What is Infrastructure as Code?
Infrastructure is an inseparable part of any software development process. It is directly accountable for an application's stability. Servers, load balancers, firewalls, and databases are all part of an infrastructure.
Infrastructure has a very important role to play across the whole development process. Now there is a very unique concept that is often associated with infrastructures. It’s called Infrastructure as Code. Let’s understand everything about this in this post.
Table of contents
- What is Infrastructure as Code?
- Benefits of Infrastructure as Code
- How does Infrastructure as Code work?
- Core components of Infrastructure as Code
What is Infrastructure as Code?
Infrastructure as Code (IaC) refers to the method of provisioning and managing infrastructure using code rather than manually. Since infrastructure is defined as a code, users may quickly update and share configurations while ensuring that the infrastructure remains in the desired condition. In other words, you can easily develop infrastructure setups that are repeatable.
Here are some features of Infrastructure as Code:
- It allows infrastructure to be readily linked into version control techniques, making infrastructure modifications trackable and auditable.
- It offers the capability to automate the entire infrastructure management. Due to this, IaC can be seen getting integrated into CI/CD pipelines these days and playing a key role in SDLC.
- Manual infrastructure provisioning and administration are no longer necessary. This means users can effortlessly manage the underlying infrastructure's and configurations' unavoidable config drift. And that too while keeping all environments inside the intended configuration.
Benefits of Infrastructure as Code
Following are the core benefits of Infrastructure as Code:
- Speed: The primary advantage of IaC is its speed. IaC lets you execute a script that can quickly build your entire infrastructure. You can accomplish this for every environment, be it development or production, and everything in between, including staging, QA, etc. In short, IaC can improve the efficiency of the entire software development lifecycle.
- Consistency: Manual processes inevitably result in errors. Humans are prone to making mistakes. Communication is often cumbersome. Manual infrastructure management will always result in inconsistencies, no matter how hard you try. IaC solves this by ensuring that the configuration files are the only source of truth. That way, you can be sure that identical setups will be performed repeatedly, with no differences.
- Accountability: Since IaC configuration files can be versioned like any other source code file, you can track the changes that each configuration has undergone. In summary, there will be no more pointing fingers as to who did what and when.
- Efficient: You can deploy your infrastructure architectures in stages using infrastructure as code. This improves the SDLC’s efficiency by ensuring that your team achieves new levels of productivity.
- Cost-effective: Without a doubt, one of the most important advantages of IaC is the reduction of infrastructure administration costs. You can even reduce your investment by fusing cloud computing and IaC. This is because you no longer have to spend money on buying hardware or hiring people to operate it. You also don't have to own or rent physical space to store it.
- Source Control: For improved openness and accountability, code can be checked in source control.
- Documentation: The infrastructure code serves as a dynamic document of the infrastructure's current status.
- Reusability: IaC makes it simple to design reusable modules, such as replication environments for development and production.
How does Infrastructure as Code work?
When it comes to the mechanics of how IaC tools work, we may divide them into two categories: those that follow an imperative approach and those that follow a declarative approach.
"Orders" are given in the imperative approach. It specifies a set of commands or instructions that the infrastructure must follow in order to achieve the desired outcome.
On the other hand, a declarative method "declares" the desired conclusion. The declarative method illustrates what the end result looks like instead of explicitly detailing the sequence of steps the infrastructure needs to obtain the final outcome.
Infrastructure as Code may be explained in three simple stages and visualized using the figure given below that -
- The definition of the infrastructure is defined and written in a domain-specific language by developers.
- The files are then transferred to a master server or a management API, or a simple code repository.
- Then the platform automates the entire creation and configuration processes of the computer resources.
Core elements of Infrastructure as Code
Following are the core components of IaC:
- Scripting: Writing scripts is arguably the simplest approach to IaC. Ad-hoc scripts are perfect if you intend on carrying out simple or one-time actions. But when it comes to more complicated configurations, it's always recommended to choose a more specialized option as below.
- Configuration Management Tools: They are specialized tools, often known as Configuration as Code. They were primarily developed to manage software, and they mainly concentrate on setting up and configuring servers. Some of the popular examples include Chef, Puppet, and Ansible.
- Provisioning Tools: Infrastructure creation is the prime focus of provisioning tools. These tools empower developers to accurately describe infrastructure components. Popular examples include Terraform, AWS CloudFormation, and OpenStack Heat.
- Containers and templating tools: These are the tools that help in the creation of pre-loaded templates or images constituting all the libraries and components required to launch an application. And if you consider containerized workloads, they are not only simple to distribute but also come at a fraction of the cost of a full-size server. rkt, Docker, Packer, and Vagrant are the main examples of these tools.
As you have seen in this post, IaC is undoubtedly one of the most important DevOps and Agile software development practices known to developers today. Servers, databases, services, virtual networks, permissions, block devices, and practically any other cloud provider offering can be effortlessly deployed and managed using Infrastructure as Code.