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What is Infrastructure as Code?

Infrastructure as Code is a higher-level abstraction to write code/login in a high-level language that utilizes modules to perform tasks on the machine level. Infrastructure as Code involves code to provision, configure, and manage infrastructure. Use the right set of tools to describe the infrastructure on which the application deploys. It includes the specification of Virtual Machines, Storage, Software Stacks, Network Configurations, Security features, User Accounts, Access Control Limits, and so on. The description is done using the code in the declarative language depending on the tools using standard scripting languages to Domain-Specific Languages (DSL) provided by the tools.

IAC has the following characteristics -

  • Standard syntax.
  • Use built-in packages.
  • Better Config Management.
  • Version controlled.
  • Rollback to the previous state if things didn't work.
  • Idempotent, i.e., results in the same outcomes when run multiple times.

How Infrastructure as Code (IAC) Works?

The code should be written to describe the new machine's desired state. That code should run on the machine to converge it to the desired state. The code should execute to ensure the machine's desired state over time, always bringing it back to convergence. IAC helps IT operations teams to manage and provision IT infrastructure automatically through code without relying on manual processes. IAC is often described as “Programmable Infrastructure.”

DevOps writes down the application code plus configuration management related instructions to trigger actions from the virtualization and other environments like the database, appliances, testing tools, delivery tools, and more.

In new code delivery, the configuration management set of instructions automatically creates a new virtual test environment, application server, and database instance to exactly mirror the live operational environment structure, both regarding service packs and versioning as well as live data that transferred to such virtual test environment called Infrastructure as Code part of the process. Set of tools perform necessary compliance tests, error identification, and resolution. The new code ready for deployment to the live IT environment.


Infrastructure as Code enables DevOps teams to test applications in production-like environments early in the development cycle.

Source: What is IaC?


What are the Best practices of Infrastructure as Code?

Listed below are the best practices of Infrastructure as Code:
  1. Version control: Use version controls to maintain your configuration files.
  2. Document less as our code itself documents the machine's configuration, and our file works as a single source of truth. There is no need for more documentation.
  3. Continuous testing: Continuous testing is essential for DevOps, similarly, a constant test of the configuration file to save from post-deployment issues.
  4. Idempotency: This means whenever the code is executed, the output must be the same every time.

What are the Benefits of Implementing Infrastructure as Code?

IAC has the following benefits -

Standardization

  • A consistent set of instructions and standardization. Manual configurations are prone to errors—common standard rules & flows which all have to follow.
  • Knowledge Sharing is enabled. When infrastructure is documented using the code, it is hopefully relatively straightforward to understand.

Change Management is Easy/Version Control

  • Version controls the files which define infrastructure.
  • All benefits that Change Control offers application development made available for infrastructure management.
  • Rollback to the previous state if things go wrong.
  • Quick infra provision for dev/test or prod environment.
  • Improve customer satisfaction
  • Deliver quality service components within a short period, contributing to customer satisfaction.
  • Developer Mindset - While managing the infrastructure using the code and involving the application, developers can prompt a change in mindset.

Example -

  • How does the application deploy?
  • What are the ways to maintain application?
  • How are upgrades done?

Better Use of Time

While managing Infrastructure with code, offload all of the tedious, repetitive work to computers. And as a result, there is a reduction of inconsistencies, mistakes, incomplete work, and other human error forms.

Improved productivity

Sysadmin no longer performs manual configuration steps for infrastructure changes.

Improved reliability

The software is responsible for initiating infrastructure changes, so there is less human error.

Improve the CI/CD process

  • Continuous Integration (CI) involves merging code changes into a mainline branch multiple times per day.
  • Automate Continuous Delivery (CD) comprises regularly releases every time code is pushed to the mainline branch.
  • With IaC, set up a deployment pipeline that automates moving different versions of the application from one environment to the next.

Why Infrastructure as Code Matters?

  • Manually set up infrastructure using the visual console provided by Cloud Provider. For example, using the AWS console to launch VMs.
  • Use the CLI tool provided by a Cloud Provider. Example: AWS CLI
  • Instead of using a Cloud provider, manage your own Physical Machines or Virtual Machines. Write your own collection of configuration tools, management tools, deployment scripts, and so on.

A console is an excellent option using a Cloud provider to learn the ropes. But this quickly grows tiresome and error-prone if the whole setup is managed like this. There is usually no built-in change visibility. Remember what actions are taken, and document them for the rest of the team.

