Infrastructure as Code | 4 Min Read

Introduction to AWS CloudFormation : Concept Benefits and Features

Increasing the number of production and delivery cycles, the use of Infrastructure as Code (IaC) activities has changed the way software engineers design, test, and release apps. Automation tools that promote these activities are necessary to make building and configuring infrastructure more competitive and effective, reducing the costs and effort involved.

Infrastructure as code allows DevOps teams to use technology to control and customize infrastructures, rather than manually configuring servers and operating systems. The modules can be stored in version control systems, and operator teams operate on them which provides greater accuracy, reduces errors, and reduces the time required. IaC is one of the most important DevOps practices used in continuous delivery.

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) is the automation of infrastructure provisioning and management using the principles and practices of software development. More 

The benefits that lead many businesses to migrate to IAC are Changeless infrastructure, Increased speed of delivery, Scalability, Cost savings, and Risk mitigation.

Why IaC on AWS ?

We can use IaC to set up AWS infrastructure. IaC makes it easier to spin up AWS infrastructure. Not only does it automate the implementation of infrastructure, but also improves the performance. There are many resources that can be used by a customer to set up the AWS infrastructure.

IaC on AWS CloudFormation

AWS CloudFormation is highly embedded and can only be used with AWS. The models for CloudFormation are written in YAML in addition to JSON. It offers a shared language for the description and provision in a cloud environment of all network resources.

CloudFormation uses Rollback Triggers to restore infrastructure stacks to a previously deployed state if errors are observed, to ensure that deployment and upgrading of infrastructure are achieved in a controlled manner.

It also allows for the treatment of infrastructures as code, authoring them with any code editor, and searching for any version control.

Features of AWS CloudFormation

Scalable

We can model and provision third-party application services alongside AWS resources using the AWS CloudFormation Registry. Monitoring, team productivity, incident management, and version control systems are examples of third party services. Using the AWS CloudFormation CLI, an open-source platform that streamlines the development process, including local test and code generation capabilities, we can create our own resource providers.

Automate with Best Practices

With CloudFormation, we can apply DevOps and GitOps best practices using widely used methods such as starting from a git repository and deploying through a CI/CD pipeline. We can also simplify auditing changes and trigger automated deployments with pipeline integrations such as GitHub Actions and AWS CodePipeline.

Controlled Environment

In a secure and managed way, CloudFormation automates the provisioning and upgrading of our infrastructure. Manual measures or controls that can lead to mistakes are not available. In order to specify the CloudWatch alarms that CloudFormation should control during the stack development and update process, we can use Rollback Triggers. CloudFormation rolls back the entire stack process to a previously deployed state if any of the alarms are activated.

Preview Changes

AWS CloudFormation Change Sets allow everyone to preview how the running resources can be impacted by proposed changes to a stack, for example, to verify whether our changes will remove or substitute any essential resources. Only after we decide to execute the Change Set does CloudFormation allow the modifications to our stack.

How does the AWS CloudFormation work ?

AWS CloudFormation allows underlying service calls to AWS to provision and customise the services as you construct a stack. Note that only the acts that you have permission to do can be done by AWS CloudFormation. For example, to create S3 buckets using AWS CloudFormation, you need a permission to create buckets. Similar permissions would be required to delete a S3 bucket.

To control permissions, you can use Identity and Access Management (IAM) from AWS. The calls that AWS CloudFormation makes are all declared by your template. For example, suppose you have a template that describes an S3 bucket with a static website hosting configurations. When you use that template to create a stack, AWS CloudFormation calls the Amazon S3 bucket, creates API and specifies the static web hosting configurations. The following diagram summarises the AWS CloudFormation workflow for creating stacks.

We can create an AWS CloudFormation template (a JSON or YAML-formatted document) in a text editor or we can use AWS CloudFormation Designer. We can also choose to use a provided template. The template describes the resources we want and their configurations. For example, suppose we want to create an EC2 instance. Our template can declare an EC2 instance and describe its properties.

AWSTemplateFormatVersion: '2010-09-09'
Description: A simple EC2 instance
Resources:
MyEC2Instance:
Type: AWS::EC2::Instance
Properties:
ImageId: ami-0ff8a91507f77f867
InstanceType: t1.micro

We can create a template and save it with any file extension like .json, .yaml, or .txt also. We can either save it locally or in S3 buckets.

We can build an AWS CloudFormation stack by specifying the location of the template file, such as a local machine path or Amazon S3 URL. If the template includes parameters, when we create the stack, we can define the input values. Parameters allow you to transfer values to your template so that each time you build a stack, you can customize your resources. By using the AWS CloudFormation console, API, or AWS CLI, you can build stacks.

Benefits of IaC on AWS CloudFormation

Visibility

IaC provides the services deployed in your account with easy visibility and what their configurations are. To search them, we do not need to log into the web console. In any editor, we can quickly review them.

Stability

If you unintentionally change the wrong settings or delete the wrong app from the Web Console, our architecture will be affected. Infrastructure as code, particularly when combined with source control management software, such as Git, helps us solve this.

Reusability

You only have to write code once with the infrastructure as code and you can use it several times. This ensures that multiple resources can be set up using a single design.

Speed

IaC delivers the cloud infrastructure at a rapid rate, so a developer will be able to quickly create new functionality that will improve the organization's productivity.

Conclusion

AWS CloudFormation is a foundational service that enables the use of AWS services to achieve their business outcomes. In this blog, We shared the rationale for selecting AWS CloudFormation to fasten its Infrastructure as Code (IaC) approach. And as often as we need to, instead of managing resources individually, we can manage and provision stacks across multiple AWS accounts and AWS Regions.

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