Infrastructure as a Code during Cloud and DevOps Era

Introduction:

Infrastructure as a Code (IAC) is the managing of infrastructure. It includes network, virtual machines, and data centres.

One of the more compelling aspects of modern enterprise architecture is the idea of Infrastructure as Code (IAC). By virtualizing entire data ecosystems, organizations gain the ability to design, provision and manage them completely in software, ushering in a new era of infrastructure flexibility and cost-efficiency. With the change in the cloud services provided to us, we have altered how we manage infrastructure and DevOps. Infrastructure is an integral part of software development. DevOps comprises of concepts, processes, and methods that contribute to speedy software development aiming efficient and secured systems.

Most of the organizations have adopted automation for the changing needs and customer expectations. With technological development, we can meet the challenges of new infrastructure, yet the challenge is creating well-functioning systems.

Infrastructure as a code manages the automated infrastructure. It takes care of the configuration of systems just as similar to the source code of the software, excluding a manual process. You need to set up machine-readable files to test and run the codes for automation of infrastructure.

Thoroughly tested infrastructure is result of source code management system, Test Driven Development- TDD, Continuous Integration-CI, and refactoring.

Efforts and repetitive tasks of managing operating system, servers, DB connections, storage, and infrastructure related activities eradicated from development, testing and deploying a software application. IAC ensures safe and competent change management across various devices, platforms, and systems.

"Infrastructure as a Code"

Why do we need Infrastructure as a code?

In the last few years, software development and its deliveries have changed. With changing customer expectations, the necessity to build quality software at high speed is adding to challenges.

The development, test, and production environments should be consistent to avoid the deployment issues. The server management and environment setup involves human power and is time-consuming and error prone.

Historically, we had to create the software, test it, and then deploy it on the physical server. The collaborative efforts of developers, testers, database administrators, and system administrators are must to deploy software. Due care is needed in load balancing, interlinking, and installing necessary packages to run the software.

Over a period, the cloud service providers like Google, IBM, and Amazon manage the infrastructure offering us scalability for our projects with hardware virtualization. DevOps has a tremendous effect on the way we manage infrastructure. An observation says there are lesser issues in faster deployments and frequent delivery.

It deals efficiently with the pain of managing IT infrastructure like waiting for the accurate setting of operating system and machine configuration, after which we could deploy the applications. The organization’s pain point is the cost of hired experts and managing them where IAC helps. We had to tolerate some discrepancies while manual deployment and configurations. To match the uninterrupted services of the market, earlier it was necessary to have strong backup servers and data centers as unavailability of application causes user upset.

What exactly is Infrastructure as a Code?

Infrastructure as a code is defining the files in machine-readable formats. A programmable infrastructure based on automated processes to make it IT-enabled process does not need manual check once the code is tested. IAC is useful for DevOps, cloud computing, and infrastructure as a service.

Relation of Infrastructure as a Code to DevOps:

The elementary function of DevOps is to achieve a faster release cycle and focus on maintaining quality. Essentially continuous integration (CI), continuous delivery (CD) and Infrastructure as Code (IAC) are the key practices of DevOps to automate the processes. The production and test environments need unassailable infrastructure components. IAC is a stipulation for implementing DevOps in an organization.

You can test the code immediately in the live environment; this is a relief for developers. It checks the compatibility of the code with existing codes so that the entire system functions flawlessly.

How does Infrastructure as a Code work?

The developer’s write codes for applications, and the set of instructions for configuration. They trigger actions from the virtualization environment, testing tools and database. A sequence of commands is an approach to achieve the result. It can also be useful throughout the delivery of a new code. The configuration manages its automatic test environment that contains a mirror image of an operational environment, database structure, and server for the application. The tools perform compliance tests of the new codes developed. It identifies the errors that can be resolved and then deployed to the live IT environment.

