Strategic IT Transformation: IaC and Configuration Management in Action

Erbis
8 min readOct 19, 2023

Modern software development lifecycle (SDLC) is increasingly associated with automation. More and more companies are moving away from manual administration in order to reduce human error, increase the speed of development, and expedite time-to-market.

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) and configuration management (CM) are key components of an automated SDLC. IaC automates infrastructure provisioning, and CM further enforces this automation.

Are you looking to enhance your project with advanced automation through IaC and CM? This post will help you get started.

Challenges of traditional infrastructure management

Traditional infrastructure management means that DevOps engineers manually configure and manage IT infrastructure components, including servers, networks, storage, and databases. This is typically done using graphical or command-line interfaces. All the configuration changes are handled manually, which poses specific challenges and shortcomings, such as:

Labor-intensive scalability. Imagine that you have deployed a microservice application in the cloud infrastructure. One microservice requires an average of 10–12 infrastructure resources (a load balancer, RDS instance, security groups, etc.). If you have three environments — test, staging, and production — that is about 30 resources already. And if there are 10–50–100 microservices, the problem becomes even larger. If quick scaling is required, you may find your team unable to meet expectations, due to the time needed to manually set the necessary configurations.

Limited version control. When IT administrators make manual changes to servers, networks, or other infrastructure components, there is often no systematic way to track these changes. The absence of version control leads to ineffectual records, not only of what changes were made, but also who made them, and why they were made. As a result, when a problem arises, your team may struggle to identify the changes that have caused it. Without a version history, troubleshooting becomes time-consuming and complex.

Slower response time. Configuring infrastructure components manually is much slower than doing it automatically. In addition, manual configuration can lead to inaccuracies, which, again, will take time to correct. Another challenge is that applying updates across multiple servers is cumbersome and requires careful coordination. Manually implementing these changes increases the risk of inconsistencies.

Need scalable and cost-effective IT infrastructure? Incorporate IaC in your SDLC.

How Infrastructure as Code streamlines DevOps lifespan

Infrastructure as Code automates IT infrastructure management through code-based configurations. In the IaC model, teams treat infrastructure as software and use scripts to define its specific parameters.

IaC addresses multiple challenges presented in the traditional infrastructure service management approach. It eliminates the manual work of IT administrators and takes IT resources setup to the next level.

The key advantages of using Infrastructure as Code are as follow:

Automation through code. IaC allows developers to define and manage infrastructure using code-based scripts.

Developers write declarative configuration files that describe the desired state of the infrastructure. These files contain definitions for servers, networks, databases, security policies, and other resources needed for the application.

Once the configuration files are ready, IaC tools like Terraform or AWS CloudFormation interpret and execute the code. They interact with the underlying cloud provider’s APIs to provision resources automatically.

Scalability and rapid provisioning. IaC allows automated provisioning of IT resources.

IaC scripts are designed to be dynamic and flexible. By making just a few adjustments to the code, developers can scale resources up or down as needed. For instance, if a web application experiences a sudden spike in traffic, IaC scripts can automatically provision additional servers, databases, and networking resources to handle the increased load. This rapid scalability ensures that the application remains responsive and performs optimally, even during unexpected surges in user activity.

Environment agnosticism. IaC scripts are environment-agnostic. This means you can create templates that define specific configurations and then reuse these templates across various environments: development, testing, and production.

Environment-agnostic scripts also simplify moving applications between on-premises and cloud-native environments. You can be sure that no configuration errors occur during such a move. This is opposed to the traditional infrastructure management model, where configuration errors often take place during manual setups.

Version control and history. Using Infrastructure as Code, you can easily track configuration changes and revert to previous settings if needed.

IaC tools like Git integrate seamlessly with infrastructure code repositories. Developers can commit changes, create branches, and merge updates, just like they do with application source code. Every change made to the IaC scripts is documented. This allows teams to understand who and when completed the modification and what specific alterations were implemented.

Furthermore, version control in IaC provides broad room for experimentation. If a change doesn’t yield the expected results or introduces issues, you can easily revert to the previous version.

Team collaboration. Multiple team members can work on IaC scripts simultaneously. Such scripts can also go through code review processes, similar to application code.

Team members can review infrastructure changes, suggest improvements, and ensure they have the best possible configuration for their project.

Infrastructure as Code also enables the implementation of automated testing for infrastructure configurations. By collaborating on testing scenarios, teams can enhance the overall quality of the infrastructure code.

Advantages of IaC model

Infrastructure as Code vs. Configuration Management

Configuration Management means systematically handling changes in a software system to ensure this system maintains its intended state, even as it evolves.

CM has much in common with Infrastructure as Code. The main similarity is that both approaches focus on automation of IT infrastructure setup and management.

IaC and CM use a descriptive model of software development. IaC relies on it for managing networks, virtual machines, web servers, load balancers, etc. CM uses it to maintain the correct configuration states of the application within a defined tech stack.

