The rollout of new software releases has been streamlined through DevOps practices. DevOps enables the automation of software development, testing and deployment, eliminating many time-consuming, manual processes. Developers can focus on more high-value tasks, and operations teams can move code into production more quickly. Software is released with fewer errors and security vulnerabilities.
Hardware provisioning remains a largely manual process, however. Because different specialists handle various aspects of the IT infrastructure, the configuration of equipment often involves multiple teams. The deployment of equipment for a single remote site could take weeks and consume a significant amount of IT resources.
Infrastructure as Code (IaC) is emerging as an industry-standard approach to resolving such challenges. Growing out of DevOps practices, IaC uses code to automate the provisioning and management of servers, storage, databases, networks and other resources. With IaC tools such as Terraform and Ansible, developers can codify infrastructure specifications to improve operational practices.
Benefits of IaC
A key benefit is the ability to produce consistent and repeatable configurations across different environments. Having infrastructure setups defined in code makes it simple to re-create identical environments. In addition, IaC leverages version control systems to manage the code, which provides easy tracking of changes and the ability to roll back to an earlier version if issues arise.
Speed and agility are also important advantages. As technologies such as Agile development, microservices and containerization have shortened the software development lifecycle, there is a corresponding need to accelerate infrastructure provisioning. Organizations can’t afford to spend hours or even days configuring and deploying application servers. Through IaC automation, developers can spin up new servers in a matter of minutes.
IaC also improves security by reducing the risk of human errors during manual configuration processes. Studies show that almost a third of data breaches and 99 percent of all firewall breaches resulted from configuration errors. However, code-defined infrastructure minimizes risk by eliminating manual errors and configuration drift. Automated deployment and updates also ensure that security patches and best practices are consistently applied across all environments.
Challenges of IaC
The learning curve for IaC can be rather steep. Making the transition from manual infrastructure management requires team members to acquire new skills. A foundational understanding of programming is essential, as is familiarity with IaC tools such as Terraform, Ansible, Puppet, Chef and CloudFormation.
However, developers also need to learn several domain-specific languages (DSLs) that are unique to individual tools. IaC further requires an understanding of cloud and networking models, infrastructure components and infrastructure design concepts.
IaC creates a dynamic environment in which configuration changes are fast and frequent, which makes it difficult to conduct thorough code reviews and ensure version control. In some situations, multiple developers might be working on different parts of the infrastructure simultaneously. Coordinating these changes and ensuring they don’t conflict or introduce errors can be complicated.
Security can be another issue. IaC often involves storing sensitive credentials, access keys and secrets in code or configuration files. If not properly managed, these credentials can be exposed in version control systems or during code reviews. As with any coding activity, IaC efforts can also be compromised by insecure coding practices.
How Technologent Can Help
IaC holds great promise for improving infrastructure management through automation, but new tools, languages and processes contribute to a steep learning curve. More often than not, organizations will benefit from working with a technology partner who can bring expertise, experience and best practices to the table. Technologent’s digital automation practice was developed for just these types of initiatives. Using well-developed methodologies, we can assist you at any stage of your automation journey. Contact us to learn more.
September 26, 2023