What Is Infrastructure as Code (IaC)?

What Is Infrastructure as Code (IaC)

With Infrastructure as Code (IaC), developers can take a code-driven approach to infrastructure creation. This speeds deployment times, lowers risk and enables self-service capabilities.

IaC advocates the use of version control for infrastructure configuration files to help avoid configuration drift, where environment and infrastructure become mismatched, while simultaneously tracking changes and maintaining observability.

What Is Infrastructure as Code?

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) is a DevOps practice that employs machine-readable definition files to automate IT provisioning and is key in driving continuous delivery by ensuring developers and operations teams follow consistent procedures when deploying IT infrastructure.

Configuration management scripts used to deploy IT infrastructure can help eliminate configuration drift by always leading to the desired end state. Furthermore, they allow developers and system administrators to collaborate simultaneously on one infrastructure, improving collaboration and aligning teams.

By storing infrastructure configurations as code in a version control system, it becomes much simpler and faster to access and modify them as new deployments arise. This enables faster, safer deployments as well as up-to-date documentation of your infrastructure. IaC (Infrastructure as Code) is often referred to as software-defined infrastructure or declarative IT automation – popular tools include Terraform, YAML and Ansible for IaC.

Defining Infrastructure as Code

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) is a methodology designed to give DevOps teams the tools needed to efficiently and consistently manage infrastructure changes over time. IaC achieves this by turning infrastructure specifications into code, and then deploying through existing CI/CD processes – leading to faster deployment times, improved consistency and security, as well as better compliance with DevOps practices.

Manually changing infrastructure can be time-consuming and error-prone; even small discrepancies can have wide-reaching ramifications. IaC offers a solution by creating configuration instructions that can easily be automated and distributed, greatly speeding up deployment while improving reliability.

By treating infrastructure as code, instructions can be edited and modified by anyone within an organization with ease. Furthermore, configuration files can be checked into version control and code reviewed just like any software project – eliminating external documentation which quickly becomes outdated while providing test frameworks to ensure code produces desired results in any environment.

What Problem Does IaC Solve?

Infrastructure as code offers a powerful solution for automating and streamlining workflow, ultimately leading to faster application development. Furthermore, testing applications early in production-like environments provides teams with an accurate view of application behavior.

One of the great strengths of Infrastructure as Code (IaC) lies in its ability to reduce human error. IaC’s automated provisioning process ensures that all environments are configured consistently and accurately; should any environment be altered outside the IaC tool manually, deployment commands can be executed that return it back into line with its desired state – known as idempotency.

IaC provides added oversight and visibility. Because all configuration files are managed under version control, any issues can be easily tracked down and reversed if necessary.

Declarative vs. imperative approaches to IaC

IaC’s primary advantage lies in its ability to automate infrastructure configuration processes and enforce consistency. Manual configuration is error prone and may lead to deployment issues when teams don’t keep consistent environments. IaC solves this problem by representing desired environment states as JSON code that release pipelines can use when deploying to environments and stops configuration drift over time between environments.

IaC can also protect against employee turnover by centralizing infrastructure provision across teams. This eliminates the reliance on one person for infrastructure provisioning and allows teams to rely on each member independently without becoming over-reliant on any one individual for knowledge and skills when that individual departs the organization. Finally, IaC speeds up software delivery by giving developers fast and efficient ways to provision sandboxes for continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD), giving QA full-fidelity testing environments to run high-fidelity tests while simultaneously decreasing deployment times while increasing reliability/reusability and reusability of code overall.

Why does IaC matter for DevOps?

Infrastructure as Code is a DevOps best practice designed to increase productivity, decrease security risks and ensure consistency of configuration. It uses automated tools for deployment, provisioning and changes related to operating systems, network devices and applications.

As it replaces manual processes with an easy text-based language that makes collaboration between developers and IT operations staff much more efficient, IaC also allows them to write IaC templates collaboratively to ensure development environments align with IT systems requirements for an optimal development experience and help prevent misconfigurations or compliance issues.

IaC practices offer greater flexibility and ease of management compared to traditional approaches, thanks to written configuration instructions being contained within one file that can easily be automated, shared and edited. In addition, their declarative approach makes reverting back to previous configurations simple when managing changing infrastructure; their entire IaC configuration being stored under version control makes identifying any problematic versions much simpler when they arise.

The Pain of Managing IT Infrastructure

Management of IT infrastructure was once an time-consuming, team-intensive task that took an inordinately large team to accomplish. But thanks to cloud computing and similar trends, companies now have easier ways of designing and deploying their IT infrastructure.

With Infrastructure as Code (IaC), developers can transform infrastructure specifications and instructions into an easily automated code file, enabling development teams to spin up environments consistently, accelerate deployment times, reduce risk, and ensure all configuration instructions are stored in source control for later tracking.

