP solutions are designed to monitor and detect any anomalous or malicious activities specific to workloads, providing targeted security for diverse workload types.

Market trends and adoption

  • CNAPP: According to recent data from Gartner, CNAPP solutions have experienced growing interest and adoption, leading to a shift in demand from CWPP solutions. Industries such as finance, communications, and government, along with large enterprises exceeding $30 billion in revenue, are consistently expressing interest in adopting CNAPP solutions. This highlights the increasing importance of consolidated cloud security platforms.
  • CWPP: While CWPP solutions remain relevant, there has been a decline in end-user mind share for CWPP solutions in recent years. The demand for CWPP solutions has shifted towards adjacent markets, such as cloud security posture management (CSPM) and CNAPP solutions. Financial services, banking, insurance, telecommunications, and healthcare account for more than 50% of the global market. Retail, government sectors, and education also continue to show interest in implementing CWPP solutions.

Geographical demand

  • CNAPP: Demand for CNAPP solutions is growing globally, with the highest demand observed in the Asia/Pacific region. Mature markets like North America are also experiencing a shift in demand, with organizations increasingly considering the adoption of CNAPP solutions. This indicates the widespread recognition of the need for consolidated cloud security platforms and their relevance in diverse geographical contexts.
  • CWPP: The global CWPP market is primarily led by North America, with Europe and Asia-Pacific trailing in second and third place. It's important to note that demand patterns may vary across different geographical regions.

Functionality and workload coverage

  • CNAPP: CNAPP solutions protect cloud application development throughout the software development lifecycle. During build time, a CNAPP offers IaC scanning and vulnerability scanning through integration with continuous integration (CI) and continuous deployment (CI) pipelines. Once an application is deployed, a CNAPP delivers runtime security including continuous threat monitoring and runtime vulnerability scanning. CNAPP solutions can also scan cloud environments for misconfigurations, manage identities and permissions, automate compliance, and more, all from a single platform.
  • CWPP: CWPP solutions, in contrast, are primarily focused on workload-centric security. Unlike traditional security tools, cloud workload protection secures and protects workloads regardless of type, host platform, or location. CWPP solutions concentrate on monitoring and securing all cloud workloads running on virtual machine hosts, containers, K8s, platform as a service (PaaS) environments, and serverless functions. CWPP solutions must run natively in the cloud so it can provide continuous build to runtime threat detection, ongoing behavioral anomaly detection, and misconfiguration and compliance checks. CWPP solutions must secure cloud workloads at scale, and automate the process of incorporating new cloud services and technologies. While CWPP solutions offer targeted security for workloads, their scope is narrower compared to CNAPP solutions.


In the realm of cloud security, understanding the distinctions between CNAPP and CWPP is crucial for organizations seeking effective protection for their cloud environments. CNAPP solutions provide a consolidated platform that addresses security needs throughout the software development lifecycle, while CWPP solutions offer specialized security for workloads in modern environments. By recognizing their unique functionalities, focus areas, and market trends, organizations can make informed decisions regarding the adoption of these security platforms. Ultimately, choosing the right combination of security solutions will enhance the overall security posture and resilience of cloud-based applications and workloads.