Infrastructure as Code: Best Practices, Tools, Benefits, and More
Let’s think about how we used to traditionally manage computer infrastructure.
The classical and only approach was a manual intervention, where we needed to mountain servers on racks, install operating systems, and connect and configure networks.
At that time, it wasn’t really a problem. Implementing frequent changes in infrastructure was pretty much an impossible task due to lengthy software development cycles.
But with the rise of modern technologies like cloud computing or virtualization and approaches like Agile vs DevOps, development cycles became incredibly fast. As a result, organizations had to come up with better techniques for infrastructure management. We could not wait for a few hours or even days anymore just to deploy a server.
Infrastructure as Code is a dynamic solution to raise the standard in a codified way. It enables you to create and set up infrastructure elements in just seconds, no matter if you do it once or a thousand times.
Want to get to the bottom of it? Keep reading this blog as we’ll explore the horizon of IaC and why it has become a de-facto standard in today’s software industry.
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What is Infrastructure as Code?
Infrastructure as Code – the name is itself quite self-explanatory. This concept allows you to manage your operational environment in the same way you manage source code or apps for regular deployment. Instead of using human-configured tools or physical hardware configuration, IaC helps you monitor and manage servers and data centers with the help of machine-readable definition files.
So, now you don’t have to run hundreds of different config files to make any infrastructure adjustment. One fine morning, you simply hit a script to bring up as many machines as you want and hit the same script in the evening to bring them down as you need.
In short, Infrastructure as Code tools let you use the same rules and restrictions that control code development. Therefore, the core practices of DevOps culture and software development – (such as continuous testing and monitoring, version control, process automation, etc.) – align with the base code governing the development and provision of your infrastructure. This helps you treat your infrastructure just like any other code.
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Why Does Infrastructure as Code Matter? Are Scripts Not Enough?
The answer is no; scripts are no longer enough for managing infrastructure. Gradually, scripts have become hard to track and maintain. Azure or AWS Infrastructure as Code can help you with scalability and uniformity while saving plenty of resources and time that you would waste with manual labor.
The lack of control and consistency are some of the biggest problems of manual and partial automated management of servers. More often than not, these issues lead to undocumented changes and configuration drifts to servers or apps. If you need to replace a virtual machine or server, the overall process of manually installing and configuring every bit of software is certainly time-consuming.
But with Infrastructure as Code, you can provision, deploy, and configure hundreds and thousands of servers from a centralized location and track each configuration through a version control system.
Moreover, modifying a configuration file will just require you to alter the file locally and push the code to the version control system instead of connecting to each server.
In a nutshell, you can manage the entire infrastructure centrally and keep the code in the version control repository like Git. Even if you have to make any changes to the server, this code alone will suffice.
There’s no need for unique unicorns!
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Infrastructure as Code: The Good and the Bad
Let’s check some important benefits of Infrastructure as code!
Time and again, IaC DevOps tools have constantly been improving to bring more value-based outcomes to end-users, thanks to the intense push of market competition. Here we have clustered the greatest benefits of Infrastructure as Code in the following verticals:
- Cost and Time Reduction
IaC empowers you to configure infrastructure a lot faster by offering transparency to teams across your organization. As a result, your teams will be able to communicate quickly, work efficiently, save expensive resources, and focus on other important tasks.
- Documentation and Security
If you’re able to manage all networking, storage, and computing services with code, you can deploy them in the same way, each and every time. This will help you enforce security measures consistently and easily across your business.
Additionally, Infra as a Code works as a proper form of documentation that can help you initiate insurance and infrastructure in case employees leave your enterprise with important information. With the version control system, IaC enables you to document, log, and track every change to your server configuration.
- Standardization and Scalability
Stable operational environments are the trump cards of IaC. Businesses get rid of manual configuration and incorporate consistency through implementing the required environmental state with code. Deploying infrastructure with IaC cloud tools can be repeatable and eliminate critical runtime issues caused by missing dependencies or configurations drifts.
Simply put, IaC effectively standardizes the infrastructure configuration process and reduces the possibility of any deviations or errors.
