Infrastructure as Code
What is Infrastructure as Code?
IaC helps transition infrastructure management from physical hardware in data centres to virtualisation, containers and cloud computing. In IaC, the networks, virtual machines, load balancers and connection topology are all coded using high-level language to standardise the environments used in application development. Once coded, DevOps can spin up, tear down and scale infrastructure in response to fluctuating demand. This agility makes software development, testing and deployment much faster and easier.
Configuration files containing infrastructure specifications are created, making it easy to edit and distribute configurations while ensuring you consistently provision the same environment every time. With IaC, programmers can create sandbox environments so that they can build applications in isolation. QA professionals can then take a copy of the same infrastructure to run tests to ensure that applications work properly. In the final step, another copy of the infrastructure and code goes to production for deployment.
Mutable vs Immutable IaC
In simple terms, mutable infrastructures easily change and mutate, while immutable infrastructures are not capable of change.
As IaC becomes the new standard for IT best practices, infrastructures are shifting from traditional modes of operation to more immutable ones. That’s because IT departments are striving to reach continuous delivery, with versioning and automated testing embedded in the DevOps process. The goal of this is for IT to deploy a package and its dependencies consistently, with identical environments every time.
Mutable IaC needs to be constantly updated to continue meeting evolving business needs. IT professionals have to address each server and every switch individually, requiring long hours devoted to identifying problems and generating solutions.
Immutable IaC represents a simplified future, requiring each component to follow exact specifications without any deviations. Once a change is required, the infrastructure is provisioned according to the new requirements and the old IaC is replaced. With this consistency of the underlying infrastructure, building and deploying applications becomes much faster and more stable.
What are the benefits of IaC?
With automated processes, IaC helps businesses manage their IT infrastructure needs in several ways. The following are some advantages to deploying IaC:
- Consistency: IaC can improve consistency and reduce errors that often happen during manual configuration. It also eliminates any configuration drift that might occur during a manual process. By codifying and documenting your configuration specifications, IaC helps you avoid undocumented, ad-hoc configuration changes.
- Reduced cost: IaC allows virtual machines to be managed programmatically, eliminating the need for manual hardware configuration and updates. One operator can deploy and manage one machine or 1,000 machines using the same set of code. This means that fewer staff are needed and purchasing new hardware is no longer necessary, reducing cost significantly.
- Efficiency: Codifying your infrastructure gives you a template for provisioning, which simplifies system configuration, maintenance and management. It creates an elastic infrastructure that is repeatable and scalable. This means that DevOps can accelerate every step of software development, leading to more applications being released on a daily basis.
- Speed: IaC transforms developers’ time-consuming provisioning work into a simple script execution to have their infrastructure ready. As a result, application deployments no longer have to wait for the infrastructure and new software can be released much more quickly.
- Risk reduction: IaC also champions version control so your configuration files can fall under source control just like any other software source code file. In this way, risk is reduced.
What are the declarative and imperative approaches to IaC?
There are two ways to approach infrastructure as code. Although most IaC tools can operate in both approaches, the one you use will depend on the task at hand, for example, whether you’re writing a lot of code at once or building a more sophisticated infrastructure.
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Known as the functional approach, the declarative approach defines the desired state of the system without defining how to get there. With this approach, you define what resources you would like, including the properties required. The IaC software will automatically provision the desired infrastructure and whenever changes are made, a declarative IaC tool will apply them automatically. Declarative IaC can be executed many times with the same result without human intervention.
By comparison, in an imperative approach you define how the infrastructure should be configured but also exactly how to get there. Otherwise known as the procedural approach, the imperative approach defines the commands required to achieve a specific configuration. Those commands then need to be executed in the proper order, one step at a time. It is a brittle approach that uses explicit directions with no allowance for updates. If changes are needed, an imperative IaC tool will require operators to decipher how those changes should be applied.
How is IaC used?
Many organisations are looking to enhance application performance with consistent provisioning and orchestration.
For example, a global equipment and service provider for electric utility, telecommunications and tree care customers was looking for a system with a single control point for faster deployment of new and innovative services and resources. They found a dynamic infrastructure solution with a single software-defined data centre control point, which transformed their business model. Post-deployment, the organisation is able to respond more quickly to business opportunities.
In healthcare, one of the largest service providers in the Netherlands created a composable platform that transformed their business, making it more flexible, agile and personal. With a software-defined architecture, they are managing their infrastructure as code, which has reduced demand on their in-house IT team. By maximising efficiency in IT, they have reduced licence costs and servers, which has allowed them to direct funds into new services. This newfound efficiency has spurred a 200% performance improvement.
A national government used a composable infrastructure for sharing data across 200 departments. These departments were responsible for citizen services, such as managing land records, overseeing health and welfare services, maintaining infrastructure and furthering educational opportunities. With this enhanced and centralised infrastructure, they streamlined development of new applications and services more efficiently than ever before.
A leading worldwide tyre manufacturer was looking to simplify and unify administration and deployment of its infrastructure at 20 manufacturing plants worldwide. They implemented a software-defined composable infrastructure that provided reliable operation of IT infrastructure and reduced administration time and cost. The single infrastructure with fluid resource pools was simpler, quicker and more efficient than previous IT systems. It reduced CAPEX, increased performance by 82% and accelerated deployment of manufacturing services.
HPE IaC solutions
As an innovator in powerful technology, HPE knows how to make complicated processes easier. That’s true for IaC solutions where we help you manage infrastructure automatically to achieve greater speed and autonomy in application development.
With composable infrastructure, you can simplify provisioning by using repeatable templates that ensure reliability and consistency during application development, testing and release. In composable infrastructure, compute, storage and networking resources are abstracted and managed via a software platform. This kind of infrastructure can accelerate value creation and further business growth.
HPE Synergy is the first platform architected for composability. Using this composable infrastructure platform, you can run any application, traditional and cloud native. This allows you flexibility and efficiency in the data centre, enabling a quick configuration for physical and virtual compute, storage and fabric pools for any application. You gain as-needed resource allocation to reduce over-provisioning of infrastructure and time spent on provisioning and maintenance. With our platform, infrastructure is fully integrated with the HPE OneView management platform, making deployments simple and fast.
HPE OneView provides an efficient workflow automation, a modern dashboard and a comprehensive partner ecosystem for managing IT infrastructure. It uses a template-driven approach for deploying, provisioning, updating and integrating compute, storage and networking infrastructure. With this IT infrastructure automation solution, you can streamline IT operations, improve staff productivity, speed up delivery of new technologies and applications, and reduce downtime, regulatory risk and costs.