In a typical infrastructure build, developers and IT operation teams work coherently to plan, code, develop and deploy application infrastructure by creating multiple instances and environments to code, test and run their applications in. However, many complications can arise during the manual development and operations processes within such a build pipeline. Human fallibility is inevitable in any scenario where repetitive manual processes are the norm and everyone is guilty of making mistakes at work; dev and ops engineers are no different. The consequences of such mistakes are that the build process takes more time, energy, and resources to identify and fix errors in the pipeline so the whole process is affected, delayed, and more costly than planned.
As part of this typical infrastructure build pipeline, development and operations teams are also responsible for individually maintaining multiple deployment environments. Managing multiple environments is a further difficulty to shoulder with each of them operating to its own configuration settings.
Engineers can resolve the number of the issues outlined above; reducing human error, improving quality into the pipeline, and tackling inconsistency across multiple dev environments by implementing the Infrastructure as Code (IaC) approach to replace all manual processes with automated programs and scripts.
What Is Infrastructure as Code (IaC)?
Infrastructure as Code (IaC) refers to the process of provisioning and managing computing infrastructure through machine-readable definition files based on a descriptive model associated with networks, load balancers, virtual machines, and data centers.
Administrators and engineers previously would have performed these tasks manually using a range of tools and deployment methods. However, developers and system administrators can use IaC tools to pack these processes into simple automated scripts or programs that run on autopilot to complete all these tasks and streamline the whole build process. As well as increasing efficiency by speeding up the workload, IaC also inherently reduces human error in the pipeline and improves quality in the output.
IaC allows engineers to create configuration files that include all the infrastructure details to make editing and distribution easy. The approach also prevents any unnecessary or undocumented changes from happening to the configuration.
Why Use IaC?
The whole premise of IaC lies in the automation of various setup and maintenance processes. To deeply understand Infrastructure as Code, we have to compare the previous approach to infrastructure deployment, where engineers and system administrators had to go through a range of processes to build infrastructure. In comparison, by optimizing IaC, engineers can automate many of the exact same processes to solve problems caused by managing multiple environments in the build pipeline.
|Pre-DevOps Phase||DevOps after Automation|
|Without the use of IaC, developers and system administrators used repetitive manual processes to set up, test, and manage application servers. Here is an overview of these traditional processes.||IaC brings automation to all deployment environments. Here’s how IaC handles all the same manual processes within the infrastructure build.|
|During Setup Phase||During Setup Phase|
After the development processes, the operations team is responsible for deploying the application on the server-side in various phases:
– Setup servers for application
– Networking configuration
– Creation of route tables
– Installation of necessary tools & software
– Configuration of software
– Database installation for application
All these manual processes finally prepare servers to run coded applications. During the application server preparation phase, system administrators coordinate all these processes.
| With the right IaC tools, engineers can enable the end-to-end automation of all setup tasks.|
Infrastructure as Code converts all the manual processes such as server setup, network configuration, and installation of software into small automated programs or scripts that automatically complete all these setup processes.
IaC is just a concept of automation, while the real application lies in IaC tools that allow the implementation of this model to eliminate the need for manual setup.
|During Maintenance Phase||During Maintenance Phase|
|Maintenance is another hassle for the system administrators, as there are multiple instances and servers that require manual updates with the release of a new or updated version.|
Also, maintenance costs are extremely high due to all the manual work involved by system administrators and developers.
These maintenance tasks may include a few or all of these processes:
– Update versions of your application
– Deployment of new application release
– Creating database backups
– Updating databases
– Recovering crashed applications
– Adding or recovering servers after crash
– Alter networking configurations
Along with these, there are many other maintenance tasks included in both the testing and development environments. It becomes even more difficult to deploy changes in multiple environments.
|Just like in the setup phase, IaC tools also integrate into the maintenance processes of servers and applications. All necessary maintenance tasks can be scheduled and automated with alerting optimized to identify errors in the system.|
IaC tools streamline and automate these processes even if you are using multiple environments for your testing and development phases.
With the right IaC tools, you can automatically update environments, implement version control, deploy feature releases quickly and iteratively rather than in one batch, update databases, create automatic backups, alter configurations and do a lot more without spending excessive amounts on human input and time.
Benefits of IaC
By leveraging the IaC concepts of automation and visualization, IaC can help companies realize the following benefits:
- Reduced Human Resources Costs: Manual preparation and maintenance of application servers and processes often lead to higher human resource costs and overheads.
- Improved Efficiency and Time-Saving: IaC tools efficiently handle all manual processes without the need for excessive time and energy. Streamlined infrastructure build is optimal for software development pipelines and processes.
- Reduces Human Errors: Human error in infrastructure build can cost companies if left unidentified or unresolved. However, automated processes in the IaC build model are less prone to leave errors behind. Increased testing and checks through automated processes also improve system reliability and performance.
Using the Right Tools
IaC is a process management approach, while the real implementation relies on a range of tools and programs that facilitate the automation of repetitive tasks in different development environments. A few of the popular tools available for automating infrastructure builds are:
If working in AWS cloud environments, then AWS CloudFormation is the best tool for IaC implementation on the AWS platform.
Some tools require a domain-specific language (DSL) (for example Terraform has its own HashiCorp Configuration Language (HCL)), whereas others use a standard template format, such as JSON or YAML. Each tool has its own specialty to automate various functions.
For leadership teams that wish to automate all their infrastructure build tasks, then you need to optimize at least two or more tools for complete process automation. As an example, Terraform is the market leader now for infrastructure setup, infrastructure management, and initial application setup. However, the platform does not lend itself to application management. Hence, the need to reach for Puppet or Ansible to make complete automation possible.
Leveraging Infrastructure as Code on AWS
AWS supports the whole IaC concept through AWS CloudFormation, and the platform also supports a variety of third-party tools available on their marketplace. In addition, AWS supports those leveraging the DevOps methodology by replacing its traditional processes with automation programs that will reduce setup and maintenance costs for businesses of all sizes.
Cloud administrators can utilize AWS CloudFormation solution for all their automation needs. However, AWS also provides you with the facility to use third-party tools available on their marketplace, some of these recommended tools include:
If your company is finding it difficult to manage various instances or operations, then there are a variety of solutions provided by AWS to implement Infrastructure as Code to automate all your processes.
The IaC approach has the potential to help your team manage multiple environments in the release pipeline. Implementation of this methodology can save costs, human resources, and time. Also, a variety of IaC tools are easily available on AWS as well as in other environments to simplify processes and remove any clutter.
Keen to learn about the next trend in infrastructure? Check out this article on Infrastructure as Code vs. Infrastructure as Software to find out more.
Caylent provides a critical DevOps-as-a-Service function to high growth companies looking for expert support with Kubernetes, cloud security, cloud infrastructure, and CI/CD pipelines. Our managed and consulting services are a more cost-effective option than hiring in-house, and we scale as your team and company grow. Check out some of the use cases, learn how we work with clients, and read more about our DevOps-as-a-Service offering.