Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC): Methodologies, Approach and Best Practices

IaC Overview

Earlier, this management of IT infrastructure was done manually by the system administrators. They managed all the hardware and software that was required for an application to run. Tech has progressed a lot in the past few years, and now there is an alternative to this manual management, called Infrastructure as Code or IaC in short.

Let us define IaC in more descriptive terms. Infrastructure as code is the process of managing and provisioning computer data centers through machine-readable definition files, rather than physical hardware configuration or interactive configuration tools.

IaC tackles problems that were present before its use, such as manual environment build process, manual approval process, high costs, hardware issues, and errors caused by human beings.

IaC Methodologies

Ad Hoc Scripts

If you run an ad hoc script, it will definitely give the expected results, and the running process is also fairly easy. However, there are chances of an error if you run the same ad hoc script multiple times. For instance, if you create a folder using an ad hoc script, then you would have to check again later if that folder still exists or not.

Let us summarize the workflow of ad hoc scripts step-wise:

● Take manual work and break it down into discrete steps

● Choose your favourite scripting language

● Define and write each of those steps in code

● Execute the scripts

Configuration Management Tools

Some of the Configuration Management tools include Ansible, Chef, Puppet, and SaltStack. These tools are also known as Idempotent codes. An Idempotent code is a code or a script that produces the same results, no matter how many times you run or execute the same code.

The above-mentioned Configuration Management Tools are designed in such a way that they can install and manage software on existing servers. For instance, Ansible uses YAML files for the playbook. They can also manage a large number of remote servers.

Server Templating

Let us check the above-mentioned tools in more detail:

Docker: Docker is used to create isolated environments for applications called containers.

Packer: It helps in packaging all dependencies and building deployable Virtual Machine images.

Vagrant: It is used for configuring virtual machines for a development environment. Vagrant runs on top of VM solutions like VirtualBox, VMware, Hyper-V, etc.

With Server Templating Tools, there is no need to make any changes once you have deployed the server. If you want to deploy your modified code, you have to create a new image and then deploy it on new servers. This is what makes Server Templating tools essential for immutable infrastructure.

Server Provisioning

Some of the Server Provisioning Tools that can help create your servers include Terraform, Azure resource manager templates, Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud formation, and Open Stack Heat.

Terraform is a cloud infrastructure provisioning tool that supports all kinds of public and private cloud provisioning. It helps in maintaining the state of the infrastructure using a concept called state files.

Besides creating servers, the above-mentioned Server Provisioning tools can also enable one to create other resources such as databases, load balancers, firewall settings, storage, and so on.

IaC Approach

Let us learn about these approaches in more detail and understand the difference between the two.

Imperative approach

Declarative approach

IaC Cross Platform Landscape

IaC Best Practices

Go Slow

This is because they are not much experienced with technology and how to use it on a day-to-day basis for the proper functioning of an organization. [7] [8] Thus, the more team members can easily grasp IaC, the better output they will be able to provide.

Codify Everything

Continuous Testing, Integration, and Deployment

Immutable Infrastructure

Version Control

Other than just managing and tracking files, it also helps in developing and shipping products faster. This is possible as it helps improve the visibility, collaboration of team members and also accelerates product delivery.

Modularity

Conclusion

For this automation, many tools and methodologies are available. One tool will not be able to fulfil the requirements of one’s organization or team. Therefore, tools should be selected on the basis of the requirements of the organization and various other factors such as cost, skillset, functionality, and so on.

Field CTO | Technology Visionary | Customer Champion | Big Thinker. https://www.linkedin.com/in/miryali/