‘Infrastructure as Code’ refers to automating the
process of managing IT infrastructure through an automation mechanism. The principle of
infrastructure as a code revolves around the fact that the stakeholders involved in the
software development process can deliver the objectives within SLA. Infrastructure as a
code refers to the process of provisioning, managing, and monitoring the functioning of
hardware and software resources and ensuring whether these are working in tandem.
What is infrastructure?
Infrastructure, in the context of IT, refers to an environment
that supports the development, testing, and release of software products and services,
with the help of required resources. The terminology refers to a cloud computing model,
which consists of resources such as databases, networks, storage, testing components,
Infrastructure as a code can thus be understood as a platform
that assists in software development and deployment with the least manual configuration
involved to accomplish an activity. Developers or testers can simply upload a script or
code concerning any feature update, and the infrastructure runs the required module to
see whether the code accomplishes the task successfully or not. Once the results are
validated by the system, the team does not have to perform any additional
Infrastructure as Code in Cloud Computing
The cloud computing model provides a wide range of services
that can be used to manage software deployment and release processes. The following
points list some of the physical and virtual resources that make up the foundation upon
which the infrastructure as code works.
- Data centers - Infrastructure to be used are stationed at designated
centers, access to which are enabled over the web. Various companies such as Amazon,
Google, IBM, and so on have their data centers and they make this available to the
end-users as a service.
- Network - networking mechanisms such as routers, switches, are made
available to the end-users, over cloud, through APIs.
- Storage - the storage in the context of the cloud can be categorized
into block storage, file storage, and object storage. The storage over the cloud
thus offers a distributed architecture to be used by the users, over the web.
Benefits of Infrastructure as a Code
A centralized infrastructure, available and accessible
irrespective of any location, has contributed towards the agile nature of software
development followed by majorly all IT companies. We attempt to highlight few key
benefits that we can derive from infrastructure as a service:
- Speed - automated
infrastructure offers much respite with respect to handling provisioning
infrastructure so that when a code is uploaded on the server, the tasks of
testing and deployment are taken care of by the cloud infrastructure. All one
needs to do is upload the code wait for the execution results and then the
server automatically takes care of further deployment.
- Consistency - one obvious fact
that supersedes the use of any automation framework is the elimination of the
probability of errors caused due to manual intervention. The tools available today
are much convenient as they offer a standardized approach to integrate the updates
and make them available on the server.
- Accountability - once a code is
deployed, the consequent activities are taken care of by the resources available in
the infrastructure available to the end-users. Therefore, the accountability is
minimized as to what is pending with whom as every information is clearly
- Cost reduction - in the absence
of the cloud, organizations had to install and configure physical data storage,
networking facilities, and also have administrators who would supervise the
performance of the entire setup. This whole process added a good amount of
investment by the companies. This has successfully been overcome by
infrastructure -as -a -service offered by the cloud computing model.
It's just a single repository that takes care of everything.
- Acts as a source of knowledge -
in case there is a replacement in the team, one can easily analyze what has already
been done by revisiting the established setup. It thus saves time on training a new
associate about the detailed specifications of the resources available in the
Drawbacks of Infrastructure as Code
Often the benefits can turn into an obstacle, given that the
expected results are not achieved. Following are a few possible cases that might occur
- Sometimes developers already have a huge
repository of code to maintain, as a result of several updates happening on a
frequent basis. If more updates are to be added or monitored by the same
members, it may cause overhead in terms of the volume of updates to be
maintained, which can sometimes lead to erroneous communication of various facts
- There might be instances where code execution might fail
or crash, due to several reasons. In such scenarios, the update process had to be
followed again, that is the code had to be re-executed from scratch which is a very
- If a code is written in a complex manner, that is, it
poses difficulty for the next person to understand the structure. This could again
be a very cumbersome and time-consuming process
Tools for Infrastructure as Code
Some popular IaC tools are listed as follows:
- Terraform -
infrastructure provisioning tool offered by Hashicorp, helps the users by
creating an execution plan. It creates an outline of the consequent activities
that will occur, with a graphical representation of the available resources. The
tool automates the changes and requires no or very little human interaction.
- AWS Cloud formation - the tool
helps in automating the deployments. The only limitation is that it can work only
within the AWS platform. Users of the tool
can preview the proposed changes in the AWS infrastructure and analyze the impact it
might have on resources. This way insight can be drawn to figure out ways to handle
- Chef - a very popular
configuration management tool, used widely by organizations to keep up with
continuous integration and delivery process. It comes with some prescribed rules for
configuring applications on the server, as per requirement. Chef can be integrated
with AWS, Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft Azure.
- Ansible - an infrastructure
automation tool by RedHat, provides a platform that describes the interconnectedness
between components and their interaction with the system. Code in Ansible is written
in playbooks which makes it very easy to understand.
Few more tools in the list are Juju, Docker, Saltstack,
Puppet, Vagrant, Pallet, CFEngine, and many more. The usage totally depends on the
requirements and availability of resources in an organization and what they want to
achieve as the end result.
Cloud has revolutionized over the years and has now been
positioned as the most sought-after model being followed by any organization dealing in
software products and services. There are a number of vendors that offer infrastructure
as a code, software as a service, and so on. The adoption of a tool or solution largely
depends on the objectives to be met, small scale or large scale, and the budgetary
IaC is surely a one-stop solution that eases the handling of
development operations thus saving a lot of time and effort.