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Infrastructure as Code Validation

May 13, 2020

Infrastructure as code is a powerful tool that has developed in the wake of cloud computing technology. It allows businesses to manage cloud infrastructures and deploy new applications purely through code. There is no longer a need for manual configuration and you can continually update the infrastructure and applications by following the same process of development and deployment. Infrastructure as Code Validation plays a key role in this process by allowing you to test against known issues and continue to monitor and test even during production.

The Importance of Infrastructure as Code Validation

IaC is really only an effective tool worth incorporating into your DevOps process if you are willing to continuously run tests and validate your code. Otherwise, you run serious risks when it comes to application security and function. With IaC, your applications can be continually updated while they are still running and everything is under compliance. This is a major advantage, but it does require a certain degree of monitoring so that you can quickly react as unknown issues arise.

Different Validation Strategies

Typically, IaC uses a declarative language, such as JSON or YAML which is human readable, to define the desired configuration state and environment. This information is then processed through a platform that allows for automation. Terraform is a popular option, but also we have native tools available from cloud providers such as AWS cloud formation, Azure ARM templates and Google cloud deployments. While this approach speeds up the deployment process, any code should be tested with the same diligence as other software projects. Exposing a security hole via IaC is usually more dangerous since we are exposing the infrastructure, not just one application.

On the most basic level, any IaC file should be reread and compared against pre-established company standards and industry compliance. This may not catch more subtle problems with functionality, but it is an important step in providing consistent code that meets certain quality requirements. IT professionals can manually perform these validations, which take time and could be error prone, or there are automated tools that can help with the task.

Businesses should also test units of files during the provisioning and configuration stages. While IaC involves stringing together units, it is possible to isolate a unit and run it in a test environment for validation purposes. Once individual units have passed testing, it is time to validate the entire system and verify how different units work together to support a specific workflow. This is an important step in confirming that the system meets expectations.

These initial validation and testing steps provide a strong foundation, but a comprehensive approach that looks to harness the power of IaC, identify problems and improve security will include a plan for monitoring. As mentioned before, any changes to the IaC has the potential to trigger new issues. Automated alerts can be put in place to detect abnormalities and streamline the monitoring process.

Of course, there are a variety of other testing options and each approach will be specific to a business and their IaC. Smaller businesses may not have the IT team in place to handle these challenges, which is why third party options can be a good choice. Cloud validation providers can help with IaC validation and security so that you can focus on development.

If you want to learn more about IaC validation, your testing options, and how a third-party provider may be able to help, contact prancer today. We specialize in helping businesses take advantage of cloud technology and our experts can design a testing and validation strategy that speaks to your specific needs.