If you are just entering the DevOps space, there might be some things about it that aren’t obvious at first glance. One of those things is infrastructure as Code in DevOps. When implementing infrastructure as code, your assets, configuration, and dependencies will be defined by source code.
Developers can then create applications quickly on infrastructure that is already well-defined. That’s the reasoning behind DevOps teams adopting an IaC model in the first place.
What Is Infrastructure as Code
Infrastructure as Code is an essential DevOps practice that allows you to manage your infrastructure in a versionable, testable, and repeatable way. It’s a key enabler of Continuous Delivery. The idea behind Infrastructure as Code (IaC) is to automate the deployment of infrastructure and make it easy to reproduce.
In case you are wondering, continuous delivery is the ability to get changes of all kinds including new elements, configuration modifications, bug fixes, and experiments into production or into the hands of users, safely and quickly, and sustainably.
How Do You Practice Infrastructure as Code?
The first step towards practicing IaC is to understand what you want your infrastructure to look like and how it should work.
Once you have identified your infrastructure requirements, you can create a template using text files with specific formats and extensions, such as Yaml and JSON. The template includes all the relevant information about your infrastructure, such as the resources needed, their configurations, dependencies between them, etc.
When you want to provide an environment, you need only provide the relevant parameters, and the template will generate an environment according to those specifications.
Why Is Infrastructure as Code in DevOps So Important?
The DevOps movement has been gaining momentum for nearly a decade now, and it’s not hard to see why. By combining the development and operations teams into a single unit, companies can deliver new products and features to the market much more quickly than before.
It’s a way to automate the mundane, repeatable tasks involved in provisioning and managing your infrastructure. But while this is an approach that can work well in practice, many companies are still having trouble making it happen.
With this approach, you’re no longer manually configuring environments by hand (using a GUI), which is error-prone and tedious. Instead, you write code in a series of scripts or declarative configuration files that describes the infrastructure you want to create.
Your code is then executed, either manually or automatically, through an automated process, such as continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD), to build your environment in line with what’s described in your Code.
It sounds straightforward enough, but implementing IaC in practice can be incredibly difficult. Today, most enterprises have their IT systems made up of legacy applications and networks that aren’t written in any code. Instead, they’re built from a series of manual configurations or even random scripts thrown together as needed.
The Benefits of This Approach?
1. It helps avoid errors that are common when configuring environments manually.
2. It speeds up deployments (because much of the work is automated).
3. It promotes consistency across environments because they can be automatically recreated.
4. It makes it easier to share knowledge across teams because changes to environments are captured in source control and the rest of your application code.
What No One Tells You About Infrastructure as Code
Infrastructure as Code (IAC) is a vital component of any DevOps practice. It allows you to create and manage infrastructure through files rather than manually configuring resources in a web interface. But IAC can be challenging to master. Here are some tips to help you and your team get started.
When you first start working with infrastructure as Code (IAC), it can be challenging to know where to start, what tools you should use, and what process you should follow to ensure everything works as expected. Here are some tips we’ve found especially useful for using IAC effectively.
Focus on Idempotency
A key benefit of IaC is treating infrastructure as disposable, which makes it easier to manage a dynamic environment where new servers are automatically spun up as needed. But if you’re not careful, you can wind up with multiple copies running simultaneously, which can throw off your entire DevOps process.
To avoid this, make sure all your configuration scripts are idempotent to be run multiple times without unintended consequences. For example, in some cases, it may be necessary to run a script twice if a server fails during deployment or terminates unexpectedly.
Make sure that you have a robust provisioning process in place. For example, if you use Chef and want to install or update the software on a server, you will need to ensure that these changes are applied correctly.
Therefore, be sure to include extensive tests in your Code so that you don’t run into issues later on. An even better strategy is to use continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) tools like Jenkins or CircleCI to test your code after each commits automatically.
Ensure All Provisioners Are Working Together
Ensure that all provisioners are working together in harmony. If you’re provisioning with Puppet and configuring with Chef, make sure you’re not stepping on each other’s toes. Make sure you create names for your resources that can be easily used across multiple configuration management files.
Use a configuration management tool like Puppet or Ansible to ensure all your systems are configured the same way and are kept up to date automatically. Don’t let software become outdated just because no one can remember to do the update.
Avoid Scope Creep
Every new project has this problem. Someone asks for one thing and ends up with another because they keep adding features along the way. That’s not an excellent way to start a new project, and it’s even worse with Infrastructure as Code because there are so many moving parts.
For example, suppose someone wants to use Terraform or CloudFormation to create a bunch of accounts in AWS. In that case, they may need to set up an identity federation between those accounts or IP address whitelisting between them.
It’s easy for this effort to become much larger than initially planned, and that means it will likely cost more and take longer than expected.
Prioritize Automation over Convenience
Automation is one of IaC’s biggest strengths. Always ask yourself whether something can be automated easily when selecting new products and services. It’s often possible to find something better if you’re willing to put in a little extra work upfront. Still, it’s easy to get caught up in the convenience of a particular service or product and lose sight of its suitability for IaC.
Be Aware of the State
There may come a time when you need to turn off or destroy a resource, such as an application server during maintenance or testing, or because it isn’t needed anymore. Be aware of the resource’s state, and ensure that the configuration file reflects that state.
This can also help ensure that resources are only created when they need to be created, such as when an upgrade is performed and not every time the configuration file is invoked.
Make Your Code Reviewable
If you’re going to implement infrastructure as code, you’d better be prepared to share it. This means making sure all changes are documented thoroughly so that anyone who has access can understand what’s going on.
You may also want to consider implementing code review processes so that changes go through the appropriate approval process before they’re deployed.
There’s no doubt that infrastructure such as code can be extremely helpful in a DevOps environment. However, for it to work the way you want it to, the entire team must be able to communicate with each other effectively.
The communication of this process has to be detailed enough, so people know what to expect when they use it. That way, they won’t have any false expectations and will be able to get the most out of this type of work.
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