How Infrastructure as Code Works and Why it Matters for Developers and Businesses
In this digital day and age, we like to think that some software solutions are smart enough to take over certain tasks. And yes, nowadays we’re relying more and more on smart tech to make our lives easier.
By EMMA WORDEN
From that smart coffee maker that brews a fresh cup of java before you wake up, all the way to fancy code that automates infrastructure management, where would we be without smart solutions? Now, assuming that you have a hot cup of joe in your hand, perhaps you’re ready to learn about one such fancy solution, called IaC.
IaC, or infrastructure as code, is an approach to IT infrastructure management that basically codifies and automates everything to make your life easier. Developers love it, companies need it, and today we are taking a look at why it’s the next best thing since sliced bread.
In this guide, we’ll be going over the basic premise, the problems it solves, how it works, and the benefits it brings to companies as well as developers. Without further ado, here’s how IaC works.
Defining the IaC approach
Before cloud computing was around, managing an IT infrastructure was tough manual labour. Well, at least for the average IT guy. Traditionally, system administrators were tasked with managing and configuring all of the software and hardware.
These were essential to make applications in an infrastructure run smoothly, however, it was invariably a lengthy process. Fortunately, with the coming of cloud computing, companies were finally able to design, develop, manage and configure their IT infrastructures with relative ease.
As you might have guessed, IaC is one of the essential components that allow for easy and automated IT infrastructure management in cloud environments.
In a nutshell, the IaC approach uses configuration files to codify everything and automate infrastructure management. You can find lengthier definitions on Wikipedia, but this is the gist.
It solves numerous problems you would come across using traditional methods, so let’s take a look at some of the pain-points that IaC helps you to overcome.
Infrastructure as code and the problems it solves
As mentioned before, traditional IT infrastructure management would have you manually configure and manage software and hardware requirements. While there’s nothing wrong with the old way of doing things, it’s important to note that it does bring various problems to light.
The first problem which IaC solves with ease is the problem of financial waste. Traditionally, managing IT infrastructures required a whole team of professionals to perform various tasks throughout the process. This, of course, requires a substantial financial investment for payroll purposes alone.
That said, it’s not just the added payroll expenses, it’s also the fact that you would have to build and manage your own data centres. This, naturally, would skyrocket the overall cost of your IT infrastructure.
The second big problem with the old way of doing things is that you’d have limited availability and scalability. Configuring data centres manually is a slow and arduous process, as administrators need to work continually to ensure availability of servers.
The IaC approach ensures that ample resources are always available and that the applications are always available through automated backups.
Lastly, there is the problem of inconsistency in configuration and deployment. When several engineers are working on deploying applications manually, you’re bound to come across inconsistencies which could have been avoided by standardizing the process with IaC.
How the IaC approach works
Now that you’re more familiar with the concept of IaC and what problems or legacy procedures it overcomes, let’s take a look at how it works. Typically, you will be implementing IaC into your operation in a three-step process.
Firstly, your developers need to define and write the infrastructure specifications domain-specific language.
Second, you’ll need to send the files to a code repository, a master server, or to your management API.
Thirdly, let the platform take over by creating and configuring the necessary computing resources.
Once that’s done, each library will create the optimal Infrastructure as Code environment according to the library’s needs and specifications. Your devs will typically utilize a framework like Puppet, Chef, or Ansible to define the infrastructure the IaC should run and manage.
The benefits of IaC
Of course, we can’t just list a bunch of problems or talk about how something works without listing the benefits it brings to the table. After all, you need to know how IaC benefits companies in the long-term in order to fully appreciate and adopt it.
The first and most apparent benefit of IaC is speed. Because it runs on scripts, the IaC approach allows you to quickly design, develop and launch infrastructures in record time. Most importantly, it allows you to do this for every stage of the process, including development, production, QA, and other.
The second benefit to IaC is consistency, or the reduction of risk. Inconsistencies in configuration can happen too often in traditional infrastructure management, because humans make mistakes. Simple as that.
IaC removes this risk by having the files themselves be the only source of truth, thus ensuring that the same configurations will be deployed. This eliminates the risk of discrepancies.
Next, you can bet that there will be no more pointing fingers with the IaC approach, as every script and configuration allow full traceability of every change implemented. This ensures accountability.
Infrastructure as code also minimizes the risk of having no one to manage your infrastructure when the master engineer decides they’ve had enough of coding and ventures off to become an interior designer. When that happens, you need a system like IaC that will allow all future engineers to simply pick up where their predecessor left off.
IaC matters for developers and companies
Finally, it’s important to note that IaC is the framework of the future for developers as well as companies. As a developer, working with IaC can open numerous doors for career advancement and help you snag the best jobs in your industry.
As a business leader, integrating the IaC approach allows you to minimize financial expenditure while maximizing infrastructure management efficiency. In the end, infrastructure as code helps developers and organizations take IT infrastructure management to the next level through automation, allowing the top talent to focus on other, mission-critical tasks.
Cloud computing has revolutionized the way we design and implement infrastructures. With infrastructure as code, you can make the process more efficient and effective, while helping take the company forward as a whole.
- Emma is a digital marketer and blogger from Sydney. After getting a marketing degree she started working with Australian startups on business and marketing development. Emma writes for many relevant, industry related online publications and does a job of an Executive Editor at Bizzmark blog and a guest lecturer at Melbourne University. Interested in marketing, startups and latest business trends. Follow Emma on Twitter.