What is Infrastructure as a Code (IaC)?

Rashmi Bhardwaj | Blog,Cloud & Virtualization,Services and Applications
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In the last couple of years focus is on end-to-end automation of software development process but management and provisioning of IT infrastructure was a weak area and not much focused. With the kind of applications hosted now and demand for robust underlying infrastructure is a key factor for success which not only need to scale faster but also maintain consistency of performance keeping other aspects in mind such as functional and physical attributes, enhanced security, agility etc.

Today we look more in detail about Infrastructure as a code (IaC) terminology, why it is getting popular and things of the future, its advantages and features, use cases etc.

What is Infrastructure as a code (IaC)?

Infrastructure as a code or ‘IaC’ as its named is an approach used to provision, configure and manage IT infrastructure. In the early days IT infrastructure deployment was a totally manual process, servers were stacked physically and hardware was manually configured as per the requirements and settings of the operating system used for applications being hosted on the physical servers. The application has to be deployed on physical hardware then only it can be launched. 

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With IaC there are several tools available such as Terraform, CloudFormation, Azure ARM, Ansible which let you create scripts to configure servers, databases, operating system and other software’s. It helps to deploy and replicate infrastructure in a faster and easy manner. IaC supports DevOps as you can automate almost everything. Everything is treated as a software be it servers, databases, networking components and you can write software to manage it all with a continuous delivery pipeline.

Infrastructure as a code can be applied to infrastructure whether it runs on cloud, virtualized systems, or even directly on physical hardware.

Infrastructure as a code IaC

Features of Infrastructure as a Code 

  • It speed up infrastructure deployments in quick and safe manner by avoiding manual intervention
  • Code can be checked and verified at the source itself to bring in transparency and accountability
  • It is a living documentation of actual state of infrastructure
  • Deployment of consistent infrastructure help to avoid missed configuration issues
  • Brings agility to realm of infrastructure management 
  • Easy to create reusable modules to replicate production and development environments
  • Automation of infrastructure deployment let engineers spend less time on performing manual tasks such as server setup, configurations etc. and save time for execution of higher value tasks 

Use cases of Infrastructure as a code 

  • Infrastructure management 
  • Configuration management for limited infrastructure management capabilities 
  • Disposable environments
  • Multi-cloud deployments
  • Multi-tier applications
  • Resource schedulers 

Challenges overcome by IaC

Server sprawl – in cloud and virtual environments provision of new servers happen from pool of resources which could lead to number of servers growing fast than ability of team to manage them 

Configuration drifts – initially servers are created and configured consistently but differences come over time such as fixing a specific user problem on server and now it is different from other servers this could give rise to risk of snowflake servers and automation fear

Snowflake servers – a server different from other servers in a special way and can’t be replicated such as a specific customer application would only run on a specific version of software 

Popular Infrastructure as code Tools

As market is flooded with several Infrastructure as code deployment tools as more and more organizations are embracing IaC some of the popular tools used for IaC deployments are Terraform which is an open-source tool for infrastructure as code orchestration offered by Hashicorp it is written in Go language and supports windows, Linux , MacOS, FreeBSD, Solaris and OpenBSD platforms.

Cloud Formulation is another popular cloud infrastructure automation tool from AWS. It uses YAML or JASON and runs on AWS infrastructure

Ansible is configuration management tool which let you automate provisioning of infrastructure and uses Python based YAML syntax

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