As software development teams move towards a more automated and collaborative approach, Infrastructure as Code (IaC) has become a popular buzzword in DevOps. By treating infrastructure as software, IaC allows teams to manage infrastructure more efficiently, reduce errors, and deploy code faster. In this blog, we'll explore what IaC is, how it works, and why it's essential for modern DevOps practices.

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DevOps is all about speed and efficiency in software development. Infrastructure as Code (IaC) is a key concept in DevOps that enables teams to automate infrastructure management by defining infrastructure in Code. 

In this blog, we'll delve into the details of IaC, its benefits, and how it fits into the DevOps workflow. So, if you want to optimize your infrastructure management process, keep reading!

What is Infrastructure as Code (IaC) for Dummies?

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) is a practice in DevOps that involves managing infrastructure through Code. It allows developers to define infrastructure in Code, just as with application code. Infrastructure can be version-controlled, tested, and deployed like any other code. 

With IaC, teams can automate infrastructure management, reduce the risk of human error, and deploy Code more frequently. 

IaC is essential for modern software development practices, as it enables teams to manage infrastructure more efficiently, deploy Code more frequently, and collaborate more effectively. 

Also Read: What is Configuration as Code?

Best Infrastructure as Code (IaC) Tools

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) is a crucial practice in DevOps that enables teams to manage infrastructure more efficiently and effectively. 

To do so, you need the right tools. Here's the list of some of the best IaC tools available today. 

These tools allow you to define infrastructure as Code, automate infrastructure management, reduce human error, and improve collaboration among team members. 

  • Terraform 

  • AWS CloudFormation

  • Azure Resource Manager

  • Google Cloud Deployment Manager

  • Ansible 

  • Chef 

  • Puppet

  • Pulumi

  • SaltStack

Also Read: Differences between Pulumi and Terraform

What is Infrastructure as Code with Terraform? 

HashiCorp Terraform is an open-source IaC tool that allows you to define and manage infrastructure as Code. Terraform allows you to define infrastructure resources, such as virtual machines, storage accounts, and networking components. 

This is done in a declarative language called HashiCorp Configuration Language (HCL), which makes it easier to write and manage infrastructure code.

This approach enables you to version-control your infrastructure code and easily apply changes to your infrastructure. 

Terraform is compatible with multiple cloud providers, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). 

This makes it a highly flexible and versatile tool for managing infrastructure as Code across different cloud environments.

Using Terraform, you can create, update, and destroy infrastructure resources safely and predictably without worrying about the underlying implementation details. 

This allows you to focus on the desired state of your infrastructure rather than the steps required to get there.

Also Read: HashiCorp Nomad vs Kubernetes

What is Infrastructure as Code in AWS CloudFormation?

AWS CloudFormation is a popular IaC tool that Amazon Web Services (AWS) provides. It enables you to define and deploy infrastructure resources in a repeatable and automated manner. 

With CloudFormation, you can describe your infrastructure using a declarative JSON or YAML template.

CloudFormation enables versioning, testing, and deployment of infrastructure code across multiple AWS accounts and regions. 

It provides built-in capabilities for rolling back changes and detecting drift, ensuring your infrastructure is in the desired state.

Using CloudFormation, you can define a wide range of AWS resources, like EC2 instances, RDS databases, VPCs, and security groups. 

You can also create custom templates or use pre-built ones to describe infrastructure in a modular and reusable way.

What is Infrastructure as Code in Azure Resource Manager?

Azure Resource Manager is Microsoft's solution for IaC. It enables you to define and deploy infrastructure resources in Azure using a declarative JSON or YAML template. 

This approach allows you to version-control your infrastructure code and deploy resources consistently and reproducibly.

Using Resource Manager, you can define resources such as virtual machines, storage accounts, and networking components. You can also manage the lifecycle of resources, including deployment, scaling, and deletion, all through Code.

Resource Manager templates can be customized for specific requirements. They can also be reused for multiple deployments, simplifying complex infrastructure management. 

Additionally, Azure provides several pre-built templates to get you started quickly. This includes templates for common scenarios like virtual machines and web applications.

Also Read: Migrating from AWS to Azure?

Google Cloud Deployment Manager

Google Cloud Deployment Manager is Google's solution for IaC, enabling you to define, deploy, and manage infrastructure resources on GCP. This is done by using a declarative YAML or Python configuration file.

You can define resources such as virtual machines, storage accounts, and networking components using Deployment Manager. 

