Infrastructure as Code, also sometimes referred to as ‘Programmable Infrastructure’ is an IT infrastructure that can be managed by operations teams via code, as opposed to manual processes. It is very similar to scripts, which are simple automations for various static steps across multiple servers. The key difference is in IAC’s versatility. Using management tools such as Puppet, Chef, and Vagrant, the operations team can easily use higher level or descriptive language to make processes more versatile and adaptive. This makes IAC operate very similarly to software design, with developers carefully controlling code versions, testing various iterations of code, and limiting deployment of code until it has been sufficiently tested and approved.
For all of the potential good that can come from utilizing Infrastructure as Code, it has been very slow to catch on in the tech world. Switching from a manual system to a fully automated, code-driven infrastructure is seen as ‘easier said than done’ and many organizations have yet to really consider its full benefits. There are a few notable disadvantages to switching to an IAC system.
IAC System include:
Third-Party Software Issues:
The majority of legacy applications on the market were not designed with IAC applications like Chef or Puppet in mind. Further complicating things, most third-party Windows applications can’t really be automated via the Windows command line.
Configuration drift occurs when administrators change server configurations without also changing the associated IAC code. This results in inconsistent configurations across data center systems, but can be avoided by fully integrating IAC into all policies and procedures relating to systems administration, IT operations, and DevOps processes.
Because code can change frequently as it is updated and adjusted for changing technology, security compliance across data center systems becomes more frequent than just an annual check. IT Security professionals will have to make more frequent security checks of IAC systems to ensure compliance is maintained.
IAC Learning Curves:
Like any software, IAC code only understands what it is programmed to understand. And switching from a manual system to a code-based automated system requires more applications and tools, which increases the chances for coding errors. This means that a simple error in a line of code can propagate across multiple servers, potentially causing significant problems. To head off any issues, it is imperative to extensively test any pre-release code and monitor released code for any sign of errors.
In spite of the potential headaches and disadvantages of Infrastructure as Code, there are a couple noteworthy benefits of switching to it from manual infrastructure management.
IAC benefits are:
Automated IT Infrastructure:
Manual management of IT Infrastructure can become a complicated, time-consuming process that slows down efficiency. This is especially the case as data centers increase in size and server capacity. With IAC, a developer can write code that allows an IAC process to deploy new applications for QA or experimental deployment.
Simplifies IT Management:
Developers and IT professionals can streamline the management process thanks to IAC utilities and code written to deploy them. For example, a developer could use Ansible to install a MySQL server, ensure it is running properly, create user accounts and passwords, create new databases, and remove old or unused databases. All of that can be done with software code, making the process run much more smoothly.
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