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Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC) 101

by Nortal cloud team, May 31, 2019

It’s no secret that IT teams are struggling to keep up with demand in 2019. Fixing and revamping systems is just one of the many things on their to-do list that can be solved by cloud technology, if it’s implemented correctly. In fact, Kief Morris’s Infrastructure as Code says some IT organizations respond to this challenge by applying the same types of processes and structures that they used to manage infrastructure before cloud and automation.

Understanding IaC

For businesses to succeed in the digital age, they must step away from the traditional infrastructure strategies that have been in place. This is where infrastructure-as-code (IaC) comes in. IaC is a concept of managing operational environments based on the practices used in software development. Instead of manual configurations, the operations infrastructure is managed with the same approach as code development. This marks a shift to development and operations (DevOps) that implements best practices such as version control, virtualized tests, and continuous monitoring. Moving to DevOps concepts allows for infrastructure to be physical or virtual, without long deployments. This is reflected in Rightscale’s Automating Infrastructure as Code workflow shown below.

IaC

An IaC strategy becomes imperative now more than ever because it supports IT change, rather than being a blocker. According to Forrester, big name companies such as Amazon, Facebook and Google have long been using IaC for production, and now it’s time for other enterprises to play catch up. Organizations can increase IT automation and implement change efficiently through the implementation of IaC best practices developed from DevOps.

A new concept brings new challenges

People need to remember that IaC is a new concept that presents its own new challenges. Mainly, this concept is still evolving, so many organizations don’t know how to incorporate it into their strategy. To optimize your organization’s budget and time, laying the foundation for implementation is the best first step to success – we will come back to this later. From the confusion around concept or strategy, comes another challenge – folding the IaC concept into change management (CM) technologies. Change Management tools are dated and currently not compatible with IaC, since they do not have a model for an organization’s current deployment requirements. Yet many CM vendors are doing it this way.

The challenges behind IaC implementation often go beyond the in-house development team, because third-party software comes in to play. Organizations often spend years implementing software to create efficiency around data and processes and it can be difficult to remove software that organizations have been dependent on for so long. This is where Nortal can come in as an outside expert to help implement IaC.

Implementing IaC

Before you start implementing IaC, we recommend enterprise teams work with internal stakeholders to accelerate delivery by taking the following steps:

  • Create a cloud-first strategy: ensure that the infrastructure you have chosen to invest in is a priority across the whole organization.
  • Team up with application development and security: this will enable a holistic adoption that will allow developers to integrate to IaC in all aspects of the development cycle.
  • Automate for continuous delivery: this is imperative to the integrity and accuracy of the process. It will ensure that your infrastructure is part of the same cycle as your software launches.

At Nortal, we partner with cloud providers to ensure seamless IaC implementation. We work with two of the most prominent IaC tools – AWS CloudFormation and Microsoft Azure Resource Manager (ARM). As you would expect, these two tools take different approaches to IaC. Microsoft’s ARM let’s users employ Terraform providers, whereas AWS provides information on how to use Terraform with AWS. We’ve helped many enterprises manage their operations environments to increase efficiency through IaC – now it’s your turn. Contact us and we’ll walk you through some of our key case studies, and explain how IaC will add value to your business needs.