With IAC, define infra regarding logical steps in a declarative language (e.g., yaml) v& provision infrastructure using that & revert if things go wrong.


The Platform for the Automation of Cloud Native and IaC Tools for Effective Infrastructure Management. Source: NexaStack – Infrastructure as Code Platform for Cloud-Native

How to Adopt Infrastructure as Code?

  • DevOps should pick a tool that fits best in their environment. E.g., Ansible. Multiple machines configured with Ansible. Cloud has a dynamic infrastructure where software commands are used to create servers (often Virtual Machines), provision them, and tear them down.
  • Definition Files used to define Infrastructure. All configuration defined in executable configuration definition files, such as Shell Scripts, Ansible playbooks.
  • Document the Definition Files code & version all the things. Make small changes rather than batches: the more significant the infrastructure update, the higher it contains an error, the harder it to detect that error if several errors interact. Small updates make it easier to find the mistakes and are easier to revert.

Infrastructure as Code Best Practices

  • Codify everything - All infrastructure specifications explicitly coded in configuration files, such as AWS CloudFormation templates, Chef recipes, Ansible playbooks, etc.
  • Document as little as possible - Self Documentation of IaC code to eliminate additional instructions for IT employees to execute.
  • Maintain version control - These configuration files will be version-controlled. All configuration details are written in code.
  • Continuously test, integrate, and deploy - Continuous testing, integration, and deployment processes are great ways to manage all the infrastructure code changes. Testing should be rigorously applied to infrastructure configurations to ensure no post-deployment issues.
  • Make infrastructure code modular - Like Microservices, break down infrastructure into separate modules or stacks, then combine them in an automated fashion.
  • Make infrastructure immutable (when possible) - Avoid Snowflake Server state.

Get an Insight About " Hyper-Converged Infrastructure "

Infrastructure as Code Implementation Tools

All tools can be divided into two categories:
  1. Configuration Management Tools: Configuration management tools are designed to install and manage software.
  2. Configuration Orchestration Tools: Configuration orchestration tools are used to provision servers themselves.
They are both combined to form IAC tools. Engineers use IAC tools either to deploy new servers or configuration management of software and systems in Infrastructure. Below are the famous 5 Infrastructure as Code tools with a short note :

Ansible

  • Ansible is an open-source tool for DevOps used for provisioning and configures management. Uses SSH protocol to communicate with servers.
  • It uses the concept of playbooks. Playbooks are written in .yaml.
  • Ansible provides a variety of modules. Modules are the heart of Ansible, enabling it to perform Infrastructure operations.
  • Ansible is agentless, uses ssh to push changes to servers.

Terraform

  • Created by Hashicorps.
  • Terraform allows you to describe the end state of the Infrastructure.
  • You describe a DSL configuration called Hashicorp Configuration Language(HCL), JSON compatible.
  • Terraform is a popular tool used by the DevOps team to automate infrastructure tasks. This describes how our Infrastructure should look like. Single workflow can manage multiple clouds.
  • Allow you to write a terraform plugin that can add new functionality.

AWS CloudFormation

  • There are configuration orchestration tools, allowing you to automate infrastructure deployment.
  • Since AWS Cloud Formation is the most popular cloud platform, it provides an automated way to manage an individual's Infrastructure with the CloudFormation tool's help. CloudFormation is a tool by AWS to manage AWS resources effortlessly. Just define resources in a single file, and aws will create Infrastructure as described in a configuration file with a single click of a button.
  • The configuration file is known as a template, and templates can be written in YAML or JSON format.
  • Provides you with a roll-back strategy if any error occurs in the new deployment.
  • You can deploy a single template file on multiple user accounts and different regions.

Chef

  • The Chef is a popular IAC tool among CI/CD developers.
  • The plus point is that it supports Ruby-based DSL language.
  • It uses cookbooks and recipes to create configuration files. Single cookbooks perform a single task, but they can deliver configuration to multiple servers.

Puppet

  • Puppet is another popular IaC tool to manage configuration.
  • It uses DSL to define the desired end state of Infrastructure, and puppet will automatically create Infrastructure as you described and make changes to the incorrect statements.
  • It uses a declarative approach to describe your Infrastructure's desired state and is the main difference between puppet and chef.

Read about the 10 Best Infrastructure as Code (IaC) Tools to Boost Your Productivity

A Holistic Approach

Infrastructure as Code helps IT operations teams to maintain and provision IT infrastructure with automated code deployments. To Understand more about code management, we advise talking to our expert.

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