You can also create templates that can be customized and reused across multiple deployments, also versioned for change management.

Deployment Manager also offers the ability to automate infrastructure deployments. This allows you to schedule and manage updates to your resources in a streamlined and repeatable way. 

Additionally, you can use the Deployment Manager to monitor and track the state of your infrastructure resources.

What is IaC in Ansible?

Ansible is a popular open-source automation tool for configuration management, application deployment, and infrastructure orchestration. 

Ansible follows an agentless architecture, making deploying and managing infrastructure resources across multiple systems and environments easy.

Using Ansible, you can define infrastructure resources such as virtual machines, storage accounts, and networking components using a YAML-based language. 

Ansible uses a push-based model, where the control machine pushes configurations and updates to the target machines.

Ansible for IaC has idempotent nature, meaning that it only applies necessary changes. This minimizes the risk of errors and ensures consistency across environments.

Ansible also integrates with various cloud providers, including AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. This makes it a versatile tool for managing infrastructure resources across different cloud environments.

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Chef

IaC in Chef allows you to define and manage infrastructure resources using a domain-specific language known as the Chef DSL. With Chef, you can define virtual machines, storage accounts, and networking components. 

You can also configure their attributes and dependencies using the Chef DSL based on the Ruby programming language.

Chef's idempotent nature allows it to only apply necessary changes, reducing the risk of errors and ensuring consistency across environments. 

Chef also integrates with various cloud providers like AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform.

Chef follows a client-server architecture, where a Chef server manages the configuration and state of client nodes. 

This enables you to version-control your infrastructure code, review and test changes, and deploy infrastructure resources across different environments.

What is Infrastructure as Code in Puppet?

Infrastructure as Code in Puppet involves defining and managing infrastructure resources using Puppet's declarative language. 

With Puppet, you can define infrastructure as Code, including servers, applications, networks, and storage, and manage them in a consistent and automated way.

One of the key features of Puppet's IaC is its ability to enforce desired state configuration management. Puppet ensures that the infrastructure always remains desired, regardless of any changes that might occur over time.

It also allows for modular code development, making it easy to reuse and share infrastructure code across different projects and teams. This results in faster and more efficient infrastructure deployment and management.

Puppet's IaC supports various operating systems, including Linux, Windows, and macOS. This enables Puppet to manage infrastructure resources across different platforms and environments, making it a versatile and flexible tool for infrastructure automation.

Also Read: Best Practices for DevOps Automation

Infrastructure as Code in Pulumi

Pulumi is a relatively new Infrastructure as Code (IaC) tool that allows you to define and deploy infrastructure resources in various cloud environments. It includes AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. 

Pulumi uses familiar programming languages like Python, JavaScript, and Go to define infrastructure resources. 

This approach allows you to leverage your existing programming skills and tools to define infrastructure flexibly and customizable way. 

Pulumi also provides a rich set of libraries and tools to simplify defining and deploying infrastructure resources. Overall making it a powerful choice for modern DevOps teams.


IaC in SaltStack

Infrastructure as Code in SaltStack allows you to describe your infrastructure resources in a declarative language using Saltstack's YAML-based syntax. 

With SaltStack, you can define complex infrastructure setups, including network configurations, virtual machines, and storage components. This can help you easily manage their state and configuration over time. 

SaltStack also provides powerful automation features like event-driven orchestration and dynamic infrastructure discovery. That makes it a popular choice for DevOps teams seeking to streamline their infrastructure management processes.

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) Best Practices

Provide Version Control & Keep Your IaC Under Control

Version control is a critical aspect of any software development process, and it's no different for Infrastructure as Code (IaC). 

Using a version control system such as Git, you can easily manage changes to your IaC codebase, track who made changes and when, and revert to previous versions if needed. 

Additionally, version control allows team members to collaborate, as everyone can work on the same codebase without the risk of conflicting changes. 

So, ensure to provide version control for your IaC to keep it under control.

Also Read: GitLab vs GitHub

Creating Immutable Infrastructure with Infrastructure as Code (IaC)

Immutability is a key best practice for Infrastructure as Code (IaC) in DevOps. It refers to the idea that once the infrastructure is provisioned, it should remain unchanged throughout its lifecycle. 

In other words, provide new resources with desired changes instead of modifying existing ones.

This approach ensures that infrastructure is always in a known and tested state. That makes it easier to troubleshoot issues and roll back changes when necessary. 

It also allows faster and more reliable deployments because new resources can be provisioned and tested in isolation before production.

