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Introduction to Infrastructure as a Code Benefits, Approaches, and Best Practices

We often use the word infrastructure synonymous with a process or a system. Infrastructure is a core principle and guideline of the software development process. Besides, it provisions for a stable operation of an application. Infrastructure as code encompasses: 

  • Load balancers 
  • Firewalls 
  • Databases 
  • Security system 
  • Complex container clusters, etc.  

The concept behind infrastructure as code (IaC) originated from infrastructure considerations. But, these considerations cross the horizons of the production environment. They range all the way to the complete development process, and their complexity level increases with an increase in software products. These considerations include tools, methods, and platforms such as: 

  • CI/CD platforms 
  • Staging platforms and environments 
  • Testing kits and other relevant tools   

What is Infrastructure as Code? 

For the longest period, the traditional approach was used by organizations to manage infrastructure manually. But that rapidly became an unscalable, unreliable, and unstable solution to meet the requirements of DevOps-based software development cycles. Also, demand for an automated infrastructure gave birth to Infrastructure as a Code. It soon became the de-facto solution for development, and it still works just as impressive.  

Also known as IaC, Infrastructure as Code is a common practice in the software development industry that codifies, manages, and provisions for IT infrastructure. It is similar to a programming script that fulfills infrastructure change demands. The modern IaC solution is scalable and trackable.     

Purpose of IaC 

IaC enables developers, engineers, and operations teams to automatically manage and track resources instead of manually configuring hardware devices and operating systems. The IaC framework is the programmable and software-defined, and bound infrastructure. It automates the IT process and script. The programming script of IaC automates recurrent static steps across multiple servers. Besides, it also uses descriptive and higher-level language for coding scalable, trackable, and adaptive provisioning and deployment methods.  

For example, IaC can install, verify, and validate the MySQL server. It can also create a user account with a password, configure new data centers and eliminate unnecessary databases. 

The automated IaC acts as a software design practice. DevOps teams can monitor and control code versions, test iterations, and confine deployment until the software is validated or proven for production.  

Approaches of Infrastructure as Code 

IaC tools involve two different approaches or models for programming or writing the code. These two models are:  

  1. Declarative approach: The approach requires users only to mention and define the end requirements and demands along with preferred tools or platforms to handle the steps needed to achieve the specified requirement.  
  2. Imperative approach: Whereas this approach requires the users to specify the exact steps needed to achieve the change, the system is not allowed to deviate from the specifications. It is more of an elaborate and stricter approach.  

In most cases, the declarative approach takes precedence over the imperative model because it offers more flexibility, scalability, and freedom in managing infrastructure.  

Benefits of infrastructure as code  

  • Infrastructure deployment  

IaC solves problems for provisions of new environments and infrastructures with the help of IaC configuration code. It makes the deployment of new infrastructure easy and repeatable. 

  • Easy deployment and scalability 

Manual handling and configuration of environments are unscalable at times. But IaC provisions help to scale and deploy new environments quickly.  

  • Easy to track changes  

IaC infrastructure allows developers to make changes within the existing infrastructure with the help of a programming script or code. And these changes are easy to monitor, track, and examine. 

  • Detect and remedy environmental drifts 

Using a declarative approach helps identify and correct the environment drift. In case of manual modification of the infrastructure outside of its code, it returns to the line according to the desired environment on the next run. 

  • Recurrent changes  

IaC is capable of undergoing several and repeated changes without affecting the results after the initial application. This property is called idempotence.  

  • Eliminate error 

Manual configuration in the traditional manner often results in mistakes owing to human error. Since IaC is automated, it doesn’t lead to repeated errors because of human intervention. 

  • Consistency 

Infrastructure as code allows businesses to be consistent across all environments since the codes are reusable. 

  • Low cost 

IaC incurs a lower cost on infrastructure as compared to manual handling. Because the time for deployment, the effort for management, administration, and environment maintenance decreases subsequently. 

  • CI/CD pipelines 

IaC is an excellent tool for CI/CD pipelines. It allows continuous integration and deployment because of automated infrastructural deployment. 

  • Testing  

Moreover, IaC allows DevOps teams to test applications in production-like environments in the initial phases of development cycles.  

  • Same repository  

You have a common repository for holding your version control system and application source code for infrastructure configuration code. The repository contains everything together. When the control version and application code are present in the same repository, it gains the benefits of VCS.  

  • Increased productivity 

As a result of all the benefits and elements mentioned above for using infrastructure as code, the collective productivity of the system increases. 

IaC and DevOps  

  • Provisioning tasks 

IaC and DevOps go hand in hand. It is integral to DevOps services and the CI/CD interface. IaC makes the job easier for developers by removing most provisioning tasks. On the other hand, developers can work on their script execution to get the infrastructure ready and set up. It makes the application deployment process effortless and less time-consuming since it isn’t held up for a long while waiting for sysadmins.  

CI/CD

CI/CD depends on automation and continuous monitoring in the entire application lifecycle across all phases from integration to deployment. But, the environment has to be consistent for automation to work. Deployment automation does not work well in the presence of two contrasting approaches.

If the development team configures the environment and the operations team deploys another way, it will not facilitate automated deployment. Therefore, when the development and operations teams get on board, they align through DevOps, resulting in fewer mistakes, manual deployments, and consequently decreased inconsistencies. 

Apart from that, infrastructure as code helps in the integration of the two teams by using the same description for deployment purposes. Thus, IaC supports DevOps infrastructure.  

Application deployment  

There should be a standardized and universal deployment process for every environment. The production environment follows the same rule. IaC enables a standardized and same environment every time for deployment.

Also, IaC eliminates maintenance tasks for individual deployment environments to ensure consistency in the production environment. It does so with the help of unique configurations that cannot replicate automatically.  

Infrastructure in IaC  

Some of the best DevOps practices are also applicable to infrastructure in IaC. The infrastructure goes through the same process and CI/CD pipelines during the software development process. Therefore, one can apply the same testing and version control guidelines to the infrastructure code.    

IaC practices 

Following are some of the most prevalent and best practices of infrastructure as code in the tech industry. 

  • Little or zero documentation

While configuring files, there is no need for additional documentation that does not stand at par with configurations. Configurations only require defining specific rules, parameters, and requirements.   

  • Version control

Version control all your configuration documents and files by placing them under the control of the original source. However, version controlling while handling technology is beneficial for giving high flexibility and accountability.

Moreover, it ensures that there is enough monitoring, control, and restoration of previous manifests.  

  • Constant testing and configurations

Environments require constant testing and control before considering and implementing changes to the output. You can also do automated testing, provided the configuration code frequently changes to save time.  

  • Modular approach

This practice dictates that you can divide the infrastructure into components and then integrate them using automation. The division and segmentation of infrastructure are beneficial in restricting and confining the modifications to the manifests.  

Conclusion

Lastly, infrastructure as code is a practice of automating the infrastructure using codes. It is a beneficial cloud solution that pays dividends and enables the DevOps solutions teams to be more consistent. Also, it helps to deliver more and better while being agile and time-saving.

Additionally, it incurs fewer costs. Therefore, all you need to do is select the right IaC tool and platform for the team. It could be a tedious task because there are abundant options available. Always weigh the pros and cons of each platform and tool, along with assessing your requirements and available skillset.  

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Sania Khan

Sania Khan, is a content writer who has been writing for past 7 years. A content marketer by day and a poet by night, she previously worked for a large multinational and left it to pursue her passion for writing. She enjoys a good read with wit and tea to get her day started!