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A Guide to Infrastructure as Code (IaC)

July 20, 2020

Unless you are well-versed in IT terms and concepts, it can be difficult to understand both the needs of your company and what resources are available to help support your technology and security needs. One of the most recent advancements in IT that you may be coming across during your research is infrastructure as code or IaC. This new approach to infrastructure allows businesses to manage software, hardware, and other network tools without having to manually configure and monitor the different components. Automating infrastructure through code allows for faster innovation and development. In this post, we will explore the ins and outs of infrastructure as code (IaC) so that you can clearly understand what it is, how it works, and why it might benefit your business.

Why was Infrastructure as Code Invented?

As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. Before the advent of infrastructure as code (IaC), IT professionals had to spend valuable time manually configuring servers. This could be a complicated process that required countless steps and a team of professionals. Even with all this manpower working to correctly set up the operating system and applications, it was all too common to run into problems. Once the system was in place, constant maintenance was the next task. All of this came at quite a cost.

In addition, this approach presented challenges when it came to both scalability and availability. If there was a spike in demand and an unexpectedly high number of users were trying to access an application at the same time, there would be major slowdowns and the application could be completely unavailable. IT technicians would have to scramble to manage varying loads. This left little room for scalability, which is essential for businesses that want to support growth.

In response to these challenges, infrastructure as code (IaC) was invented. This method allows businesses to use cloud computing technology and to configure their infrastructure using a code file. Not only does this make it easy to automate actions, but it also creates a source file that can be easily edited and distributed for a more agile and responsive system.

Types of IaC

With IaC, there are a few different approaches you can take to automate your infrastructure:

Declarative – This type of IaC allows you to say what you want to happen and the system will figure out the steps needed to achieve those results.

Imperative – This approach focuses on how and requires you to list the commands you want to be run in order to create the right resources.

Many find that the declarative method is more manageable and user friendly, but it does hand over control of how changes are made. The imperative approach is more flexible and better equipped to handle complexities. Both approaches are effective and oftentimes, the right choice depends on the preferences of the developer.  

Benefits of infrastructure as code (IaC)

1.   Speed

Configuring your entire infrastructure, in all environments, simply requires running a script. This significantly increases the speed at which businesses can develop and deploy software solutions.

2.   Consistent Performance

With manual infrastructure, there is plenty of room for human error. This is especially true if multiple people are working on the same project. With a single source code file, you can avoid discrepancies and consistently deploy configurations.

3.   Traceability

With an IaC source file, you can trace exactly what changes are made and who made them. This also helps with accountability among your team members.

4.   Cost Effective

With infrastructure as code, you don’t have to spend money on installing and maintaining hardware and keeping an entire IT management team on the payroll. This dramatically reduces costs while simultaneously providing your team members with more time to focus on the core issues that are important to driving the business forward. You can be spending less while also earning more from new opportunities.

Potential Cons of IaC

While IaC provides businesses and IT departments with a valuable automation tool, it isn’t a perfect solution. There are some potential cons to be aware of as you consider implementing IaC into your business model.

  • As you might imagine, IaC requires a good bit of coding. This code may need to be updated as new software is released. It is important to have a dedicated professional on staff to handle these challenges.
  • When there is a failure at some point in the execution, it may be difficult to restart from the exact point of failure. However, you can always start again from scratch. While this may take a moment, it is still much faster than manually tackling these problems.
  • If the code was written by one person and is being maintained by another employee, they may need to take some time to understand the code before they are able to quickly add features and make changes as needed.

Ultimately, any potential cons associated with IaC are far outweighed by the benefits. IaC represents the future of IT and continues to play an increasingly important role in the DevOps process. Now, more than ever, developers are able to quickly create test environments and collaborate with operations to create new applications. This is driving innovation and at a fast pace. For more information about infrastructure as code and how it can help your business, contact the experts at prancer.