Modularity in IaC: A Best Practice for Scalability and Reusability

Modularity refers to breaking down your infrastructure code into smaller, reusable, easily managed, and maintained modules.

By using modules, you can avoid duplicating Code and ensure consistency across different resources. This approach also allows for more efficient collaboration between team members, as modules can be shared and reused across projects.

When designing your IaC, it's important to keep modularity in mind. Separating your infrastructure into smaller components allows you to change modules without affecting the rest of your infrastructure. 

Using modularity in IaC, you can update your infrastructure more efficiently and with less risk of introducing errors.

Auto-Update the Running Pipeline

When you make changes to your IaC code, you want those changes to be automatically reflected in your running pipeline. This helps to ensure that your infrastructure remains up-to-date and that any issues are quickly resolved. 

You should use a CI/CD pipeline that automatically updates your infrastructure as Code to achieve this.

By implementing auto-updates in your IaC pipeline, you can achieve faster deployments and reduce manual errors, ensuring consistency across all environments. 

It also helps eliminate any potential drift between the infrastructure defined in your Code and the infrastructure running.

Provide Alerts on Failures

When managing infrastructure using Code, it's essential to be notified of any failures that may occur during deployment or operation. 

By setting up alerts, you can proactively respond to issues and prevent them from impacting your systems and applications.

Alerts can be configured to trigger specific events, such as failed deployments, errors in logs, or resource failures. 

They can also be set up to notify relevant team members. It can be done by developers or operations personnel through email, SMS, or other communication channels.

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) Use Cases

Software Development 

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) plays a crucial role in accelerating the delivery of high-quality software. IaC allows developers to quickly and easily provision and manage the necessary infrastructure resources for their applications. 

This includes virtual machines, containers, networking, and storage, in a consistent and repeatable manner.

Developers can use IaC to define infrastructure requirements for their applications as Code. Then, they can use tools like Terraform, AWS CloudFormation, or Azure Resource Manager to automate the deployment and configuration of those resources. 

This approach allows developers to create and manage infrastructure resources on demand. It further reduces manual, error-prone tasks and ensures consistent deployment of resources across different environments.

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Infrastructure Management 

Infrastructure as Code enables organizations to manage their infrastructure more efficiently, consistently, and scalable manner.

With IaC, IT teams can describe their infrastructure in Code and then use automation tools to deploy and manage their infrastructure resources. 

This will help reduce the risk of human errors and ensure a more reliable infrastructure. 

This use case is helpful for organizations with large and complex infrastructures, where manual management can be time-consuming and error-prone.

Cloud Management 

Cloud monitoring is a critical aspect of managing cloud infrastructure. But setting up and maintaining can be a complex and time-consuming task. 

With IaC, cloud monitoring can be streamlined and automated, reducing the risk of errors and ensuring consistent configurations across environments.

Teams can use tools like Terraform or AWS CloudFormation to define and provision cloud monitoring resources, such as alarms, metrics, and logs. 

This allows for consistent monitoring setup across all environments and alignment with the needs of each application or service. 

IaC enables agile and automated monitoring, ensuring cloud infrastructure availability, reliability, and performance.

Also Read: Monitoring vs Observability

Pros & Cons of Infrastructure as Code (IaC)

Benefits of Infrastructure as Code (IaC)

Reduction in Cost

By using IaC, organizations can reduce their infrastructure costs by automating the provisioning and managing of their infrastructure resources.

With IaC, organizations can use Code to create and manage their infrastructure, reducing the need for manual configuration and management. 

This automation eliminates the risk of human error and reduces the time and effort required to manage infrastructure resources.

Increase in Speed

IaC enables organizations to achieve faster deployment of infrastructure resources by automating the provisioning and configuration of those resources. 

It eliminates the need for manual processes, reduces the risk of errors, and enables teams to deploy changes more quickly. 

As a result, organizations can increase their speed to market and respond to changes in the market faster. 

Improved Security Strategies

IaC improves security strategies by enabling the definition and implementation of security measures as part of the infrastructure deployment process. 

Using IaC, security configurations can be standardized and version-controlled, reducing the risk of misconfigurations and vulnerabilities.

Furthermore, IaC facilitates security testing automation, enabling teams to quickly identify and remediate security issues.

Consistency in Configuration and Setup

IaC brings consistency to configuration and setup by allowing teams to define infrastructure as Code. It ensures that it is reproducible across environments. 

