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Infrastructure as Code (IaC)

What Is Infrastructure as Code (IaC)?

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) is the process of provisioning and managing data centers and other computer infrastructure using code instead of manually through interactive or physical hardware configuration tools. 

Infrastructure as Code in DevOps is a powerful tool for streamlining how infrastructure gets set up, particularly in cloud environments. IaC automates the infrastructure design and creation process. When used to the fullest, it enables organizations to scale their network, storage, and computational infrastructure automatically, saving thousands of people-hours every year.

IaC Definition: How Does Infrastructure as Code (IaC) Work?

The process that drives Infrastructure as Code is fairly straightforward and follows three steps:

  1. In-house or third-party developers codify your infrastructure specifications.
  2. The files they create are then transmitted to a master server, accord repository, or management application programming interface (API).
  3. The platform for creating your infrastructure follows the steps outlined in the code, and your computer resources are configured accordingly.

What Is IaC: The Role of IaC in DevSecOps

Using Infrastructure as Code to design environments also paves the way for safer computing. DevSecOps can leverage Infrastructure as Code to quickly design and release even very complex infrastructures. And because IaC can incorporate cloud security features as well as connect and apportion resources, each version of the infrastructure created is more secure.

For example, a DevSecOps team can set up a network that enables a cloud database to communicate with a web application it has never interacted with before. It does not matter which cloud environment hosts the web app or where the app is because the DevSecOps team can provision all the necessary infrastructure via IaC. 

In addition, they can ensure each component is securely connected and that the infrastructure conforms to compliance regulations around how data has to be managed in certain jurisdictions.

Examples of Infrastructure as Code

Kubernetes is a tool that manages container orchestration, enabling developers to automate how components of an application or infrastructure interconnect with one another. Here are some Infrastructure as Code examples that Kubernetes enables:

  1. Deploying multiple virtual networks across an environment to enable different applications and business units to communicate with one another
  2. Synchronizing updates to applications that are deployed in a cloud environment
  3. Automating network resource deployment and configuring how applications interact with them

2 Approaches to IaC

There are two primary IaC approaches: the declarative approach and the imperative approach.

Declarative Approach

This approach involves defining the resources you want to use and the properties they need and then using Infrastructure as Code software to automatically set up the infrastructure you just defined. This makes it possible to declare and execute the same infrastructure again and again without a developer or administrator manually telling the IaC software what to do.

Imperative Approach

The imperative approach, on the other hand, involves not only defining the resources you want to use and the properties they need to have but also manually choosing the commands necessary to set up your system. Although the imperative approach can have the same result as the declarative approach, it usually requires more work. 

Furthermore, suppose you need to make a change in the future. In that case, the developer implementing the adjustments must understand how and why the current system works and how resources are connected before making any adjustments.

Mutable vs. Immutable Infrastructure

Immutable infrastructures cannot change and mutable ones can. With a mutable infrastructure, developers can customize what the infrastructure does for users, changing how it supports specific applications.

On the other hand, with an immutable environment, components of your infrastructure have to conform to specific requirements. This is because once the infrastructure is built, changes cannot be made to it, which can present some challenges. For example, if you need to change the services you use to support an application, you may have to build a new infrastructure from the ground up.

Automating IT Environment Setup and Deployments with IaC

Because Infrastructure as Code enables IT teams to automate infrastructure setup, it comes with some significant benefits:

Less Expensive Infrastructure

Manually setting up IT infrastructure is costly. Even if you remove the cost of hardware and software from the equation, you still have to hire skilled engineers to spend hours configuring each component and making sure they interface the way they need to. There are also supervisors that oversee the work, and IT salary expenses can add up quickly.

With Infrastructure as Code, everything is set up in a software environment. This means you can define and manage infrastructures even if your team is relatively small. Also, you only pay for the resources you use, which further reduces overhead. And when it comes time to scale up or down, an automated system like IaC makes it faster, easier, and less expensive to adjust resource usage.

Faster Installations

With traditional infrastructure design, engineers have to rack all of their servers manually, and that can take time. Only after the physical racking has happened can they begin to configure the various hardware components and networking applications to get the system up and running.

But using Infrastructure as Code, you can significantly cut down setup time because there is no need to go through the process of physically racking servers. You simply use your infrastructure platform to bring your servers online.

IaC vs. IaaS

Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Infrastructure as Code both involve infrastructure in a cloud environment, but they are very different.

With IaC, you have more control over how your infrastructure gets set up, primarily because you can code it however you want, making your system behave according to your specifications. This makes it possible for creative, innovative infrastructure design that you can do in-house.

On the other hand, IaaS always involves a third-party provider to set up the infrastructure in a cloud environment. For many organizations, this can work just as well as Infrastructure as Code, especially if your environment is similar to other organizations' environments. IaaS is also a good solution if you need to program functions and components to perform relatively straightforward operations, such as routing all traffic from one server to another. In this case, professionals can easily get the job done for you, saving you considerable time and effort.

Challenges and Best Practices of IaC

Although IaC comes with many conveniences, some challenges have to be overcome. For example, as with many automated systems, you can duplicate mistakes across your entire environment. To counter this, test your configurations as you go along, making sure any new connections and functions work well within the context of your overall system.

Changes in configurations present another challenge. No matter how well you configure your environment and how successful it is at first, you will eventually have to make changes. This can be a minor shift or a relatively major overhaul of your infrastructure. To make sure this does not take too much time and energy, carefully define your maintenance and configuration workflows. 

The Future of IaC

The future of Infrastructure as Code is bright. There are so many possibilities for building and expanding networks. The same can be said for software design. 

Infrastructure as Code will likely play a role in the design of networks that can manage 5G communication data loads. As organizations need more or less bandwidth to support end users and Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices, IaC can be used to build networks that automatically scale up and down in a matter of moments.

How Fortinet Can Help?

The FortiGate Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW) provides IaC developers and administrators with flexible, high-throughput security that protects their cloud environments, no matter how complex they are. By deploying FortiGate instances strategically around your cloud network, you get reliable IaC security and more efficient workflows, which result in better end-user experiences.

FAQs

What is Infrastructure as Code in DevOps?

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) enables DevOps teams to systematically create not just software but also the infrastructure needed to support an enterprise’s operations.

What are the three elements of Infrastructure as Code?

The three elements driving Infrastructure as Code are outlined in the following steps:

1.         In-house or third-party developers code in your infrastructure specifications.

2.         The files they create are then transmitted to a master server, accord repository, or management application programming interface (API).

3.         The platform for creating your infrastructure follows the steps outlined in the code, and your computer resources get configured accordingly.

Why do we need IaC?

Organizations need IaC to speed up the process of provisioning new operational environments while saving money, enabling flexibility, and supporting scalability. Much of what IaC accomplishes can be done manually using traditional infrastructure design, but this will take too long and cost too much money.