2021-08-23 | Verena Stiegler | 4 min read
Infrastructure as Code is currently talk of the town in the cloud context and seems to be equally popular with companies hosting their infrastructure in the cloud as well as on the part of development teams. Manually configured servers and networks seem to be quite old fashioned - the future is in the code!
Modern DevOps Strategies - Automation through Infrastructure as Code
The requirements for cloud applications and services are becoming more and more complex. In order to set up an IT infrastructure fast, agile and service-oriented and to streamline the availability of cloud resources, state-of-the-art DevOps strategies are essential in provisioning such systems. Today, cloud systems can be deployed fast and flexibly through so-called “end-to-end lifecycle management” - the management of a complete application lifecycle, from development to operation, by just a single team. Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Delivery (CD) are among the most important DevOps practices that automate release processes and thus keep release frequency constant. But even here, there are still recurring manual and time-consuming processes, such as building pipelines and maintaining and operating decentralized, distributed CD tools.
And this is where Infrastructure as Code (IaC) comes into play.
IaC has become an essential part of DevOps practice to configure and manage the infrastructure of both the development environment - virtual machines, load balancers, networks, etc. - as well as the infrastructure on which the application runs, using code to configure and manage these resources rather than setting them up manually. Using code to define the configuration helps automate the process and enables fast deployment of resources to the cloud. The code is part of a project and therefore treated in the same way as any other code, including version control, virtualized testing, and continuous monitoring. Since manual configuration steps are no longer required, automation through IaC guarantees increased productivity and improved reliability. Service and maintenance costs for the infrastructure are almost non-existent, which also results in significant cost savings.
Avoid Vendor Lock-In - with IaC and Multi Cloud Approach
But it is not only in the DevOps environment that the use of IaC offers numerous benefits. Companies, which operate their IT infrastructure in the cloud, can also profit from IaC. Especially when it comes to choosing the right cloud provider, it’s better to be careful. Most cloud customers assume they can migrate their data and IT workloads from one cloud to another at any time and thus adapt their cloud environment to changing requirements. However, reality looks different: easy to get in, hard to get out. Due to the different types of implementation and the associated high costs and technical effort, cloud providers often make it extremely difficult for their customers to migrate their IT workloads to a competitor’s service stack. This approach is called vendor lock-in.
You can overcome this problem by using DevOps and IaC to build your cloud infrastructure flexibly and hybrid from the very beginning, so that sub-components can be easily replaced at a later date. DevOps not only relies on the use of open source technologies, but focuses in particular on technology independence in the management and operation of cloud services. When relying on open standards and free software, you are by definition not dependent on a single vendor, but there is still the problem of controlling your hardware resources.
IaC tools such as Kubernetes or Terraform are the solution here. Used in the right way, Kubernetes serves as an abstract intermediate layer and disconnects the company’s own requirements for an IT infrastructure from the underlying, provider-specific layer. There are also platforms such as Kubermatic, which enable Kubernetes clusters to be managed across various cloud providers as well as on-premise, thus enabling provider-independent deployment. This allows cloud customers to set up an entire IT infrastructure distributed across several clouds, which is known as the multi-cloud approach.
IaC abstractly defines the required components as code, which are then provided by orchestration-software such as OpenShift as corresponding IT systems. Since the code remains under one’s own control when using IaC, the required structures can thus be documented explicitly. Deploying the infrastructure as code makes it possible to distribute individual components across multiple clouds and thus remain flexible and independent of a single cloud provider.
Nevertheless, it remains to be mentioned that building a cloud infrastructure as code is not THE universal solution against vendor lock-in, but merely a component in the initial planning in order to avoid unpleasant surprises later on.
The use of Infrastructure as Code offers great value in a variety of application areas. Automating processes and delivering infrastructure services using code eliminates the need for costly maintenance and manual configuration. Specific hardware components can be deployed automatically, quickly, flexibly and in large numbers according to individual requirements. Companies, which operate their infrastructure in the cloud, can prevent vendor lock-in and scale their systems quickly and flexibly by using IaC and modern DevOps practices. By using Infrastructure as Code in combination with Infrastructure as a Service (SaaS), it is thus possible to create a highly available multi-cloud environment to which even complex changes and adjustments can be made at any time.
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