IaC can take either a declarative or imperative approach. With regard to declaring infrastructure desired end states using declarative languages like YAML or JSON as its declarative approach allows developers to use any preferred IDE for writing definitions; more likely than its imperative counterpart it also offers greater freedom for development teams.

The imperative approach takes advantage of automation scripts that provision infrastructure step-by-step. This approach is more traditional and may better suit some IT operations teams; however, this type of IaC requires additional manual effort for updates.

1. Cloud Computing

Cloud computing has revolutionized how businesses deploy and scale infrastructure. Instead of depending on physical hardware alone, developers now use virtual servers and containers for development needs – however this presents its own set of management challenges.

Provisioning and configuring resources takes time and requires manual intervention that may result in human errors. Furthermore, provisioning changes are hard to track and can have serious impacts on deployments. IaC helps resolve these problems by storing configurations in source control and automating this process.

Code is both documentation and safeguard against issues in future projects; should your top IT professionals leave or run into difficulties that they cannot fix themselves, this documentation and safeguard will serve as documentation and safeguard for your future endeavors. While coding gives developers great power, it can be challenging for teams not accustomed to this kind of work. Luckily, IaC tools exist that assist teams who are less familiar with it by creating scripts in popular programming languages like JSON, YAML or HashiCorp Configuration Languages (HCL), as well as automating processes using information found within configuration files.

2. Infrastructure as Code

Many companies maintain infrastructure that’s easily managed via cloud providers’ consoles, allowing for easy pointing-and-clicking administration. While this approach works great for new projects, eventually operations teams must make modifications that could cause configuration drift.

With IaC, changes are made via code that is version controlled to make identifying what caused a change easy and rolling back to an earlier version easier, eliminating manual and ad hoc modifications which lead to configuration drift.

IaC allows developers to easily build and deploy infrastructure in an automated, repeatable fashion, speeding up development, staging and quality-assurance testing environments setup time without depending on human input to manually configure each environment – shortening software development cycles significantly while increasing infrastructure visibility thanks to configuration being documented in code so it’s easier to document, audit and troubleshoot – making IaC an essential component of any IT infrastructure management strategy.

How to Choose the Right Infrastructure As Code (IaC) Tool?

IaC makes it simpler and faster for DevOps teams to deploy, monitor and adjust infrastructure at scale.

IaC’s integration with version control mechanisms enables consistent configuration management.

IaC also helps teams manage and roll back versions, eliminating configuration drift–the mismatch between development, test, and production environments that leads to issues during deployment.

Common IaC Tools

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) is an invaluable tool that can increase efficiency and reduce human error when managing and provisioning IT infrastructure. But selecting an IaC tool suitable to your business’s needs can be complex; here are a few key points you should keep in mind before selecting one.

Start searching for tools that provide high degrees of automation, along with seamless integration into your continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipelines. Look out for tools offering automated documentation and reporting features, saving both time and ensuring accuracy.

An ideal IaC tool should also support configuration management, as it will enable you to control IT infrastructure through code and prevent unplanned changes. Furthermore, version control should be available so you can keep an eye on changes made to your infrastructure; additionally, validation features should allow for prior validation of configuration specifications before they are deployed.

HashiCorp Terraform, Puppet and Ansible are three of the more widely-used infrastructure as code (IaC) tools available today. Each has their own approach to IaC; Terraform uses declarative logic while Puppet/Ansible offer more imperative methods. Pulumi also takes an unusual route by using actual code instead of traditional formats like YAML/JSON for infrastructure definition.

1. Terraform

Instead of spending their time configuring systems manually or relying on unsupported scripting tools for configuration instructions that frequently get misplaced or modified without support, developers can take an infrastructure as code approach using tools such as Terraform to manage infrastructure as code changes efficiently and save costs while improving safety in an enterprise environment. Taking this route also leads to greater consistency.

Terraform, created by Hashicorp, uses human-readable files to describe the desired state of an infrastructure. This makes creating blueprints or templates simple while being versioned easily for sharing among team members and integration into CI/CD pipelines to automate infrastructure changes with quick rollback capabilities and updates.

Terraform stands out among IaC tools due to its ease and reliability of use. Compatible with multiple cloud providers, it provides a consistent workflow across new and existing systems alike.

Ansible is another IaC tool widely used today, using domain-specific software language to configure infrastructure resources. Ansible can easily integrate into CI/CD pipelines and work across a range of operating systems; furthermore, its automation features can also automate other processes, including deployment and app orchestration.

2. AWS CloudFormation

AWS CloudFormation is one of the leading Infrastructure as Code tools, allowing users to describe environments through software instead of manually configuring hardware and software environments – saving both time and effort while reducing deployment issues.

