DevOps

Infrastructure as Code: An Essential DevOps Practice

12 min read

What comes to your mind when you hear the term IT infrastructure? You would think of a big room with several big machines, a web of wires and systems. This was the exact scenario a few years back when servers occupied rooms and dedicated full-time resources ensure the server-availability to run business-critical apps without any interruptions.

Over the years, we have seen a tremendous change in the way backend is managed today. Thanks to Cloud and DevOps! While Cloud technology transformed the way infrastructure is managed, DevOps brought changes in the way it is developed and deployed. Now, we no more need full-time administration of the infrastructure and several hours for its configuration.

DevOps brought along many concepts, terms and processes that help make software development efficient, secure and faster. And as we know, infrastructure is a crucial aspect of software development. One such concept that enabled the DevOps revolution is Infrastructure as Code (IAC). With Infrastructure as a Code, we can develop, deploy and manage the entire infrastructure more easily.

 

What is Infrastructure as Code?

According to the definition by Microsoft, “Infrastructure as Code is the management of infrastructure (networks, virtual machines, load balancers, and connection topology) in a descriptive model, using the same versioning as DevOps team uses for source code”.

Put simply, IAC is the practice of managing the infrastructure using code. It uses machine-readable files to configure and manage the required IT infrastructure. With IAC, you can treat your infrastructure just like you treat any other code.

 

Need for Infrastructure as Code (IAC)

Infrastructure as Code allows system administrators to automate the process of setting up and configuring a virtual machine using code. It offers a fast and repetitive procedure for replicating the entire process flow. This means, once you build a virtual environment using a piece of code to develop an application, you can repeat the process of creating that VM for deployment by running the same code.

IAC can be considered equal to scripting in terms of IT process automation. However, the problem with scripts is that they are often used to automate static steps without offering any flexibility for complex actions. This is not the case with IAC as it gives you the flexibility of code in a script-like environment. IAC allows you to know what kind of infrastructure is setup. Hence, instead of configuring a server farm manually, IAC code does it for you.

 

How Infrastructure as Code (IAC) Enables DevOps Best Practices?

DevOps is the combination of development and operations team aimed to reduce cycle time and ensure continuous delivery to the end-users. Not only this, but DevOps (increased deployment) also offers more opportunities to improve the application and learn from the errors. Infrastructure as Code uses automation and code implementation to set up and tear down of specific environment unlike traditional practice that involved humans managing VMs manually. This automation shortens cycle time making it easier to produce and deliver stable, tested platforms to host applications.

Another popular DevOps is Version Control. With this, large or distributed teams can effectively work together using a standard system. IaC makes the development environment, transparent and clear as part of the code making version control better. It frees the need to document everything for the end-user or developers to know. This way, IaC helps produce easier results with error-tracking and error-replication allowing faster turnaround.

Moreover, IaC stores all environment build-up commands in a repository allowing redeployment or faster roll back to the previous instance. This means that you no more need to spend time fixing a server. All you need to do is either look into the version history to restore a previous deployment or redeploy it with a working copy.

To make it short and simple, the 4 best practices of IaC include:

  • Manage infrastructure through source control to offer detailed audit tracks for modifications.
  • Testing the infrastructure for any flaws or errors using unit testing, integration testing, and functional testing.
  • Allow collaboration around infrastructure configuration and provisioning.
  • Avoid written documentation as the code itself will document the state of the machine.

It is not possible to practice Infrastructure as a Code (IaC) in DevOps workflows without using tools. Here are a few common yet powerful IaC tools:

Azure Resource Manager (ARM)

This tool helps users to provision infrastructure and manage dependencies in one cycle through ARM templates. The resources the template comprehend are described declaratively within JSON. This was you can declare several Azure resources in a single ARM template to set up the entire project environment. The fact that ARM templates are idempotent, the same template can be reused for an infinite number of times producing the same result every time. Moreover, all the builds of your template can be monitored visually using a VSTS dashboard.

AWS CloudFormation

The tool enables users to define templates that represent software stacks and deploy them automatically to cloud environments. For this, the templates use a human-readable format, which is easy to understand and can be used to check into version control. With this tool, users can spin up automatically anything from one EC2 machine to a complex application using several AWS services.

Puppet

This tool allows users to deploy huge cloud workloads that might contain over 20,000 Puppet nodes. The tool is ideal to be used in multiple public clouds, private cloud systems and hybrid cloud environments. It enables infrastructure automation with the use of a GUI and Domain Specific Language (DSL).

Terraform

This tool can be used in combination with other tools like Chef, or Puppet. Terraform takes its configuration files to create a deployment plan, which explains how to adapt the current infrastructure to reach the desired state. The prime responsibility of this tool is to manage the entire environment including storage, machines, and networking, DNS configurations and fine-grained application features.

Terraform Infrastructure as a Code

 

Benefits of Infrastructure as Code (IaC)

  • Improved system performance with assured risk prevention
  • Software delivery at high velocity
  • Safer and efficient change management
  • Scalability
  • Improves customer satisfaction.

The TakeAway

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) can help your organization deliver products at a faster rate and with more efficiency by improving the development environment. Setting up the Infrastructure as Code (IaC) environment, however, is not easy. You will need guidance from someone who has experience using the practice for software development and Softobiz can help you in this. Our DevOps team has helped many organizations understand the concept of IaC and use the approach to improved the software development process.

Want to know more about Infrastructure as a Code?

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