A Complete Guide on Infrastructure as Code

March 23, 2021
A Brief Explanation About What is Infrastructure as Code

Managing infrastructure used to be a tedious task in the past. System admins had to manually configure and manage all of the software and hardware required for applications to function. However, events have changed dramatically in recent years.

Trends such as cloud computing have improved and revolutionized the way companies design, build, and manage their IT infrastructure. One of the critical elements of this trend is known as Infrastructure as Code and that is what we will explore today.

What is Infrastructure as Code?

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) refers to the body of tools, practices, processes, and standards used to manage, configure, and provision computer infrastructure through code and various machine-readable files.

IaC is one method to raise the quality of infrastructure management and deployment time. By utilizing a range of processes, protocols, languages, and tools, Infrastructure as Code can safely establish and configure infrastructure components in the blink of an eye.

How does Infrastructure as Code work?

The concept of Infrastructure as Code can be broken down from a complex level into 3 basic steps:

  1. The infrastructure specification is written by the developers in a domain-specific language.
  2. The resulting files are transferred to a code repository, a management API, or a master server.
  3. The system takes every required step to establish and configure the computer resources.

Types of Infrastructure as Code

Developers have the option to choose from four main types of Infrastructure as Code:

  1. Scripting

    This is the most direct approach to Infrastructure as Code. The execution of one-off, short, or simple tasks is best carried out with Ad hoc scripts. It is, however, recommended to adopt a better-specialized software for complex setups.

  2. Configuration as code

    Also known as configuration management tools, these are specialized tools that are used to manage software. Usually, they focus on the installation and configuration of servers. Some examples of these tools include Ansible, Puppet, and Chef.

  3. Tools for provisioning

    Provisioning tools center on the creation of infrastructure. Developers are able to determine accurate infrastructure elements by utilizing these types of tools. OpenStack Heat, CloudFormation, AWS, and Terraform are all examples of provisioning tools.

  4. Templating and container tools

    The essence of these tools is to generate images or templates pre-loaded with all the components and libraries necessary for an application to run. It is easy to distribute containerized workloads; and they feature much lower overhead compared to running a full-scale server. Some examples include Packer, Vagrant, rkt, and Docker.

What are the advantages of Infrastructure as Code?

Any company that uses Infrastructure as Code could experience some or all of the following benefits:

  • Reusability

    Infrastructure as Code allows for the easy creation of reusable modules; for instance, to replicate production and development environments.

  • Agility

    Thanks to DevOps, software delivery has become more efficient and Infrastructure as Code adds agility to the area of infrastructure management.

  • Consistency

    The ability to launch identical infrastructure all through the board, avoid one-off configurations and edge-cases.

  • Documentation

    The infrastructure code acts as believable documentation of the real condition of the infrastructure.

  • Source control

    Code can be inspected in source control for better accountability and transparency.

  • Speed

    The avoidance of manual intervention makes infrastructure deployments safe and quick.

  • Increased efficiency throughout the entire software development process

    With a code-based approach, it becomes easier to achieve more in less time. There is no cause to wait for the IT Admin to complete the task at hand manually before they can move to the next one.

    Infrastructure as Code also enables the organization to utilize Continuous Deployment strategies and Continuous Integration while reducing the presence of human mistakes following the development phase.

  • Cost-effectiveness

    The automation of the infrastructure deployment procedure makes it possible for engineers to spend less time doing manual tasks, and more time performing higher-value activities. As a result of this increased productivity, your organization can save funds on engineers’ salaries and costs of hiring.

Some best practices to use to achieve the best out of your IaC strategy

  1. Let code be your only source of truth

    Be sure to explicitly code every single infrastructure specification in the configuration files. Make your configuration files the only source of truth for every area of your infrastructure management issues.

  2. Edition manage every of your configuration files

    This is probably straightforward, regardless commit every of your configuration files under source control.

  3. Make use of few documents (or even none) for your company’s infrastructure specifications

    The essence of this is the logical impact of the first one. Having said that your configuration files should be made you only source of truth, additional documentation is no longer needed and should be avoided. It is quite easy for external configurations to move out of sync with the actual configurations, although that would not occur with the configuration files.

  4. Test and track your configurations

    Infrastructure as Code is a code, and this means that it can be tested just like every other code. So make sure you test it! By utilizing testing and tracking tools for Infrastructure as Code, you can inspect for inconsistencies and errors in your servers before deploying them into production.

  5. Codify all your infrastructure specifications

    There would be no IaC without the “code” aspect. Ensure all your infrastructure specifications are explicitly coded in configuration files, like Ansible playbooks, Chef recipes, AWS CloudFormation templates, or whichever IaC tool you are utilizing.

  6. Keep a modular infrastructure code

    It’s a brilliant concept to disintegrate your infrastructure into different stacks or modules, then integrate them in an automated manner. One good advantage of this practice is that modular infrastructure naturally reduces the number of modifications that can be affected to the configuration. Smaller modifications make it easier to detect bugs, consequently allowing your team to have increased agility.

  7. When possible, ensure your infrastructure is immutable.

    The concept behind an immutable infrastructure is that components of IT infrastructure are substituted for every deployment, rather than being changed in-place. It is possible for you to write and initiate code for an infrastructure module once, utilize it a number of times, and never make changes to it.

    In case you have to make modifications to your configuration, you would simply breakdown that module and construct a new stack from scratch. Having an immutable infrastructure brings consistency, improves security, prevents configuration drifts, and makes it easier to troubleshoot because of the absence of configuration edits.

Infrastructure as Code vs. Platform as Code

Infrastructure as Code is all about the provisioning and managing of infrastructure through software, as opposed to physical hardware configuration and/or other tools. IaC enables you to write declarative commands about network, storage, and compute conditions for the infra and deploy it.

The automation system – tools such as Terraform and Cloud Formation – will then help you to provision it by capturing code/declaration via an abstracted IaaS API.

On the other hand, Platform as Code (PaC) is an identical abstraction of the platform strata. PaC enables you to make declarative commands about the platform strata – including the Operating System and other tools that are necessary for the operations and development of your application – to code and deploy it.

In other words, Platform as Code enables developers to create their personal platform: meaning they have a customized deployment setting for your application. This could be a separate environment for every application, whatever number they are.

If your platform is Kubernetes, you have the ability to write YAML declarative instructions for your platform components just as you would do for your application code.

Unlike Infrastructure as Code, Platform as Code is executed via abstractions as Kubernetes API extensions rather than writing wrappers over k8s APIs. Hence, Platform as Code abstractions become premium entities, enabling developers to utilize YAML and kubectl to make declarations.

It goes without saying that savings in energy and time would be resulting from automation. However, the actual value of Platform as Code on Kubernetes is that there will be control and repeatability even as developers are building custom platform modules for their k8s cluster.

Platform as Code in itself has provided repeatable, consistent, efficient delivery of business applications at scale.

Final Thoughts

In all, it is pertinent to understand that Infrastructure as Code(1) will not only simplify your infrastructure provisioning process but also accelerate it. Infrastructure as Code offers so many benefits from simplicity and consistency to speed of deployment.

IaC will assist you to be compliant with policies, avoid errors, save your organization a lot of resources (both time and money), and maintain your consistent environment. By following the IaC strategy best practices outlined above, you are sure to experience the best results from your IaC deployments.

Infrastructure as Code allows engineers to be more efficient by concentrating on higher-value projects. And this will help you to serve your customers better. If you are yet to implement IaC in your business processes, then it’s time you started. Contact us at Inventive IT to help you develop your infrastructure environment today.

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