Have you been wondering how much the actual maintenance of your physical IT infrastructure costs? Well, trust us – it is a lot. You need to ensure the salaries of your system administration team, support timely processes of manual configuration, face all risks associated with physical maintenance, etc.
And indeed, there is a better way of handling IT infrastructure. It enables you to treat infrastructure as a code! Based on this, your system administration processes may be fully automated in the cloud and thus, seamlessly virtualized.
Infrastructure as Code (IaC) is at the core of today’s development and operations (DevOps) approach to a cloud-based architecture. It facilitates your digital transformation and helps accrue higher business value.
Let us take a closer look at what this involves!
What is infrastructure as code (IaC)?
Straight to the point, infrastructure as code (IaC) is the management of infrastructure with the help of configuration files similar to the way developers program software code.
With this approach, you replace manual processes and standard operating procedures and replace them by software with which you configure and deploy infrastructure components.
What does IaC involve?
Overall, there are different cloud technologies and tools to define IaC, the main of which we will discuss later in the text. These may use either a declarative or imperative approach to programming.
To take an example, in AWS, the creation, deployment and maintenance of IaC are done in a programmatic, descriptive, and declarative mode that employs specific AWS Services (e.g. AWS).
What problem does IaC solve?
Largely, the IaC approach helps to overcome essential drawbacks of the manual procedures applied in traditional infrastructure setup. Yet, it has proved to bring valuable benefits in its own right.
Wondering if there are any challenges? Probably, these could be associated with the learning curve your team will be exposed to or your subsequent organizational changes. Yet, it is a worth doing effort, which is manifested both by the constantly increasing number of organizations who employ it and by the specific benefits that it brings.
Let us see what the latter are!
Key benefits of IaC
As we already mentioned in the introduction, IaC is certain to help you optimize your infrastructure configuration and maintenance costs, your infrastructure processes and overall reliability of operation.
To be more specific, it will help you to:
- save personnel cost and improve return-on-investment – it reduces the need for specialized system administration skills and lets you take full advantage of cloud computing capabilities;
- save time and improve speed – IaC automates the provisioning of infrastructure, which significantly cuts development, testing and production time;
- bring consistency – this is particularly relevant when you need to match infrastructure development to abrupt changes and updates. This is what some experts also describe as “less configuration drift” (e.g. IBM);
- reduce risks as it eliminates errors – as IaC replaces manual processes which are inevitably associated with mistakes;
- improve overall security and traceability – your configuration files can be used as your source files, having the complete information about all changes that have been made;
- increase efficiency – this applies to your overall software development cycle as you may deploy your infrastructure architecture in many stages.
Overall, with IaC you are empowered to bring your infrastructure management to a new level. Further, you are enabled to let your team concentrate on your mission-specific tasks. Finally, you make sure that you stay competitive!
AWS Services to define IaC
As promised, here are some main technologies and tools which are commonly used to configure IaC.
- AWS CloudFormation
AWS CloudFormation is an AWS service that lets you create templates of text files that may be employed in the AWS environment as stacks. You can create or update an entire stack from a single template or use separate templates to manage multiple layers within the environment. AWS Cloud Formation enables you to treat infrastructure as code by following the process described in the picture below:
Source: AWS Cloud Formation
- AWS Cloud Development Kit (CDK)
This is yet another AWS service using an open-source software development framework. Based on it, you can model and provision your cloud resources with the help of constructs. By combining the latter, you can further create complex architectures which may be employed in the AWS environment. Please take a look at the figure below to see the main steps of its implementation.
Source: AWS Cloud Development Kit
- Hashicorp Terraform
According to recent statistics, there are over 8,500 small and medium enterprises currently using Terraform, as it is a favourite among the companies of the computer software industry. One of its biggest advantages is that it can support not only AWS but all other prominent cloud suppliers. In our capacity as cloud practitioners, it has proved the best choice for over 80% of our clients.
Source: Hashicorp Terraform
- Serverless Framework
Finally, this is an open-source framework that may be employed both for the AWS Platform and other cloud platforms such as Azure, Google Cloud, Oracle Cloud, etc. Many cloud practitioners highlight its better scalability, flexibility, and reduced pricing as some of its greatest advantages over other platforms. You can browse for further information here.
Some general best practices to consider
If you are already looking for ways to introduce your IaC, here is our selection of best practices to help you get started. Probably, some of them go without saying, but still, let’s briefly cover them:
- make your configuration files your single source of truth – e.g. they should contain all your infrastructure specifications;
- ensure that you keep your files in a version control system (VCS) to enhance your source control;
- use AWS tagging whenever possible – as a general rule;
- test the infrastructure before deployment – always apply;
- ensure for the monitoring of operations – supports continuous improvement;
- always track resource changes throughout deployments – to help you get hold of the big picture;
If you would like to go into further details please take a look here.
Implementing IaC can help you bring your IT infrastructure to a new level, by additionally facilitating your overall digital transformation. It will significantly improve your business processes and will boost your return-on-investment, efficiency and operational consistency, to name a few. In AWS Services, IaC is more often than not implemented by AWS Cloud Formation, AWS CDK or Terraform.
Should you be interested in reading more about the key AWS Services, please continue here.