Infrastructure as Code | 4 Min Read

Infrastructure as Code and Containers: Better Together

With the rise of microservice architecture, Docker as a containerization tool has gained immense popularity with time. Docker is a tool that uses the idea of running an application packaged with its dependencies that can be run wherever you want with the isolation of infrastructure resources, thereby enhancing resource utilization.

"Infrastructure as Code(IaC)," as the name suggests, is all about managing the infrastructure through Code which can be versioned through any version control system like GitHub for backtracking and reliability for a better continuous delivery practice. We have seen various tools like terraform enabling the team to configure the infrastructure and allow container-related cloud stack like AWS ECS or Azure AKS to be deployed and managed efficiently. 

So in this blog, we will be going through what is IaC, what is the need for IaC, and when it comes to Docker, what do we have in store to achieve the IaC process to make handling of containerization technology efficient.

IaC processes can be used with various infrastructure types -- it can be a bare metal setup or a VM set up, or even a Kubernetes cluster. It gives you more control over the implementation & design, and configuration of the infrastructure that supports our applications with better efficiency.

Previously, teams had to maintain the configurations of deployment environments manually. Each environment had to be set up with a unique configuration on a manual basis which led to inconsistency in the configuration setup and maintenance of the infrastructure which, as a result, contributed to errors that were hard to track.

Infrastructure as Code was thus introduced and evolved to solve this problem in the release pipeline with reliability.

Quick Introduction to Infrastructure as Code

Infrastructure as Code is a provisioning & managing infrastructure like ECS, AKS, VPC, etc with configuration files. It allows us to treat infrastructure configuration and provisioning just like we handle application code that allows us to version Code in any popular SCM and easily take advantage of CI/CD.

Previously, infrastructure management & configuration was done manually. Each environment has its unique configuration that was configured manually that ultimately led to several problems like: 

  1. Cost, as you have to hire many professionals for management and maintenance of infrastructure. 
  2. Scaling, as manual configuration of infrastructure tasks, is time-consuming, often making you struggle to meet spikes on request.
  3. Inconsistency because the manual configuration of infrastructure is error-prone. When several people configure, errors are unavoidable.

Whereas through IaC, you can achieve the following:

  1. Speed & Simplicity: IaC deploys the entire infrastructure by just running a script.
  2. Consistency: Everything is defined as a code that leads to less error as compared to manual configuration.
  3. Risk minimization: It allows many people to work on a given infrastructure configuration and management with better sync.
  4. Cost Minimization: It will enable you to spend less time on repetitive infrastructure deployment work and focus more on higher-value tasks.
  5. Reusability: It enhances reusability with very few changes.
  6. Process automation: It allows the automation of the complete process from setup to removal as a part of the continuous delivery process.

Infrastructure as Code and Containers: Why are they Better Together?

Now that we have understood Infrastructure as Code let us see how IaC and Containerization make a good pair for adoption.

Firstly, when we think of a container at a glance, we have thought of a self-contained application having its Code & dependencies like a library in it that can run on a different environment or platform on a PC or a cluster any cloud platform. Expecting that the containers will reciprocate the same results even when there is a change in the underlying platform on which they are running is almost somewhere true. But, when you try to run your container image, the container and the configurations of the environment where the container is being set up come into the picture that can be related to auto-scaling or monitoring. This gets us to a point where we get to know that it is not only the container image that matters but the configuration of the underlying platform or required environment also matters. For that, we are required to configure a container orchestration service like ECS or k8s on the go to make the pod/container work in the similar way as it is supposed to whether it is running locally or on any cloud platform. The configuration plays an important role in running your app and taking your application to the next level by using various services like load balancers or CDN(content delivery network) or DNS entries, etc.

When it comes to the deployment of applications, it can only be best described when container image configuration and IaC code for configuring the environment are being used as needed. Some of the container application package managers like Helm gain popularity as they pack application container images with templates that can be used dynamically as per the requirement. It saves us from repeatedly creating the same yaml files and deploying each application manually. A helm chart deploys a given container with its dependent resources on the cluster for you with ease, ensuring efficiency & reliability because it contains various k8s resources that are required to form an application & also allow you to customize the configuration of your application & dependencies by modifying values.yaml for different environments or different configuration files for different environments can be set & deployed which is a very crucial part of application deployment because when we deploy a container in different environments, even a slight misconfiguration may lead to a bigger impact on the working of the container.

Let's take an example where you are deploying an application, my app in multiple environments, and running the container of application; you have configured the Dev & Prod environments manually. Unfortunately, you made a slight misconfiguration while setting up the health check config in prod. 

As a result, this misconfiguration leads to the crashing of containers in the Prod environment. Even this slight misconfiguration could leave a significant impact on the performance of the container. This is where IaC comes into the picture. It is recommended to use Infrastructure as Code to set the required configurations of the environment to reduce these kinds of misconfigurations and errors to enhance performance.

The best practice for incorporating modern application development is to use containerization with IaC for configuration setup and maintenance. Not only will it lead to efficiency, but it is also essential for programmer's productivity and faster release cycles. Using the IaC with containers for the setup & maintenance will remove the complexity and error proneness and lead to a quicker release cycle through the usage of CI/CD tools. 

Conclusion

In this blog, we have walked through IaC, its benefits, and how IaC can benefit from containerized applications' setup and maintenance. Microservice architecture brings the IaC into the development concept as a core component. Organizations like AWS have embraced these as a best practice to work with the microservice architecture.

IaC with containers will make the release cycle faster & efficient and allow you to devote your time to more productive tasks by reducing indulgence into repetitive tasks & manual misconfiguration errors. It will also ensure the reliability and streamlining of development & support for a better experience for the user.

 

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