- Disaster Recovery
If a disaster or disruption of any kind takes place, AWS or Azure Infrastructure as Code provides a highly efficient way to keep a tab on your infrastructure and redeploy the healthy state it had. You cannot underestimate the importance of fast recovery after your infrastructure gets messed up unless you wake up at 4 in the morning just to fix a site that’s been down.
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IaC and its DevOps tools for software development come with more particular benefits, but the above-mentioned ones, we noticed, have the greatest impact on the workflow of our teams.
However, what most people miss are some of the biggest drawbacks IaC still comes with. If you’re planning to implement AWS Infrastructure as Code in your enterprise or already doing so, you must understand that it’s not a no-brainer like other articles will make you believe.
In general, you should be aware of these disadvantages of the IaC approach:
- Monitoring Limitation
Although it becomes exceptionally easy to keep track of and monitor all the infrastructure changes, you might need to rely on additional tools. An IaC environment does not always support traditional monitoring tools, and maintaining them can be an issue after a specific level (as per our experience, it’s over 100 developers).
- Code Dependency
While Infrastructure as Code benefits save IT leaders from the burden of infrastructure management, it brings developers under the spotlight. Hence, deficiency of coding skills in your organization is very likely to put a crimp in your IaC initiative.
- Legacy Security
Your legacy security tools and systems will not be compatible with IaC environments. So, make sure you check and update all the existing security processes and tools if you want to embrace IaC and implement a successful DevOps roadmap.
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Top Infrastructure as Code Tools You Should Use
Creating an Infrastructure as Code environment from scratch can be troublesome, let alone the time, resource, and cost you have to invest. Therefore, it’s a better idea to leverage the existing IaC tools so that you can ensure an efficient and smooth process throughout.
Here are the top IaC tools most organizations use today:
- Source Code Management
SCM allows developers to work together on a common codebase, track changes, and avoid any possible conflicts or errors. Some of the marketing-wining SCM tools are Apache Subversion, Monotone, GitLab, GitHub, etc.
- Infrastructure SDK
Ansible, AWS CloudFormation, and Terraform are the most recognized, all-inclusive multi-cloud tool as of now. Pulumi also goes alongside for managing system-based edge cases.
- CI/CD Tools
Usually, general-purpose CI/CD tools are subdivided into one-stop-source tools like GitHub, deployment-centric tools like Spinnaker, and pure CI tools like Jenkins.
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Infrastructure as Code Best Practices to Follow
Infrastructure as Code is a rising vertical in Azure DevOps Pipelines that demands a cultural and professional shift across different teams in your company. Mentioned below are some of the key practices you should follow to ensure the best result.
- Keep track of everything, from templates to configuration files and automation. Modern version control systems provide a centralized code repository where you can find, review, and restore everything.
- Optimize your DevOps process. Your IaC strategy should include checks to ward off non-compliant or insecure infrastructure definitions.
- Code everything instead of documentation. The main goal of Azure Infrastructure as Code is to write all the tasks and infrastructure definitions with code, as much as possible.
- Scale your infrastructure with modularity. Build a shareable codebase so that different team members can delegate and manage it at the same time.
- Establish integrity as your primary goal. Create an immutable infrastructure by setting up an automatic mechanism and identifying any state drifts.
- Leverage container technology. Kubernetes and Docker tooling eliminates the need for configuration management tools and helps us manage multiple machines with various configurations.
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Infrastructure as Code Solutions for Your Organization
Adopting Infrastructure as Code can sometimes take a bit of time and patience. But this is one of those scenarios where you must slow down to move faster. If you’re persistent enough to make changes through scripts, it will surely save you innumerable hours while troubleshooting or during an outrage.
And you’ll be much more positive about implementing new changes because you can assess those changes rather than executing the update straight against production and hoping for the best.
The payoffs definitely can be huge, even if you have a small IaC environment.
So, if you’re looking for IaC managed development and execution solutions, explore Trident’s state-of-the-art DevOps services. Our developers would proactively automate your IaC infrastructure and help you get an edge in the market competition with top-notch DevOps solutions.
Let’s work together for a better future!
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