Infrastructure as Code (IaC): What It Is and How It Can Make Your Life Better2022-12-01 10:29:24
Many years of industry experience change how you look at infrastructure as code (IaC).
When trying to come up with an appropriate comparison, I found this perspective could be relevant. An IT specialist born in 1990 has a very different outlook on apps and tools available in 2022 than, let’s say, someone born in 2003.
Juniors may have heard how things were done before but never experienced them first-hand, so they only know the products of their time. In the DevOps world, however, it makes much sense to understand the essence of IaC.
Automation and development are now ubiquitous parts of our life. A newcomer to the DevOps world may encounter various statements about IaC when searching the nooks and crannies of the Internet.
Indeed, infrastructure as code is a vast topic that, once understood, makes life easier – especially in complex IT projects. So here’s what you need to know about IaC.
What is infrastructure as code?
In the early days, we often managed the infrastructure in rather complex ways. We also had to contact the server room people regularly and discuss relevant network connection issues.
We managed access through servers locked in the network without access to other elements. Well, manual installations were also very time-consuming. In hindsight, we can now see how cloud computing could have made it many times faster.
We now live in a world where human error and lack of between environments are to be levelled, while client applications should be scalable and highly available.
Infrastructure as a code (IaC) helps to achieve this goal by automatically managing and provisioning infrastructure through code instead of manual processes.
From easier maintenance to improved security and consistency in configurations, reduced risk and costs, and faster deployments – IaC benefits are plenty. Here’s how it works in practice.
Examples of IaC
Let’s say we have to create four infrastructurally identical client environments. We want to consider a full package of AWS-based components: EKS, RDS, DynamoDB, Lambda, GW API, SQS, SNS, S3, ElasticCache, OpenSearch, CodeArtifact, EC2, EFS, ALB, NLB, KMS.
Why so many? It will all become clear shortly. Manual tests and checks on different client accounts per environment can seem mission impossible. While possible, there’s no point in reinventing the wheel and doing it all manually.
Scaling manually configured environments is challenging. It’s the IaC element that makes their deployment quick and efficient.
The significance of IaC for DevOps teams
Implementing infrastructure with Terraform is an iterative process. You can implement all changes in code and track them in history. You can also check for differences in environments and, in case of any error, restore it to the desired state in the next run.
As a result, infrastructure as code helps you achieve consistency. With IaC, you can create code that you can use in many places and infrastructures and modify it for different needs and updates.
This feature makes infrastructure as code a key asset for DevOps teams. Working with IaC, they can develop a unified set of practices and tools to deliver applications and their infrastructure efficiently and reliably at scale. Moreover, it helps to include tests early in the development cycle and prevent common deployment issues.
A critical issue for business owners is that infrastructure costs can be much lower when appropriately used. You don’t have to spend time on deployment and administration; you can turn off environments or create them on demand.
On top of this, you can add CI/CD and fully automate infrastructure deployments – test the code after each component upload and then run and scale it. Again, structuring this process is up to your needs and imagination.
So now one vital question:
How do you implement infrastructure as code?
The key concept worth your attention here is workspaces, which enable separating the infrastructure state files. This step allows you to create consistent environments in the same or different regions.
The process consists of writing code, generating a plan describing the infrastructure, which can create, update or destroy resources, and then applying the changes to your account.
Here are some of the tools that make this process possible.
Popular IaC tools
Created by Hashicorp, Terraform is a versatile infrastructure provisioning tool. It uses its domain-specific language (DSL) called Hashicorp Configuration Language. By using HCL, you can create configuration files that describe the infrastructure resources to be deployed.
It seamlessly works with thousands of providers, which you can find in Terraform Registry.
#2: AWS Cloudformation
Like Terraform, AWS CloudFormation is also a configuration orchestrator enabling you to code the infrastructure to automate the servers and deployments. Unlike Terraform, though, it is deeply integrated into AWS and only works in Amazon environments.
Chef is a popular config management tool for continuous integration and delivery processes. Its DSL enables you to create “recipes” and “cookbooks”. Chef is cloud-agnostic and works with many providers, including AWS, Azure, GCP, and more.
Just like Chef, Puppet is another popular configuration management tool supporting the process of continuous software delivery. Puppet’s DSL lets you define the desired end state of your infrastructure and what you want it to do. In addition, puppet works with all major clouds and enables automation across multi-cloud.
Ansible is an infrastructure automation tool from Red Hat, the leading enterprise open-source provider. Ansible’s code is written in YAML in the form of Ansible Playbooks, so its configurations are very efficient to deploy.
Of course, there are many more great solutions for infrastructure management. All you have to do is pick the right ones for your needs and combine them with the right way of uploading applications. Again, the only limit here is your imagination.
IaC opens up new opportunities associated with infrastructure management: improving consistency and security, reducing errors, generating savings, and streamlining processes.
Automation is what makes this outstanding development possible. So let’s work together to push the envelope and create more automated solutions. IaC is a stepping stone to a brave new world of IT, so let’s take a chance and create something innovative!
Get in touch and let’s get the ball rolling!
About the author
Mateusz Grządzielski, almost 10 years of experience in IT. He’s worked at all tech support positions – from a specialist to a team leader now.
At Tenesys, he is in charge of the DevOps Engineers team, focusing on clients’ projects and the whole team’s good vibe. Besides the IT side, Mateusz is studying at Poznan Economic University and leading his own business.