Why Infrastructure as Code Is Vital for Modern DevOps
The infrastructure that underpins modern enterprise applications is more complex than ever. Ninety-two percent of organizations already operate a multicloud architecture, with the number of infrastructure components set to multiply as 90% of enterprises are expected to run containerized applications by 2027. As the infrastructure underlying services grows more complex, two challenges start to rear their heads: full-service ownership and consistency.
Full-service ownership is the idea that developers should take responsibility for supporting the software and infrastructure they deliver. In the absence of full-service ownership, teams are likely to run into confusion and errors in routine workflows, along with the risk of organizations falling behind when trying to remediate outages and security vulnerabilities.
Consistency is another problem often exacerbated by a lack of full-service ownership. This refers to the increased difficulty in standardizing applications sitting atop elaborate infrastructure. Consistency becomes more challenging as infrastructure grows more complex, since differences in configuration run an ever-greater risk of introducing errors or deviations between deployments.
To address the challenges of full-service ownership and consistency, modern DevOps teams have turned to Infrastructure as Code (IaC) solutions, such as Terraform or Ansible. But how exactly does IaC address these challenges, and how can it augment other parts of DevOps pipelines?
Consolidating and Simplifying Infrastructure
In short, IaC solutions allow teams to manage and provision their infrastructure via code. Once written, the code for an IaC tool will define, configure or save the settings of relevant infrastructure components. Teams can then automate much of the work around provisioning their infrastructure, skipping the need to manually configure individual pieces of infrastructure through physical interfaces, command lines or graphical user interfaces (GUIs).
Along with permitting infrastructure management in bulk, IaC provides a single point of access for infrastructure configuration. This enables settings and provisioning to be saved and standardized across deployments and organizations, ensuring a resolution to the challenge of consistency around complex infrastructure.
IaC also lets teams define and consolidate groups of infrastructure, and designate team members who are responsible for these groups alongside individual components. Along with offering a more straightforward way to repeat complex deployments, this also facilitates full-service ownership by storing information on who originally delivered the relevant piece of infrastructure, all logged in a single source of truth for all team members.
Using IaC for Continuous Integration and Delivery
Due to its ability to tackle the ownership problem, DevOps teams have embraced IaC in droves. Because of its ability to abstract, simplify and standardize deployments, IaC has proven a great boon in helping teams achieve continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD).
IaC has proven useful to CI/CD practices because it allows DevOps teams to make iterative improvements on apps and services without having to reassign or reconfigure an underlying piece of infrastructure. With IaC, developer teams can focus just on the application, with the onus for infrastructure configuration being on the respective owner as a separate workflow. This is especially useful for complex infrastructure arrangements, such as Kubernetes clusters.
Additionally, IaC instructions can be monitored, committed and reverted by teams with ease. Just as they would with a regular coding workflow, code for IaC tools can be rapidly iterated on for infrastructure reconfiguration on the fly to reflect the pace of innovation in a CI/CD environment.
In particular, allowing IaC code to be treated as any other workflow also means teams can access valuable insights for regular monitoring and incident response. If an infrastructure component suffers a fault, for example, monitoring solutions can use IaC data to automatically assign and flag tasks to the relevant stakeholder in an organization. And when it comes to collating insights, IaC lets teams define and monitor sets of infrastructure components to understand broader trends around application and system performance.
Build It, Own It, Run It, Fix It with IaC
IaC lifts the burden of manually configuring, defining and monitoring the complex infrastructure underlying enterprise applications. In particular, it eliminates some major issues that often emerge with complex infrastructure via inconsistent deployments and a lack of full-service ownership.
With IaC, teams can also use their internal clouds for operations to detect and diagnose problems, mobilize the right teams when incidents emerge and automate many of the remaining workflows around infrastructure. Alongside making complex infrastructure more feasible for enterprises to leverage and adopt, IaC also makes an organization’s infrastructure more robust and secure than ever.
However, IaC is also extremely valuable for organizations embracing CI/CD. More than anything else, that’s why IaC has become a must-have for most DevOps teams. Grouping and standardizing physical infrastructure, virtual resources and cloud services means teams can treat infrastructure as an abstraction, allowing them to focus on building new products and services. And critically, as a key enabling technology for full-service ownership, it guarantees that the best possible team member is always at hand to build, own, run and fix infrastructure.