The difference, however, is that IaC primarily revolves around provisioning infrastructure via code, whereas CM is centered on automating the setup and administration of software applications, operating systems, and servers.

Configuration Management is a broad concept that can have Infrastructure as Code as its integral part. By integrating CM and IaC in your SDLC, you can set up continuous integration and continuous delivery based on automation.

IaC vs. CM

Defining Desired State Configuration and Configuration Drift

When you set up automated infrastructure management, it’s important to specify the parameters of desirable configuration and create an actionable plan in case things go wrong. In the context of Configuration Management, this means you should define Desired State Configuration (DSC) and Configuration Drift (CD).

Desired State Configuration allows you to specify how each component should be configured. It involves:

  • Defining configuration items, such as libraries, services, and other components
  • Selecting a configuration management tool, for example, Ansible, Puppet, or Chef
  • Writing configuration scripts in the chosen tool’s language to define the desired state
  • Ensuring that the configurations are applied consistently across all relevant environments, such as development, testing, staging, and production
  • Monitoring the computer systems to ensure they remain in the desired state
  • Maintaining documentation that describes the desired state of the software components

Configuration Drift refers to instances where the actual state deviates from the desired state. To avoid CD, you should implement:

  • Scripts within your Configuration Management tool to revert settings back to the desired state when discrepancies are detected
  • Alerts to inform administrators when drift is detected
  • Root cause analysis to understand why the configurations deviated from the desired state
  • Documentation to keep a record of the drift
  • Version control to keep track of changes in your configuration scripts

Struggling to eliminate Configuration Drift in your IT infrastructure? Automate IT configuration management.

Most popular IaC and CM tools

There are many tools and frameworks that help DevOps engineers and other team members manage infrastructure systems within the IaC and CM approaches. At Erbis, we propose specific tools after examining your project requirements. Below, we provide the ten instruments that we most commonly use in IaC and CM environments:

Example of using Infrastructure as Code and Configuration Management in a software project

Scenario: Application deployment for an e-commerce platform

1. IaC implementation with Terraform

  • Infrastructure provisioning. Using Terraform, the team defines the infrastructure components: virtual machines, load balancers, and networking resources in code. The IaC script ensures that the infrastructure is provisioned as intended across environments (development, staging, production).
  • Scaling policies. IaC templates include auto-scaling configurations. When the application experiences a change in traffic, the infrastructure automatically scales up or down based on predefined rules.

2. Configuration Management with Ansible

  • Application deployment. Ansible is used to automate the deployment of the application code onto the provisioned infrastructure. Ansible scripts handle such tasks as copying application binaries, configuring databases, and setting up web servers.
  • Middleware configurations. Ansible manages middleware configurations like web server settings, database configurations, and caching mechanisms. These configurations are tailored to different environments and ensure the application runs efficiently in each context.
  • Security policies. Ansible playbooks enforce security policies across servers. This includes setting up firewalls, applying the latest security patches, and configuring intrusion detection systems.

3. Integration of IaC and Configuration Management

  • Dynamic configurations. CM tools like Ansible can dynamically adjust configurations based on the infrastructure provisioned by IaC. For instance, if the IaC script provisions additional web servers due to increased demand, Ansible dynamically updates the load balancer configuration to distribute traffic among the new servers.
  • Immutable infrastructure. By combining IaC and CM, the team adopts the concept of immutable infrastructure. When deploying a new version of the application, IaC provisions entirely new infrastructure. Ansible ensures that configurations are applied to these new instances. This guarantees consistency and helps avoid issues related to configuration drift on existing servers.

Setting up efficient IT infrastructure

A scalable and cost-efficient IT infrastructure is essential for the high performance of a modern software product. Automation helps quickly adapt IT resources to the current needs of the project. IaC and CM are approaches that minimize manual repeatable operations and allow you to adjust settings on data centers automatically with the help of scripts.

IaC and CM will help you eliminate time-consumption tasks and make IT infrastructure management effortless.

Not sure how to set up Infrastructure as Code and Configuration Management in your project? Drop us a line, and we’ll provide expert advice considering your project needs.

FAQ

What is the primary goal of Infrastructure as Code (IaC) in software development?

The primary goal of Infrastructure as Code (IaC) in software development is to automate and manage IT infrastructure through machine-readable script files. This ensures consistent, reproducible, and scalable deployments, which enhance efficiency and reduce manual errors in the development process.

How does IaC enable infrastructure provisioning across different cloud providers and on-premises environments?

IaC enables this by using code-based templates. These templates, written in a language understood by different platforms, allow developers to specify the desired infrastructure configurations. IaC tools then interpret these templates, provisioning the infrastructure across diverse environments and ensuring compatibility.

Are there any limitations or scenarios where IaC and Configuration Management may not be suitable?

IaC and Configuration Management may face challenges in highly regulated environments where manual approvals and audits are necessary. Additionally, for small-scale projects with minimal infrastructure needs, the complexity of implementing these systems might outweigh the benefits. It’s crucial to assess each project’s specific requirements before deciding on its implementation.

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