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Everything You Need to Know About Infrastructure as Code (IaC)

Irrespective of the industries, managing IT infrastructure can be an arduous task for most. Over the last decade, automatic infrastructure provisioning has become a core need for many tech companies, and the way they manage the infrastructure has been revolutionized.

Infrastructure is one of the core sectors of a software development process that can range from servers and databases to container clusters. As a result, infrastructure services witnessed tremendous growth in the IT field. Businesses are now much more secure, service-oriented, and agile in delivering unified experiences to end customers.

With the increase of large-scale public cloud platforms and utilization of their provisioned infrastructure, you might have come across the concept of infrastructure as code. However, the practice of infrastructure as code didn’t wholly coalesce till the end of the 2000s. Nowadays, many IT leaders start by implementing infrastructure as Code, otherwise known as IaC.

Top cloud vendors like AWS, Azure, and Google have set up IaC systems that allow them to offer substantial services to millions of their clients to pursue their goals in this abstracted environment. According to the Gartner, survey report stated that 60 percent of companies will adopt infrastructure automation tools as part of their DevOps toolchains in 2023.

Infrastructure as code is the most popular DevOps technique that boosts scalability, accelerates software development, and optimizes costs. IaC is one of the driving reasons for the accelerated digital transformation witnessing massive growth across industries. This blog post will explain what IaC is, how do IaC works, and its benefits.

What is Infrastructure as Code (IaC)?

Infrastructure as code refers to the provisioning and managing of underlying IT infrastructure (such as load balancers, virtual machines, networks, and connection topology) defined through code processes rather than manual and hardware processes. IaC uses a high-level descriptive coding language that automatically provisions the IT infrastructure. By operating software development practices, infrastructure setup can be reliable, transparent, and repeatable. In the current era, Terraform and Ansible are the most popular IaC tools.

IaC allows software developers to execute and write instructions for network, storage, and compute elements that require testing, development or deploy a software application rather than manually configuring physical servers. This also leads to increased consistency, more efficient development, and agility to the market.

How Does IaC Work?

There are primarily two approaches for writing the code for IaC tools.

1) Declarative approach

The declarative approach, also known as the functional approach, allows the users to provide directions to the automation platform. It defines the desired state of the final solution where users only require a specific tool or platform to handle the steps to achieve the defined requirement.

In this approach, the user must know the current state, whether the infrastructure already exists or not. This approach is preferred in infrastructure management use cases as it provides flexibility when managing the infrastructure.

Declarative is a preferred approach in recent times and is arguably the most dominant format for IaC automation. The declarative tool is popular because it requires a simple process to understand the user’s part.

2) Imperative approach

The imperative approach, also known as the procedural method, defines the steps to implement to achieve the desired configuration. It allows users to specify the commands required for a change, and those commands need to execute in the same order to reach the desired solution.

In the imperative approach, users are in the dark as to whether the infrastructure exists or not. The imperative model cannot be easily re-run, and it doesn’t include the capability of deleting or updating the system. With this method, users must have enough knowledge to guide the automation platform on what to perform.

IaC tools can operate in both declarative and imperative models, but they mostly prefer to run in a declarative approach. Chef is an imperative tool while Puppet, Pulumi, Terraform, ART, and CloudFormation are declarative tools.

Benefits of IaC

Adopting an IaC solution can guide your company in managing IT infrastructure needs, including improving consistency, manual configuration, and reducing errors. Some of the expected benefits that IAC include

a) Speed

Automated management and provisioning are faster than manual processes. Operating the scripts and teams in IaC can quickly build infrastructure for every environment phase including development, production, testing, and stagging. As a result, application deployments can release even more quickly and safely without waiting for new software.

b) Efficiency

IaC allows developers to increase productivity and efficiency on multiple fronts, especially by integrating with DevOps and software development. Cloud architectures can quickly deploy to make the software development life cycle much more efficient. It also tracks all environment build-up commands in a repository. If users have any issues, they can quickly roll back to their previous instance or redeploy an environment.

c) Reduced risk

Automation reduces the risk of human error, such as manual misconfiguration. Therefore, it may decrease downtime and increase reliability. However, a few IT experts are highly specialized in managing and operating complex infrastructure. Therefore, it is hard to manage or understand how it is set up if they leave the organization.

Adopting Infrastructure as code defines the process of infrastructure management, deployment, detailed reports, and documentation and allows new IT professionals to work without setbacks.

d) Reduced management

Admins need to govern and manage storage, network, compute, and other hardware layers in a data center. While implementing IaC technology admins can eliminate these multiple tasks and solely focus on mission-critical tasks.

e) Cost savings

Automating the infrastructure management process allows IT techs to execute higher value tasks quickly and perform a manual task in less time, which can increase productivity and frees up expensive resources to work on other activities. Most IaC platforms provide a consumption-based pricing model. Therefore, users need to pay for resources that they use actively only.

Conclusion

Infrastructure as code has become a vital practice virtually for every organization to deploy, develop and scale cloud applications with reduced cost, high speed, and low risk. IaC makes it possible for teams to set up complex IT environments that efficiently manage large-scale IT estates. Moreover, IaC helps reduce the misconfigurations of IT environments through automation.

No matter which model of IT infrastructure you manage- whether your resources run in the cloud or a hybrid model, or on-premises. IaC can guide you to improve and scale your approach to IT environment management, and it delivers more productivity in a short period. Adopting IaC is crucial to modernizing your approach to running and building the software.

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