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What is Infrastructure as Code (IaC)?

by Iwan Price-Evans on DevOps • June 16, 2022

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) is a methodology that allows development and operations teams to configure infrastructure such as servers, virtual machines, networks, load balancers, and connections using descriptive code configuration files instead of using appliances.

These configuration files can be maintained within normal development operations (DevOps) version control systems. Holding infrastructure configurations in code makes it easy to centrally edit the configuration of your whole infrastructure.

Why Use IaC?

IaC allows developers and DevOps teams to automatically manage, provision, and monitor infrastructure resources. It removes the need to manually configure physical devices or operating systems.

The term infrastructure describes the technologies needed for application delivery and includes everything from servers, databases, load balancers, firewalls, and virtual environments. Additionally, different infrastructure is needed for application development. Development teams need tools such as continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) platforms, and testing and staging environments. 

The complexity of applications is also a consideration when choosing infrastructure. Complex applications can require equally complex infrastructure which can become difficult to manage, costly, and potentially unscalable.

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) can solve some of the problems of managing infrastructure.

When managing conventional infrastructure, IT teams have to make manual changes to the configurations of devices and services. When doing this, they may create and maintain any number of scripts that automate management tasks. 

IaC allows the provisioning and management of infrastructure to be performed by defining these tasks in code instead of as manual processes. Infrastructure as code is the management of resources as software which is why it's sometimes referred to as software-defined infrastructure.

How does IaC work?

Cloud computing abstracts IT resources such as computing, data storage, and networking from physical hardware. It also configures required services and loads them into dynamic instances that can scale on demand.

Infrastructure as Code takes this a step further. By having a predefined set of configuration instructions management processes can be automated. For each virtual instance these configuration instructions can:

  • Provision its resources
  • Connect required services
  • Configure and deploy instance workloads
  • Monitor the instance.

The scale and complexity of cloud and hybrid environments have created the need for automation of management tasks and IaC provides this.

Infrastructure as code uses descriptive language code files that are executed to create infrastructure in a predefined state. For example, an IaC code file could create a reproducible process that installs a SQL server service, checks it's running, creates a user and password, and creates a new database.

There are typically two methods of programming IaC.

Declaratively

The declarative approach 'declares' the desired state of the infrastructure but doesn't define the steps to get there.

Imperatively 

The imperative approach defines instructions (commands) that achieve the final state.

The benefits of Infrastructure as Code

Defining infrastructure as code:

Improves speed and efficiency

The provisioning and management of virtualized and hybrid databases, networks, access and identity, and other services can all be automated with IaC. This not only makes it much faster than the manual processes but also means that resources can be deployed more efficiently. IaC code can also automatically start or stop environments and services as needed.

Creates consistency

IaC enables developers to build and test applications in environments that are identical to the production environment. Infrastructure defined as code can be validated and tested prior to deployment avoiding common deployment issues. Development teams, quality assurance, and production deployment teams can all use the same configuration files to provision their environments. 

Infrastructure deployed as code rapidly delivers repeatable, stable environments and avoids common issues such as configuration or dependency drift.

Provides Auditing and Compliance

IaC creates trackable and auditable infrastructure changes. Every change to an IaC configuration file is managed by source code control which provides a full audit trail of changes. This can be of great importance when auditing compliance issues. 

Lowers costs

IaC lowers the costs of infrastructure management. When you combine cloud computing with IaC you reduce the cost of infrastructure management significantly. The big plus is that IaC removes the need to have expensive IT staff performing time-consuming manual tasks. Engineers can focus on application delivery rather than infrastructure management.

Does Snapt provide Infrastructure as Code?

Yes. Snapt Nova provides load balancing and WAF security on-demand from a central controller. Nova deploys lightweight worker nodes in the data plane to any cloud, container, VM, or server from a centralized control pane. You can control, deploy, and automate Nova using a full REST API enbling you to manage app services as IaC even in complex distributed environments.