Infrastructure as Code means managing an operations environment in the same way you do applications or other code. Instead of making configuration changes manually or using scripts to make tweaks in Infrastructure, the operations infrastructure is managed instead using the same rules and structures that govern code development—particularly when new server instances are brought up.
Infrastructure includes- networks, virtual machines, load balancers, and connection topology.
This means applying Infrastructure as Code in DevOps in day-to-day practices such as version control, monitoring are applied to code that creates and manages your operations Infrastructure. That is Infrastructure is treated the same way as code is treated.
The basic principle is that admins/system engineers should not log in to machines and instead configure it from scratch they should be writing codes which would eventually do the job of setting it up to the desired state.
How Does IaC Work?
IAC tools can be basically divided into two categories. One who follows the imperative approach and others who follow the declarative approach.
The 'Imperative tools' comprises sequences of command that are executed in order, which eventually leads to a final result, i.e. Infrastructure is set up.
Example: Ansible playbooks, Terraform.
The 'Declarative tools' follow the 'end-goal' mechanism. Here we just define our end result that is required to implement Infrastructure as Code in DevOps, which is the infrastructure specifications, and the tool will give us our final result—no need to write a sequence of steps any more.
Example: AWS Elastic Container Service or EKS.
Is IAC Just Automation?
IaC is a concept that has more to it rather than just simple infrastructure automation. IAC involves applying DevOps best practices to automation scripts to ensure things are error-free, able to roll back in case of fault and also are able to rebuild on multiple servers.
Tools like Ansible or puppet can be used for the purpose, which just requires basic knowledge of coding techniques, and you're good to go.
Infrastructure as Code
As discussed above, Infrastructure as Code in DevOps is describing all software requirements, network settings and parameters in textual form. These texts act as manifest files which can be used by tools like Terraform or Ansible to automatically configure production level environments.
All the developers always work on the same project repository and finally integrate their code into it immediately after it has gone through several tests. This way, every new successfully tested code in DevOps Infrastructure as Code commit becomes a new product version and is ready for release in the market.
Tools like Gitlab CI, Jenkins, Ansible can be used for the purpose, and this shortens the delivery time up to 80%. Even these days, organizations release updates almost 100 times a day with the power of continuous integration.
Continuous delivery is the form workflow where the output of the previous stage in any SDLC becomes the input to the subsequent stage.
When the developers commit a new change to the code, this action automatically leads to the formation of a new build instance, where a new code version begins to pass the unit and integration tests. Continuous development is based on continuous integration and Infrastructure as Code (IAC) which leads to so-called "CI/CD pipelines".
Is IAC and CI/CD related to software development only?
To some, it might seem IAC and CI/CD contribute only to a software development life cycle, but there is more to that. Automation of routine infrastructure management also leads to minimizing the workload of DevOps engineers which is important for more productivity. DevOps culture is maximizing the output at every stage by automating things.
Best practices for Infrastructure as code
With the basics of Infrastructure as Code in DevOps understood now let's look at some of the best practices one should follow while implementing IAC.
Caution while extending IAC tools
As IAC makes deploying server infrastructure a very easy task for a DevOps engineer with the power of bringing up hundreds of instances at once, this can also cause damage if not done with caution.
Several cloud services like AWS, Microsoft Azure charge on the basis of instances /services being run on an hourly basis, computation they use. So Infrastructure should be set up by only a professional DevOps engineer who has a deep understanding of how Infrastructure works and is required according to need.
The stricter, the better
The more strict rules followed to set up Infrastructure as Code in DevOps, the less the chances of error. Be very specific about the infrastructure requirement, i.e. storage requirement, network bandwidth, number of instances required.
Also, it is very important to include application developers in a loop while setting up Infrastructure as they are the ones who know what exactly an application requires to be able to run smoothly.
Making code a single source of truth
Infrastructure specification must be specified in configurations files. These configuration files must act as a single source of truth for all Infrastructure related code.Version control of infrastructure specification files. All the configuration files should be maintained under the same source control.
Test and monitor your configurations
IAC is a code. All codes can be tested. By enabling testing and monitoring tools error and misconfigurations or inconsistencies in the servers can be checked before deploying them in the production environment.
IAC for business
With virtualized Infrastructure as Code in DevOps tools, environment provisioning becomes a rapid process. This shortening of the environment process leads to faster delivery, thus making the life of a Devops engineer easier.
Such is the power of Terraform and Kubernetes manifests alongside virtualized cloud environments which provide additional instances to work in no time. DevOps IAC leads to higher scalability, and instances can be scaled down as well according to requirement.
All the environment is provisioned using CI/CD pipelines, so there's hardly any room for human error. This ensures environmental uniformity throughout the DevOps Infrastructure as Code process.
Shorter Development Lifecycle
As setting up Infrastructure for a developer becomes a quick and easy task rather. So he will be able to develop more quickly new features according to customer feedback. Now the release of the new feature becomes a mere couple of weeks instead of a year which was the case earlier.
IaC has become an important and essential part of any DevOps environment with the power of making development and infrastructure management an easy job for a developer. Infrastructure as Code in DevOps not only will lead to quick development but also will ensure customer satisfaction, and eventually, the organization can expect huge profits if any organization has not yet implemented IAC into their culture. It's high time to do that.
The best to implement IAC is to set up a dedicated team of experienced DevOps engineers who are focused to bring a change to the whole development culture of the organization and understands how DevOps Infrastructure as Code can prove to be their best friend in need.
Navdeep Singh Gill
I am the Chief Architect of Nexastack and have experience in leading the technical & cross functional teams as well as deep hands-on experience through all phases of an engagement i.e. strategy, conceptual design, proof of concept, detailed architectural design, implementation, end-to-end-delivery, production integration, change management and solutions improvisation / migration.
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