Infrastructure As Code: A DevOps Way To Manage IT Infrastructure


July 8, 2019


April 27th, 2023

Category Blog, DevOps

Just a few years ago, the server used to occupy rooms and floors.

Dedicated full-time resources were required to manage servers and their availability 24*7 to run a business without any trouble. That was the time when system administrators had to ensure the server availability to run business-critical apps smoothly.

Over the years, backend management has changed fundamentally.

Server management no longer requires full-time administration and several hours to configure it, thanks to the cloud and DevOps.

Today, cloud providers have changed the way we manage infrastructure and DevOps has changed the way we develop and deploy software. These two revolutionary concepts brought some significant changes in software development space.

DevOps consists of many terms, processes, methods, and concepts that are dedicated to making software development faster, efficient, and secure. Automation remains at the core of the DevOps philosophy, eliminating manual processes and introducing smarter tools to enable frequent delivery pipeline.

Infrastructure is an integral part of the software development that acts as a backbone for the whole system.

Here, in this post, we are talking about one such revolutionary topic, Infrastructure as Code (IAC) to make you understand software-defined infrastructure.

Note: This topic is closely associated with DevOps and cloud computing. In case, if you are unaware of the role of cloud and DevOps in modern software development, here are some blogs to refer.

What Is Infrastructure As Code (IaC) And How IaC Is Related To DevOps?

Infrastructure As A Code

Put simply, Infrastructure As Code (IAC) is a concept that represents modern practices of managing infrastructure (data servers, storage, and networking requirement).

As its name suggests, it treats infrastructure setup as code rather than a manual process to configure hardware and systems. It is the management of infrastructure using the code, i.e., you can use machine-readable files to set up required IT infrastructure to test and run your code.

How Infrastructure As Code (IaC) Is Related To DevOps:

As CI/CD, IaC is considered as one of the key practices of DevOps.

Continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) are essential practices of DevOps that automate the processes and create a faster release cycle.

The fundamental purpose of DevOps is to achieve agility in development while staying focused on product quality.

When we talk about a faster release cycle, there is always a need for faultless infrastructure components that can facilitate provisioning required test and production environment.

Just like continuous integration and delivery, this concept automates the process of setting up infrastructure components to increase software release speed.

Simplifying this, Infrastructure As Code is one of the prerequisites for DevOps implementation in your organization and it treats IT infrastructure as software.

Why There Is A Need To Treat Infrastructure As Code?

Here are some points worth paying attention to:

  • A few years ago, software development and delivery were totally different
  • A software is built and tested and then deployed on a physical server along with necessary requirements to run that particular software.
  • There were different roles like system administrator, database administrator, developer, tester – all needed to work in harmony to deploy software on the production environment.
  • Different environments for development, test, and production must be consistent to avoid any issues during deployment.
  • Often, they needed to take care of version control, time zone, load balancing, interlinking, installment of necessary software packages, and other settings.
  • This whole server management and environment set up would require lots of hours and there would be chances of human errors that would impact the live environment, resulting in errors and slower deployments.
Now, the other two aspects to consider before we finally understand the purpose behind IaC:

Over the years, the cloud has promoted ‘hardware virtualization’, in which you don’t need to manage infrastructure, instead, cloud providers like Amazon, Google, and IBM manage your infrastructure and offer flexibility and scalability.

The other concept that has changed the way infrastructure is managed is DevOps. Due to frequent delivery and faster deployment, manual way of managing infrastructure often resulted in troubles and therefore, slower deployments.

With IaC, you can deploy faster with reliability because there is no need to manually handle and reflect the state of your infrastructure in various environments.

A number of tools are available to adopt IaC and organizations who have adopted it, found it beneficial. It drastically reduces the overhead and significantly contributes to faster software delivery.

What Are The Benefits Of Infrastructure As Code?

IaC is closely related to DevOps. Hence, organizations who are using DevOps As A Service in their development environment, IaC offers great benefits.

IaC is also used to represent the process of cloud implementation of the physical environment. (refer to this article here)

The Major Benefits Of Using Infrastructure As Code Are:
  • Improved system performance: IaC assures risk prevention by providing timely awareness on concerning areas. Also, it ensures compliance and safety of IT infrastructure along with the faster response to issue/requirements.
  • Speed: In today’s time, the speed at which software is delivered/upgraded rated as one of the significant factors behind the success. Infrastructure as code enables software delivery at high velocity by fulfilling all IT related requirements.
  • Change management: Before you deploy software on the production environment, the code is frequently altered and tested. IaC ensures safer and efficient change management within various devices, platforms, and systems.
  • Scalable infrastructure: It offers organizations a great benefit of scalability. Virtualization of hardware makes it easy to add additional resources, replacing those, and scaling whenever required.
  • Overall customer satisfaction: Apart from saving your cost and time, it ultimately improves customer satisfaction due to the ability to deliver faster services at affordable costs.

Also, this method makes DevOps adoption easier by streamlining development and deployment processes.

Teams who implement IaC can deliver stable environments rapidly and at scale. Teams avoid manual configuration of environments and enforce consistency by representing the desired state of their environments via code. Infrastructure deployments with IaC are repeatable and prevent runtime issues caused by configuration drift or missing dependencies. DevOps teams can work together with a unified set of practices and tools to deliver applications and their supporting infrastructure rapidly, reliably, and at scale.

– Sam Guckenheimer,  Chief Customer Advocate,  Microsoft Azure DevOps team

How You Can Implement IaC? What Are The Best Tools of Infrastructure As Code?

Here are some best tools through which you can implement provision infrastructure in your organization:

  • AWS CloudFormation
  • Azure Resource Manager(ARM Templates)
  • Terraform – open-source IaC tool
  • Google Cloud Deployment Manager
  • Chef – popular IaC tool
  • Ansible – popular configuration management tool

Some of the tools are powered by giant cloud providers and some of them belong to DevOps tools providers.

As this is quite a new concept, there are some challenges also:

What Are The Challenges Of Infrastructure As Code?

Here are some challenges of IaC that are roadblocks in IaC adoption:

  • It requires new skills to use tools
  • Risk of outside intervention after set up leads to trouble
  • Require humans to audit whole IaC setup periodically
  • This concept requires efficient planning and faultless execution to achieve results
  • Collaboration is a crucial trait to implement this concept
  • Required a unified approach to adopt Infrastructure as code

So, Is Adopting Infrastructure As Code Better For Your Organization?

Adopting IaC results in less complexity and faster set up. And it is also true that you are not going to set up a server the way it was maintained years ago. With the rise of DevOps and cloud computing, IaC can offer great benefits of consistency and reliability to the organization but it still depends on the requirements and the right skill set.

Switching to IaC requires efficient change management from scratch and knowledge to use tools. You can strategically plan this kind of tech stack and capitalize on it to improve business performance. There is a variety of tools available to help you adopt IaC with the right mindset and skills.

Are you going to level up your IT infrastructure with IaC?

Let us know via comments below.

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