This reduces errors caused by manual configuration, ensuring all infrastructure resources are configured to the same specifications.

With IaC, teams can also quickly spin up new environments and resources. It ensures they are identical to existing environments, thus promoting consistency across the entire infrastructure.

Increased Operational Efficiency 

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) can increase operational efficiency by automating the provisioning and management of infrastructure resources. 

With IaC, teams can easily deploy and configure resources across multiple environments in a repeatable and consistent manner. 

This reduces the time and effort required for manual configuration and frees up resources to focus on higher-value tasks. 

Additionally, IaC can help to reduce errors and improve overall system reliability, leading to increased operational efficiency.

Drawbacks of Infrastructure as Code (IaC)

Configuration Drift 

Configuration drift occurs when the actual state of infrastructure deviates from the desired state defined in the Code. 

This can happen for various reasons, such as manual changes to the resources, human errors during configuration, or mismanagement of code versioning. 

Configuration drift can lead to inconsistencies in the infrastructure. That makes it difficult to track and manage. It can also result in security vulnerabilities and increase the risk of downtime.

Complexity 

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) introduces a level of complexity that can be challenging for teams to manage. 

As infrastructure becomes increasingly automated, it can be difficult to understand the interdependencies between resources and the impact of changes.

Teams must carefully consider the potential downstream effects of modifications to IaC templates. As errors or misconfigurations can have far-reaching consequences.

IaC requires a level of expertise in programming languages and infrastructure management tools. This can be a barrier to entry for some teams.

Tooling Lags and Features Gaps 

IaC requires specialized tools and platforms to manage the infrastructure deployment process. However, not all tools are created equal. 

Some may have limitations regarding functionality, scalability, or compatibility with certain platforms or environments. 

This can result in delays or roadblocks in the deployment process. It can further impact the overall efficiency and productivity of the development team. 

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) vs. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

IaaS is a cloud computing model in which a third-party provider offers infrastructure resources. It includes servers, storage, and networking to customers over the internet. 

The provider is responsible for maintaining the physical hardware. And the customer is responsible for managing the operating systems, applications, and data that run on that hardware.

IaC is a process for managing and provisioning infrastructure resources using Code, typically in a version-controlled repository. 

With IaC, infrastructure resources can be defined and deployed automatically and consistently. It makes it easier to manage large and complex environments.

Here are the key differences between both them:

  • IaC is a methodology for managing and provisioning infrastructure through Code. But IaaS is a cloud computing model that allows users to access and manage virtualized infrastructure resources.

  • IaC focuses on automating the deployment and configuration of infrastructure resources. In contrast, IaaS provides a self-service model for accessing and using infrastructure resources.

  • IaC enables teams to define and manage infrastructure resources as Code, allowing for version control, testing, and automation. IaaS provides users with access to pre-configured infrastructure resources.

  • IaC can be used with any cloud computing model. But IaaS is a specific cloud computing model that provides infrastructure resources on demand.

  • With IaC, changes to infrastructure can be made quickly and consistently through Code. Whereas with IaaS, changes may require manual intervention from cloud providers.

  • IaC focuses on infrastructure management, while IaaS focuses on infrastructure provision.

Infrastructure As Code (IaC) vs. Configuration Management

IaC emphasizes defining and deploying infrastructure resources using Code. And configuration management focuses on maintaining the desired state of those resources over time.

IaC defines infrastructure resources in Code, enabling teams to version control and automate their deployment. This approach can lead to greater consistency, improved speed and agility, and increased team collaboration. 

In contrast, configuration management tools are designed to maintain the desired state of infrastructure resources over time.

Configuration management tools typically use agents installed on each managed node to apply configurations, enforce policies, and detect drift from the desired state. 

At the same time, configuration management can also bring many benefits, such as improved compliance and governance. It is not as flexible or dynamic as IaC.

In summary, IaC and configuration management are complementary approaches to managing IT infrastructure. 

IaC emphasizes the automation and deployment of infrastructure resources, and configuration management focuses on maintaining the desired state of those resources over time.

Also Read: Splunk vs ELK Stack

FAQs

What are the drawbacks of using Terraform for infrastructure as Code?

The drawback includes the following: 

  • Configuration Drift 

  • Complexity 

  • Tooling Lags and Features Gaps 

What are the benefits of infrastructure as a code in DevOps?

The benefits include:

  • Reduction in Cost

  • Increase in Speed

  • Improved Security Strategies

  • Consistency in configuration and setup

  • Increased Operational Efficiency