CloudFormation templates are declarative code files composed of JSON or YAML that describe all the resources necessary for deployment of an application. They can also be used to define an entire stack, an organized collection of resources which can be managed as one unit and changed with just one change made across them all – this helps ensure consistent deployments with enhanced resiliency.

CloudFormation templates make application deployment and upgrades significantly faster by reviewing each resource for its conditions, then only creating or updating those which meet them. This makes for much faster deployment/upgrade processes than manual scripting alone.

An added benefit of CloudFormation-based IaC tools such as Pulumi is their ability to version and track infrastructure changes through version control systems or Cloud Engineering platforms such as Pulumi. Furthermore, such solutions give teams flexibility in building hybrid topologies consisting of on-premise servers as well as cloud servers.

3. Ansible

Infrastructure-as-code approaches speed deployments, increase agility, improve consistency and empower DevOps teams – yet for these efforts to work successfully requires continuous monitoring at scale as well as observability capabilities for return on investment analysis.

IaC tools enable developers to write infrastructure code that automates provisioning and configuration tasks to reduce manual processes. This frees them up to focus on application development and delivery while simultaneously cutting costs and speeding deployment times; while also serving as a single source of truth. However, automation may introduce complexity by way of new tools, extensive documentation, or out of sync versions of infrastructure.

Ansible is one of the more well-known infrastructure as code tools, using human-readable scripting language to write infrastructure definition files and push or pull them from central servers depending on how popular a pull method may be. Once executed, Ansible compares its desired state with what’s actually occurring within infrastructure and takes steps as needed to make adjustments accordingly.

Developers can store these infrastructure definition files under version control, similar to software code, making them safe to collaborate on and reuse. Ansible is relatively new tool and may have a steep learning curve for some teams; furthermore, its competitors such as Puppet and Chef have more enterprise support experience than it.

4. Azure Resource Manager ARM Templates

Microsoft Azure’s built-in infrastructure as code tool ARM templates offer an efficient method of infrastructure as code deployment. These JSON files use declarative syntax to describe the state of infrastructure you wish to deploy and this allows for concise code. Furthermore, their idempotence guarantees consistent results across multiple environments.

Your JSON ARM template deployment options include complete and incremental. In complete mode, any existing resources that do not match the template are deleted while incremental mode only updates properties on existing resources that require change.

ARM templates not only declare the order in which resources should be deployed, but can also specify dependencies between different resources. Azure deploys them accordingly based on these dependencies to avoid duplicate resources being deployed duplicately and circular dependencies from emerging.

If you are new to ARM, becoming proficient may take some time. There are a variety of resources online which can assist in this learning journey; Microsoft offers Learning Path modules while Visual Studio Code extensions make ARM template development faster. Furthermore, third-party tools exist which simplify this process of creating and deploying templates more quickly.

5. Netreo

Until now, managing IT infrastructure was traditionally an intensive manual task that often required the work of multiple individuals. IT personnel may create scripts to automate certain processes; however, these rarely came with sufficient documentation or could quickly become out-of-date when new systems needed to be deployed.

IaC shifts the management of IT infrastructure from code to configuration files. An IaC tool then provisions these desired states via configuration files describing desired system states. This makes it easier to understand and manage underlying infrastructure components while reducing configuration drift and streamlining deployments – all leading to more efficient software development life cycles.

Infrastructure as Code tools allow users to set up fully automated IT environments quickly and easily with one click, as well as scale up or down as necessary, allowing developers to focus less on plumbing tasks and more on developing innovative, mission-critical applications. Popular examples of IaC tools are Terraform, AWS CloudFormation, Ansible, and Puppet; however it’s wise to explore all available options before making your decision – many offer free demos so that users can try them before committing.

Final Thoughts

Infrastructure as Code allows developers to easily provision and manage cloud environments in a more DevOps-centric fashion, improving communication between teams while eliminating manual configuration updates and eliminating ‘configuration drift.’

Utilizing IaC, you can automate the provisioning of cloud infrastructure in development, testing, and production environments by writing scripts with configuration settings for spin up/configuration of servers to save time when spinning up servers for software development or deployment cycles. This drastically speeds up software development cycles.

Additionally, using version control software like Git to manage infrastructure means it is easy to keep an eye on changes made to configuration files, helping prevent errors from spreading through server settings as they’re implemented and providing an easy way to roll back to previous versions should any problems arise.

However, IaC requires additional tools such as configuration management and automation/orchestration systems which may create a learning curve and lead to error if not properly managed. To minimise risks associated with IaC use, an effective process for documentation, monitoring, version control and prerelease testing should be established in advance.

Sam is an experienced information security specialist who works with enterprises to mature and improve their enterprise security programs. Previously, he worked as a security news reporter.