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App Lifecycle Management

Get faster value from ‘infrastructure as code’

Today’s market pressures mean developers have to code faster and smarter. Give them the tools to build infrastructure with their app code—instead of waiting around.

The bottom line

What: IT leaders are speeding time to value by empowering developers.
Why: The need for velocity is paramount, without sacrificing quality or letting code languish in bottlenecks.
How: “Infrastructure as code” lets developers automate adjustments to infrastructure as they deliver their code.
More: Read about Project CODAR.

Enterprise IT has a healthy obsession with velocity—developing better, more reliable software faster. Velocity is at the heart of Agile methodology, the DevOps movement, and the increasing reliance on automation. As enterprise IT extends Agile development into continuous deployment, the friction between software development and IT infrastructure is an increasing pain point.

Kees van den Brink

“One of the major challenges in development is to reduce the impact of changing infrastructure elements,” says Kees van den Brink, a solution architect for HP Software Professional Services. “Infrastructure as code is a way to simplify the development process by reducing developers’ dependence on infrastructure teams to provide the environments they need.”
 
Brink says that infrastructure as code helps extend agility all the way through production. “It’s fueling continuous integration, continuous delivery, continuous deployment,” he says. “It’s how IT leaders can empower developers to enable higher agility and higher throughput of code.”
 
That, in turn, helps IT support the business in a more Agile way.

Cracking the code

The infrastructure-as-code approach provides a certain set of templates of infrastructure components that developers manage as though they were part of the code itself. Developers can point to these components rather than rely on manual tweaks to their ad hoc library of custom scripts, Brink says.
 
“When you deploy, the release system just takes that information and deploys it when it’s needed,” he says. “Your developer makes sure that the model contains the needed components and points to the right set of infrastructure.”
 
Ultimately, he says, it’s about application deployment and how you move away from the traditional manual method of writing individual scripts for each deployment environment.  He says he increasingly sees demand from IT leaders for tools that will provide this level of sophistication to developers.
 
“I spoke recently with a senior IT manager responsible for the infrastructure of a large bank, and he’s getting strong demand from his developers to provide the infrastructure in an Agile way,” Brink says. “So if you’re managing infrastructure, the ability for you to provide this to your customers—and the developer is one of your customers—is a really important topic, one that’s driving cloud adoption.”
 
Such demand, he says, led HP to release Project CODAR, a tool that gives developers that capability. “We want developers to be able to model the service, which includes the code for the application itself as well as the infrastructure components,” he says. “The developer can export that as a packet and put it into the version control system.”

Declaring a new vision

The pursuit of infrastructure as code can take many forms. The basic level described so far is called declarative-based deployment.
 
“You basically declare what you need, which points to things like a manifest or recipe that’s automated,” Brink says. “You let the engine in the background determine what it needs to do. It has the intelligence to understand the needs of the environment.”
 
The next level, he says, is platform as a service. “There, you give developers an infrastructure environment where they don’t need to worry anymore about the provisioning and the releasing and so on.”
 
When code is released, the infrastructure provisioning is automated. It’s a more highly evolved form of automation, but the tradeoff is that it also leaves developers less flexibility, requiring them to conform to the requirements of the platform itself.

Ready for the big time

Agile was slow to infiltrate the enterprise, and large IT departments are only now beginning to wrestle with the cultural and process shifts advocated by the DevOps movement, but Brink says infrastructure as code is something even large IT organizations can embrace. And given the competitive pressures that are forcing IT to evolve, they may want to embrace it sooner rather than later. 
 
“These trends are in the market,” Brink says. “IT leaders have to find the right way to get the velocity they need to keep their companies competitive.”

 A former officer in the merchant marines, software developer and sales engineer Kees van den Brink helps enterprises throughout Europe optimize IT and improve business results.  For more on HP’s approach to infrastructure as code, read about Project CODAR.

 

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