As many organizations have started adopting DevOps methodology, it has significantly improved productivity and efficiency. Usually, one term that is often found being used with DevOps is infrastructure as code. Sometimes, IAC seems to be regarded as synonymous with DevOps. The purpose of DevOps in this process is to create an infrastructure automation environment
So, What is infrastructure as code?
Infrastructure as code is an approach to infrastructure automation based on the practices followed in software development. IAC grew as a response to the difficulty posed from two pieces of technology, namely, utility computing and second-generation web frameworks. Treating infrastructure as if it were code enables to adopt practices that have been used by software developers with great success. Normally these practices include peer review, version control, release tagging, automated testing, release promotion, and Continuous Delivery.
IAC can be generally broken down into three, measurable categories: Cost reduction, speed and risk. Cost reduction mainly aims at helping not only the enterprise financially, but also in terms of people and effort, meaning that by removing the manual component, people are able to refocus their efforts towards other enterprise tasks.
IAC typically consists of two methods, push and pull. The main difference between the two methods is how the servers are configured. In the pull method, the to be configured server pulls its configuration from the controlling server whereas the push method, the controlling server pushes the configuration to the destination system.
For all the advantages offered by utilizing IAC, it has been a very slow growth for IAC in the computing world. Switching from a manual system to a fully automated, code-driven infrastructure by many organizations have to consider not only its benefits but also the challenges. The notable challenges when switching to an IAC system are as follows:
Third-Party Software Issues: The majority of legacy applications on the market were not designed to work with IAC applications. eg. Most third-party Windows applications cannot really be automated via the Windows command line.
Configuration Drift: This occurs when the administrators change the server configurations without changing the associated IAC code. This results in inconsistent configurations across data centre systems but it can be prevented by fully integrating IAC into all policies and procedures relating to systems administration, IT operations, and DevOps processes.
IAC Learning Curves: IAC code only understands what it is programmed to understand, therefore switching from a manual system to a code-based automated system requires more resources, which increases the chances for coding errors. This results in an error in a line of code which can spread across multiple servers, potentially causing significant problems. To solve such issues, it is required to extensively test any pre-release code and monitor released code for any sign of errors.
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