What is Infrastructure-as-code: Everything You Should Know

April 28, 2022 by Guest author

Managing IT infrastructure was challenging in the early years. The system administrators had to manage the infrastructure manually and configure the hardware and software required to run the system. However, cloud computing revolutionized the way organizations design, develop, and operate their IT infrastructure.

At present, one of the critical components of Managing IT infrastructure is Infrastructure as Code (IaC), and, in this article, we will shed more light on it.

What is infrastructure-as-code?

Wikipedia defines IaC as the process of managing and provisioning computer data centers through machine-readable definition files, rather than physical hardware configuration or interactive configuration tools." Simply put, IaC is managing and provisioning infrastructure through coding instead of using manual processes is what has come to be known as Infrastructure as Code (IaC). 

Your infrastructure specification and configuration files are created with IaC, making it easier to edit and distribute configurations.

This process ensures your provisions are in the same environment each time.

An essential part of infrastructure as code is version control. Securing your configuration files under source control is quite similar to any other software source code file. IaC helps in configuration management by documenting and codifying your configuration specifications and aids you in avoiding undocumented or ad-hoc configuration changes in the process.

Deploying your IaC means dividing your infrastructure into different modular components that can then be combined together for automation in diverse ways.

Automation of infrastructure provisioning with IaC means that your developers will not need to manually manage your servers, operating systems, manually provision, maintain storage, or perform any other infrastructure component related action every time they develop an application. Codification of your configuration gives you a template to follow for provisioning.

Although this can be accomplished manually, an automation tool can do it much more efficiently and easily, such as Stefanini’s workplace and infrastructure solutions.

Why has IaC become important?

Infrastructure as code (IaC) matters because of three significant trends, all of them happening simultaneously.

  1. The transition to the cloud: Cloud-based infrastructure has been provisioned, and as a result, it can be managed with IaC tools.
  2. Cloud Modernization: After moving to the cloud systems, organizations tend to explore opportunities to maximize the value they can extract from the cloud system. This requires modernizing technologies frequently.
  3. Frequent Changes in Infrastructure: Organizations learn quickly that they can move faster if they can take advantage of the fundamental elasticity of the cloud.

So what are the benefits of Infrastructure as Code?

These are some of the benefits you can reap by adopting an infrastructure as code solution:

Low Cost

Without a doubt, IaC will lower the costs of infrastructure management. You would not be required to spend money on hardware, building or renting space for storage, hiring people to operate, and other sundry costs. Employing IaC along with cloud infrastructure will significantly reduce the costs.

With IaC, you will lower your costs by not having to hire highly-paid professionals to execute tasks that can be easily automated. By automating your IT infrastructure, you will be freeing your engineers from having to perform manual and slow, error-prone tasks.

Better Speed

Speed is the next significant benefit of Infrastructure as code. IaC enables you to set up your entire IT infrastructure by running codes quickly. It can make the whole software development cycle more systematic.

You can speed up your infrastructure in almost every environment, from development to production, through staging environment, quality assurance, etc.

Consistency & Efficiency

Humans are fallible, and manual processes can result in serious discrepancies. Automation can help in providing consistency to infrastructure management.

IaC will solve that problem by configuring files themselves and will become a single source of truth. This way, it will guarantee the same configuration files are being deployed again and again without any inconsistencies.

The whole development cycle can have greater efficiency by employing IaC if you can deploy infrastructure architectures on many levels. This will make the entire software development cycle’s infrastructure more efficient and raise productivity overall.

Accountability

You will have each configuration's changes traceability since the version of IaC configuration files will be saved just like any source code file. No time will get wasted on tracing or guessing what, when, why, where, who, and how.

How do DevOps and IaC sync?

Despite its benefits, IaC poses potential limitations. It requires additional tools, for example, automation systems and configuration management that could introduce learning curves and room for error. It is very essential to monitor version control and perform comprehensive testing as any error can quickly proliferate through servers, especially with extensive automation.

It is important to integrate IaC into the current systems administration, IT operations, and DevOps practices with documented procedures. Because if the administrators change server configurations outside of the set IaC template, then there is a potential configuration drift — without the use of change management tools.

If the monitoring tools and legacy security are not up to the task of handling IaC, then additional investments in more tools, training, and testing in order to integrate them into the workflow will be required.

Another challenge the organization faces is that Infrastructure as Code places more responsibility on the developers to learn how to write efficient code that will translate into production environments. They must also have a strong knowledge of languages to code for the infrastructure that the IaC is integrated into, such as JSON, YAML, Ruby, C++, or SQL.

How does Infrastructure as Code work?

Infrastructure as Code tools can vary on the specifics of how they work; however, we can divide them into two types:

  1. Imperative Approach: It defines a sequence of commands or instructions so the infrastructure can give results.
  2. Declarative Approach: Instead of outlining the steps that the infrastructure needs for a final results, this approach shows the final result- it declares the desired outcome.

The preferred approach to Infrastructure as Code would be to use declarative definition files wherever possible.

The definition file specifies "what" an environment requires instead of "how." In other words, it may define the specific version and configuration of a server component as a requirement but will tell the process of installing and configuring. It allows flexibility with optimized techniques the infrastructure provider may employ. This also helps reduce the technical debt of maintaining an imperative code that can accrue over time.

There is no standard syntax for declarative Infrastructure as Code. Different platforms support different file formats like XML. As a result, describing IaC comes down to the platform's requirements.

Feeling a little lost in the clouds? Learn the distinction between cloud modernization and cloud migration by reading our article here.

Why does Infrastructure as Code matter for DevOps?

IaC is an important part of DevOps Implementation and its practices for continuous integration and continuous delivery. The majority of provisional work from the developer has been taken away due to the integration of IaC.

This way, system administrators are not managing manual processes, which consume a lot of time, and application deployments are not delayed.

Continuous integration and continuous delivery rely on automation and rapid monitoring throughout the application process cycle; from integration, testing, delivery, and deployment.

An automated environment needs to be consistent. Aligning development and operations teams through the DevOps approach leads to lesser errors. IaC helps with aligning development and operations as both the teams use the same description of the application deployment.

What are the Security benefits of using IaC?

IaC comes with the same caveat as any other form of system automation. The infrastructure setup should be proper from the very beginning to avoid any damage and security issues from errors. After the structural setup is complete, a secure IaC can minimize the security threats and the risk of human errors.

As IaC relies on automation, it boasts all the security benefits of automation and avoids the security issues associated with the configuration drifts.

Today, teams manage thousands of resources that will change daily or perhaps hourly. IaC is how we can best control this kind of complexity.

Author Bio: Ryan Allen is a content writer @ GoodFirms - a rating agency that offers a level playing field to all mobile app and software development businesses. He has a Master's degree in Journalism and is an avid non-fiction reader.

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