What is Infrastructure as Code and Why It’s the Future of IT

What is Infrastructure as Code and Why It’s the Future of IT
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This guest post was authored by Karl Utermohlen

Infrastructure has long been a pain point for enterprises. Expensive to procure and complicated to set up, few companies were able to maintain proper capacity levels. They would either buy too much and waste money on unused resources or buy too little and choke the progress of their business teams.

Then came cloud computing, which fundamentally changed the way businesses purchased and used infrastructure. Affordable, scalable and easy to procure, it seemed like a godsend for enterprises. But even this has its limitations, especially for enterprises who want or need to keep datacenters on-premise.

Luckily, those enterprises have a new solution to their infrastructure woes: Infrastructure as Code.

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) refers to the management of data centers through code rather than through a manual process such as physical hardware configuration. The technology is used widely in cloud computing as it helps to solve issues with utility computing and second-generation web frameworks. It can also be used in on-premise datacenters, allowing IT teams to manage their infrastructure as if it were in the cloud.

The Problem With Current IT Infrastructure and Management

Software developers first came up with the idea of Infrastructure as Code due to a number of concerns with the role of manually done tasks and scripts in the IT world. Tasks performed manually caused issues in a group because there were a lot of questions regarding a company’s IT infrastructure.

No one knew all the details of what the managed infrastructure looked like, the configuration of the machines or the changes that were made. When a system experienced a failure, no one could figure out what shut the system down. This meant that network administrators had to go on a wild goose chase to guess what happened to the server.

Scripts caused issues in infrastructure and configuration management as well. They had some benefits as they performed better than manual work thanks to the automation and standardization of a company’s IT processes. Plus, source control systems such as Git would track changes for future references.

However, scripts had issues such as the variation in how coders wrote scripts. This meant that multiple scripts could be written to achieve the same goal, which resulted in unique scripts that caused headaches.

Plus, the system configuration got bigger as the scripts grew in size and become more complex. This suggests that there might be several team members who were unaware of what the script was doing, creating a guessing game once again.

Scripts are also not as effective for long-term configuration and infrastructure management. This is because they don’t offer idempotence.

These issues led to the creation of Infrastructure as Code due to the issues associated with manual work and scripts.

Benefits of IaC in the IT Business

IaC offers a lot of upside to IT teams, including idempotence, which consists of the idea that running scripts multiple times should garner the same results. The principle is useful because it ensures that the code is deployed the same way no matter what the environment’s starting state is.

You can maintain idempotence by automatically configuring a target that already exists or by discarding an existing target and creating a new environment.

IaC also allows teams to change the environment description and the version of the configuration model. This is useful in code formats that have solid documentation, including JSON. This leads to a smoother release pipeline that allows developers to make changes to the source rather than the target.

The technology also paves the way for DevOps teams to test their applications early in their development lifecycle. These teams can test multiple environments at once with less of a hassle. This means that IaC can thwart common issues in deployment early on and store information on the cloud.

Implementing Infrastructure as Code

IaC requires more expertise than simply writing scripts; it also consists of using tested software development practices used in app development. These include code testing, small deployments and use of design patterns. In essence, the technology requires you to write code to manage your server, while also automating complex tasks.

Implementing IaC solutions into your business serves a similar goal to programming script as they are designed to automate IT tasks. Scripts are used to automate a number of static steps that are to be repeated several times across various servers. IaC differs from scripts by using higher-level language to code in a more versatile manner.

One way that IaC does this is by simply setting up new databases and removing unnecessary ones through code. One way to do this is with Nutanix Calm, our IT management and configuration tool that works alongside MySQL server. Once you install MySQL and check that it’s operating as it should, you can set up databases with nothing more than code.

Infrastructure as Code is similar to many regular software design practices. It allows developers to control code versions and test code iterations. They can also limit when the software is deployed by testing it adequately to help reduce any bugs.

This is useful for software developers as they can write an IaC process for provision and release a new application for quality assurance purposes before rolling it out widely.

Useful IaC Tools

There are various tools available that can help to bolster your IaC ambitions in an easier, faster and more convenient manner. Here are some of the standouts:
  • Nutanix Calm: Calm adds native application orchestration and lifecycle management to the Nutanix Enterprise Cloud OS. The app makes it easy to deploy applications into public or private cloud. It essentially automates common tasks without negatively affecting the infrastructure stack.
  • Terraform: This is an infrastructure provisioning tool that helps DevOps teams describe their Infrastructure as Code. The tool allows you to create execution plans that give you a solid idea of what will happen when you run your code. It also creates graphs of your resources and automates necessary changes.
  • Chef: Chef is a very useful tool that allows for the optimization of continuous integration through IaC. You can use it to create “recipes” through its DSL, which runs on Ruby. These recipes give you all the steps necessary to reach the configuration of your choice on your applications on existing servers.
  • Azure Resource Manager: With the Azure tool, you can define the infrastructure and dependencies necessary for your application. The tool lets you do so in templates, organizing your dependent resources into groups. These groups can be deployed or deleted easily with one action.
  • Google Cloud Deployment Manager: This Alphabet tool helps to automate your GCP infrastructure stack. You can use it to create templates with YAML or Python. Plus, you can preview any changes that need to be made before deployment.
These tools will help in the transition towards Infrastructure as Code, making life easier for your IT team.

Long Live IaC

Adding Infrastructure as Code ultimately offers more stable environments at a rapid rate and at scale. It helps teams avoid configuring an environment manually. Plus, it creates a consistent environment through code.

Infrastructure deployments done with IaC can be repeated with automated functions. This means that they can prevent runtime issues caused by issues such as missing dependencies.

IT and DevOps teams are set to benefit greatly from IaC. It offers practices and tools in a unified manner for smoother and more functional applications. Plus, it supports infrastructure in a faster and more reliable manner.

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