The key to any digital transformation strategy is scaling a digital infrastructure footprint in an autonomous way based on end users’ demands. Every service provider or enterprise – large or small – in the post-COVID-19 world is looking for ways to implement their infrastructure into an auto-pilot mode to better focus on delivering services to their customers.
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Infrastructure as Code to the rescue
What is Infrastructure as Code (IaC)?
Per Wikipedia “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. The IT infrastructure managed by this process comprises both physical equipment, such as bare-metal servers, as well as virtual machines, and associated configuration resources.”
In simple terms, treating infrastructure (physical or virtual) as code is separating a configuration from the platform and enabling a software-driven or software-defined approach (templates, scripts or policies) to provision, configure and manage infrastructure.
IaC is driven by the application of development principles to physical, virtual and cloud infrastructure. Templates, scripts and policies are treated as code, in that they should be reviewed, versioned and provisioned from a centralized repository rather than managed as discrete infrastructure elements.
Why is Infrastructure as Code important?
- Speed of Provisioning
Infrastructure as code enables you to provision complete infrastructure by running a software script. It can be done for every platform aspect: such as network, security, application or storage. It can also be done for various environments, from development to production, passing through staging, QA and more.
- Improved Consistency
Manual processes result in errors and manual infrastructure management will result in discrepancies and configuration drifts. IaC solves that problem by having the config files as the single source of truth. That way, it guarantees that the same configurations will be deployed over and over, without discrepancies.
Since IaC enables all the configurations via code from a centralized source, industry standard tools can be leveraged to monitor the infrastructure and gain visibility into critical insights around provisioning, errors, usage etc.
IaC, at the core, enables automation which reduces cost significantly.
What is the groundwork needed to launch an IaC approach to automate infrastructure?
Even though IaC empowers the continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) toolchain, Multiple factors need to be considered before choosing an IaC technology.
1. A declarative or imperative approach to adopting IaC
a. A declarative approach defines the desired state of the system, including what resources you need and any properties they should have, and an IaC tool will configure it for you. It also keeps a list of the current state of your system objects, which makes taking down the infrastructure simpler to manage.
b. An imperative approach defines the specific commands needed to achieve the desired configuration, and those commands then need to be executed in the correct order.
Many IaC tools use a declarative approach and will automatically provision the desired infrastructure. If you make changes to the desired state, a declarative IaC tool will apply those changes for you. An imperative tool will require you to figure out how those changes should be applied. IaC tools often operate in both approaches but tend to prefer one approach over the other.
2. A choice of mutable vs. immutable infrastructure
a. An immutable IaC is a set of definitions that are never reused and modified after the deployment, but instead, rebuild the infrastructure on demand for the required changes.
b. A mutable IaC is a set of definitions that allow for changes on demand and are configured as per the requirement. A common example for mutable IaC definition includes deploying patches on the fly, changing configurations and scaling-up/scaling down the servers on demand.
Currently most IaC tools allow you to create both mutable and immutable infrastructure paradigms to configure a hybrid approach to deploying infrastructure.
3. Configuration management vs. orchestration management
a. Orchestration management tools have a one main goal: to maintain and ensure an environment is continuously in its “Intended State.”
b. Configuration management tools are intended to repair and fix infrastructure issues, compared to resetting the infrastructure.
Most IaC tools are designed as a configuration management tool or an orchestration management tool. However, very limited vendors in the market allow for both segments as a single shop to cover end-to-end infrastructure automation.
Some of the most popular choices for enabling IaC are: Terraform, Chef, Puppet, Red Hat Ansible Platform, AWS CloudFormation. These tools will help you create, provision and configure infrastructure that includes software-defined compute, network and storage.
Learn more by going to the Equinix Terraform registry.
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