Infrastructure as Code: Benefits, Platforms & Tips for Success

What Is Infrastructure as Code (IaC)? 

Infrastructure as Code, or IaC, is a modern approach to managing and provisioning IT infrastructure through the use of code, rather than traditional manual processes. With IaC, you can automate the process of setting up, managing, and configuring computing resources such as servers, storage, networks, and applications. This enables you to treat your infrastructure as if it were software, applying version control, testing, and other software development practices.

The primary goal of Infrastructure as Code is to increase efficiency, reliability, and consistency in the deployment and management of infrastructure. By writing code to define and manage the infrastructure, you can eliminate the need for manual intervention, reducing the potential for human error and increasing the speed of deployment. Additionally, IaC enables you to adopt a more consistent and repeatable process for provisioning and configuring resources, making it easier to scale and manage your infrastructure over time.

One of the key aspects of Infrastructure as Code is the use of a declarative or imperative approach to define the desired state of your infrastructure. This allows you to specify what you want your infrastructure to look like and have the IaC tool automatically make the necessary changes to achieve that state. The result is a more agile, efficient, and reliable IT environment that is better equipped to support the demands of modern businesses.

Why Has Infrastructure as Code Become Important? 

One of the primary drivers behind the growing adoption of IaC is the rise of cloud computing and the need for organizations to manage and deploy resources across multiple environments quickly and efficiently.

As organizations continue to adopt cloud-based services, they are faced with the challenge of managing and deploying resources across various environments, such as public, private, and hybrid clouds. IaC enables organizations to automate the deployment and management of these resources, reducing the time and effort required to manage complex environments.

Another factor contributing to the increasing importance of IaC is the growing need for businesses to deliver applications and services more quickly and efficiently. In today’s fast-paced digital world, organizations must be able to respond to changing market conditions and customer demands rapidly. Infrastructure as Code allows businesses to streamline their IT operations, enabling them to scale and adapt more easily.

Finally, Infrastructure as Code supports the principles of DevOps, a set of practices that aims to bridge the gap between software development and IT operations. By treating infrastructure as code, organizations can apply the same methodologies and tools used in software development to their infrastructure, improving collaboration and communication between development and operations teams.

How IaC Works 

The core concept behind IaC is simple; treat your infrastructure as if it were software and data. This means applying the same rigorous practices used in software development to your infrastructure. This includes using version control systems, testing the infrastructure code, and using continuous integration and deployment. This approach ensures that the infrastructure is in a consistent state and helps in reducing the overall system downtime and the time spent on system maintenance.

The process of IaC starts with the writing of scripts that describe the desired state of the infrastructure. These scripts use a declarative language that describes what the infrastructure should look like, not how to achieve it. These scripts are then stored in a version control system, just like any other piece of software. This allows for versioning, auditing, and rolling back if necessary.

Once the scripts are written and stored, an IaC tool is used to apply these scripts to the actual infrastructure. These tools interpret the scripts, understand the desired state of the infrastructure, and then make the necessary changes to bring the infrastructure to that state. This process can be run multiple times, and each time it will ensure that the infrastructure is in the desired state. This ensures consistency across deployments and reduces the chance of manual error.

Learn more in our detailed guide to IaC tools (coming soon)

Benefits of Infrastructure as Code 

There are several benefits of adopting Infrastructure as Code, including:

Improved Efficiency

By automating the deployment and management of infrastructure, IaC eliminates the need for manual intervention, reducing the time and effort required to manage and configure resources. This increased efficiency can help organizations save both time and money, enabling them to focus on other critical business tasks.

Enhanced Consistency and Reliability

Infrastructure as Code enables you to create a consistent and repeatable process for provisioning and configuring resources. This means that you can ensure your infrastructure is always in the desired state, reducing the risk of configuration drift and making it easier to manage your environment over time.

Better Scalability

With IaC, you can quickly and easily scale your infrastructure to meet the changing needs of your business. Whether you need to add new resources, remove existing ones, or adjust the configuration of your environment, Infrastructure as Code allows you to make these changes with minimal effort and disruption.

Increased Collaboration and Communication

By treating infrastructure as code, organizations can improve collaboration and communication between development and operations teams. Developers and operations staff can work together more effectively, sharing code, tools, and best practices to ensure the infrastructure supports the needs of the business.

Declarative vs. Imperative Approaches to IaC 

In the world of Infrastructure as Code, there are two main approaches: declarative and imperative. The declarative approach focuses on what the final outcome should be, but not how to get there. You define the desired state of your infrastructure, and your IaC tools determine the best way to achieve that state. This approach is often used in configuration management tools like Puppet and Chef.

On the other hand, the imperative approach specifies the steps needed to achieve the desired state. It’s a sequence of commands, and the system follows these commands to reach the end goal. This approach is often used in procedural coding and scripting languages.

Each approach has its strengths and weaknesses. The declarative approach is less prone to errors, as it doesn’t require you to detail every step. However, it can be less flexible if you need to perform complex operations. The imperative approach gives you more control over the process, but it can be more error-prone, especially if steps are missed or executed in the wrong order.