Benefits of Infrastructure as a Code:

  • No more needs longer hours of administration
  • Eliminates the need to manually manager servers  
  • Increases reliability and security of applications
  • Faster response to issues and removal of time-consuming processes
  • It accelerates software delivery life cycle at each stage
  • Improves quality of IT services and system performance
  • Brings consistency in IT environments
  • Better automation processes
  • Deploy multiple applications at high speed
  • Get rid of time-consuming traditional IT processes
  • Meet Corporate IT standards
  • Standardization is possible with a consistent set of instructions
  • Controls costs and reduce risks
  • Helps in budgeting and cost allocation
  • No more physical setup of hardware
  • No installation and configuration of operating system
  • Quality automation to meet business threats
  • Frequent testing of codes before deployment in the production environment
  • Scalability for organizations by virtualization of hardware
  • Streamlining development and deployment processes
  • Provisions for virtual servers or containers for developers
  • IAC prevents configuration drift by provisioning the same environment every time
  • Successively IAC helps in sustaining the intelligence within the organization by removing dependency on skilled engineers
  • Few developers can accomplish more quantity of work that earlier needed huge teams
  • Software application delivery improves with version control, reviews of programming and Infrastructure as a Code, and  tracking application history
  • Saves expenses on resources and operational costs
  • Cloud computing with IAC can drastically reduce costs
  • More budget for features that add value to the business
  • Faster deployment of tested codes and new infrastructure in a matter of minutes
  • Get complete traceability towards the changes in configuration and source code and its effect on the system
  • Saved from error prone to manual configurations and has lesser deviations from acceptable changes
  • Increased productivity of team
  • IT operations and department’s ability is enhanced thus we can expect timely actions concerning  IT Infrastructure
  • Reduced shadow IT saves organizations from unforeseen expenses
  • Improved customer satisfaction of internal customer of the IT department

These benefits encourage organizations to adopt Infrastructure as a Code, but strategy formation requires consideration of Benefits vs. Constraints.

Constraints in Infrastructure as a Code:

  • High level coding language is used to automate the IT Infrastructure
  • Availability of right skill set and latest tools
  • Learning and training both involve time
  • Costs of training the staff on new tools
  • Loss of time till the tools are looked upon as user-friendly
  • Clarity, planning efficiency and perfect execution are mandatory for better results
  • Define an infrastructure that allows implementation, configuration and operation of  IAC tools
  • Success of IAC completely depends on teamwork
  • Stay alert to avoid error replication due to flaws in IAC that generated codes
  • Human intervention for IAC audit is must, to stop the inefficient code being used by several machines
  • Provisioning of virtualized infrastructure is distracting, as developers need to repeat the request for provisions for every new deployment.
  • Lack of the tracking ability of the environment changes causes inconsistencies
  • Virtual Machines that run parallel can be very demanding hence the physical server should be powerful  and scalable
  • Manual or external updates can cause configuration drift that has the potential of fabricating substantial non-compliance or failure to serve the purpose
  • Unpredictable behavior of IAC tools can accidentally destroy the resources
  • IAC in automation pipeline can produce unwanted results

Best Practices for Infrastructure as a Code:

  • Prepare a single source of infrastructure specifications required in the configuration files to address all concerns.
  • This documentation is precise with all specifications, is in a logical sequence, and has versioning.
  • Create no other similar documents to avoid repetitive work and confusion.
  • Use testing and monitoring tools to monitor the performance of IAC and identification of inconsistencies

Tools to adopt Infrastructure as a Code:

Organizations can benefit from the usage of specialized tools that are reliable and reduce overhead costs. Few of such tools are:

  • AWS Cloud Formation
  • Azure Resource Manager Templates – ARM Templates
  • Ansible
  • Terraform  
  • Google Cloud Deployment Manager
  • Chef
  • Puppet
  • Saltstack
  • Docker

Outline:

Value addition happens with effective software development practices that support the businesses with the network designed to support the desired change. Ultimately, the businesses yearn for customer satisfaction. Expert skills raise the costs associated with Infrastructure as a Code. However, it gives additional time to developers for building unique, secured, and significant software solutions. IT experts now have qualitative work than quantitative work. Mainly, to establish thorough control architectures and configuration processes as per the expectations of set environments.

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