Learn more in our detailed guide to declarative vs imperative programming (coming soon)

Popular IaC Platforms 

Terraform

Terraform is an open-source IaC tool that allows you to define and provide data center infrastructure using a declarative configuration language. It is cloud-agnostic and supports a multitude of providers such as AWS, Google Cloud, and Azure. Terraform allows you to manage a wide variety of service providers as well as custom in-house solutions.

Terraform scripts are written in HashiCorp Configuration Language (HCL). This language is human-readable and easy to understand, which makes Terraform scripts easy to write and maintain. Another significant advantage of Terraform is its modularity. You can create modules for different parts of the infrastructure and then reuse these modules across different environments.

Ansible

Ansible is an open-source software provisioning, configuration management, and application-deployment tool. It aims to provide large productivity gains to a wide variety of automation challenges. One of the main advantages of Ansible is its simplicity. The scripts are written in YAML, which is a human-readable data serialization language.

Ansible uses a push-based approach to manage systems. This means that the configurations are pushed from a central location to the nodes. This approach is different from the pull-based approach used by other tools like Puppet and Chef, where the nodes pull their configurations from a central server.

Puppet

Puppet is an open-source software configuration management tool. It runs on many Unix-like systems as well as on Microsoft Windows, and includes its own declarative language to describe system configuration. Puppet uses a master-slave architecture, where the master node contains the configuration information in a Puppet script, and the slave nodes pull the configuration from the master and apply it.

Puppet scripts are written in a declarative language, which means you define the end state, and Puppet figures out how to achieve that state. This makes Puppet scripts easy to write and understand. Also, Puppet provides a robust framework for enforcing system configuration, making it an excellent choice for large-scale system management.

Chef

Chef is a powerful automation platform that transforms infrastructure into code. It is a robust, flexible, and platform-independent tool. With Chef, you can automate your infrastructure by writing scripts in Ruby that describe how you want each part of your infrastructure to be built.

Chef uses a pull-based approach, similar to Puppet. The nodes have a chef-client installed, which periodically pulls the configuration from a Chef server and applies it. This approach allows for a high degree of control over system configuration and is particularly useful in large-scale environments.

AWS CloudFormation

AWS CloudFormation is a service that helps you model and set up your Amazon Web Services resources. It only supports AWS. You create a template that describes all the AWS resources that you want (like Amazon EC2 instances or Amazon RDS DB instances), and AWS CloudFormation takes care of provisioning and configuring those resources for you.

CloudFormation scripts are written in JSON or YAML. These scripts define the AWS resources and the relationships between them. Once the script is written, you can use the AWS Management Console, AWS CLI, or SDKs to create a stack based on the script.

Azure Resource Manager (ARM)

Azure Resource Manager (ARM) is the deployment and management service for Azure. It provides a management layer that enables you to create, update, and delete resources in your Azure account—note that it only supports the Azure cloud. You use management features, like access control, locks, and tags, to secure and organize your resources after deployment.

ARM templates are written in JSON and define the resources that should be created. The template can be used to deploy the same set of resources repeatedly. This is particularly useful in a development environment where you may need to tear down and recreate your infrastructure frequently.

1. Use Version Control for IaC

Version control systems allow you to keep track of changes to your code, making it easier to understand what changes were made, when, and by whom. This can be particularly useful when troubleshooting problems or auditing changes.

Version control can also improve collaboration between team members. With a version control system, multiple people can work on the same codebase without overwriting each other’s changes. It also provides a history of changes, making it easier to roll back to a previous version if something goes wrong.

2. Employ Immutable Infrastructure

Immutable infrastructure means that once a server is deployed, it is never modified, only replaced with a new instance when a change is required. This approach can greatly reduce inconsistencies and issues due to configuration drift. Immutable infrastructure can also improve the reliability of your systems. By treating your servers as disposable units that can be replaced at any time, you can quickly recover from failures and easily scale up or down as needed. Plus, it can increase the speed and efficiency of your deployment process.

3. Testing, Integration, and Deployment

Testing, integration, and deployment are critical stages in the IaC process. Testing your infrastructure code is as important as testing application code. It ensures that your infrastructure behaves as expected and helps to catch any errors before they impact your live systems.

Integration is equally important. It involves combining your individual pieces of code to ensure they work together as expected. Finally, deployment is the stage at which your code is released into your live environment. By conducting multiple rounds of testing, integration, and deployment, you can catch and correct any issues before they reach your live systems.

4. Be Careful of Code Leaks

As with any type of code, it’s possible for sensitive information to be inadvertently included in your IaC scripts. This could include passwords, API keys, or other sensitive data.

To prevent code leaks, it’s important to use secure methods for storing and accessing sensitive information. This might include using a secure vault or key management system, or using environment variables to store sensitive data. Also, consider using automated tools to scan your code for potential leaks.

Learn more in our detailed guide to infrastructure as code best practices.

Codefresh is built for modern tools with support for flexible frameworks. Most infrastructure as code tools are available as docker images and can be seamlessly integrated into Codefresh pipelines – this happens to be a very common pattern for many of our customers. Learn more about how you can easily execute a custom freestyle step with any of these images here.


If you are interested in managing Codefresh resources with Terraform, we also have you covered there! The Codefresh Terraform provider can manage the creation, updates, and removal of Codefresh resources allowing you to utilize your current infrastructure as code workflows without compromises. 

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