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What is Infrastructure-as-Code and How Does It Enhance IT Agility

By: Ernest Sampera on July 6, 2021

As organizations continue to drive digital transformation strategies, IT professionals are developing new and exciting ways to make it easier for them to deploy technology resources on short notice. The development of Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC) is one of the latest solutions to the longstanding challenges associated with spinning up and managing complex environments that have traditionally required extensive manual configurations.

What is Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC)?

As with many technology terms, there isn’t a wide consensus on how to define IaC. The best way to think about it is in terms of developing an application. A well-designed software application is based upon a very specific source code that establishes a clear foundation for how various tasks are executed within the program. As the application goes through multiple iterations, that source code is transferred along with it, which saves developers the time and effort of having to rebuild the basic program parameters from scratch with each version.

Infrastructure-as-Code takes that basic principle and applies it to the infrastructure that supports those application environments. Developers essentially code the characteristics of a particular operating environment into configuration files that can then be deployed into an entirely different environment. This allows them to quickly spin up new networks, virtual machines, and containers without having to manually configure them. Since the parameters their applications require are already configured and ready to go, all developers need to do is plug that code into the new environment and begin deploying software.

The process developed in response to the problem of “environmental drift,” which created serious challenges for software developers. Since deployment environments had to be manually configured every time a new version of a developing application was deployed, minor changes over time made it nearly impossible to replicate that environment. This was especially true of instances where detailed documentation was not maintained to track those changes. As a result, moving an application into a new environment frequently led to configuration errors and bugs.

By treating infrastructure configurations in the same manner as source code, developers had an easier time replicating operating environments. Essentially, the process separates configurations from the physical platforms themselves and instead relies upon software-defined templates, scripts, and policies to handle the provisioning and management of infrastructure. This not only makes it easier to scale and manage infrastructure throughout the development process, but also allows organizations to quickly respond to changing business needs when it comes to their network capacity. That higher degree of IT agility can often mean the difference between taking advantage of opportunities or missing out on them in a competitive market.

Factors to be Considered When Choosing Implementing IaC

When setting up IaC technology, there are a few different factors to take into consideration. The first is whether to use an “imperative” or “declarative” model:

  • Imperative Model: This approach requires developers to code specific commands to execute specific actions. It is a much more proscribed model that offers a great deal of control, but requires precision and forethought to set up.
  • Declarative Model: This approach is more automated, taking a “desired state” of what the environment should look like and then allowing an IaC tool to configure it based on the resources available. While this is a faster method that’s easier to manage, it doesn’t offer the same amount of flexibility.

System administrators also need to think about whether they want their IaC definitions to be “mutable” or “immutable”:

  • Mutable IaC: These definitions can be changed on demand or reconfigured as needed. This is helpful when patches may need to be deployed rapidly or scaled to match changing server deployments.
  • Immutable IaC: This set of definitions are not reused or modified after they’re deployed. They are effective in situations where the same core infrastructure needs to be rebuilt for any reason.

5 Benefits of Infrastructure-as-Code

1. Faster Provisioning

Unsurprisingly, speed is typically the most important advantage of IaC. Rather than spending time building and configuring unique operation environments, developers can simply deploy source code they have on-hand to rapidly provision and configure whatever resources they need to get projects started or expand their capacity.

2. More Consistency

Manually configured environments are hard to keep consistent across multiple iterations. The gradual accumulation of bugs, technical debt, and human error results in myriad discrepancies when moving applications or data from one environment to another. Thanks to IaC, configurations are incorporated into the source code, so creating an identical environment is as simple as inserting the code where it’s needed. And since any changes to the environment will be made at the source code level, they will be carried over to new deployments.

3. Improved Scalability

Organizations often need to scale their capacity quickly when new solutions are being developed or when demand for existing services increases. With IaC tools, development teams can easily build environments for testing new applications, which helps to get innovative software to market faster. If additional resources need to be provisioned to boost processing capacity, IaC makes it easy to deploy copies of existing environments so IT administrators don’t spend excessive time manually configuring them.

4. Cost Savings

At their core, IaC tools allow IT managers to automate many aspects of their infrastructure. Whether the organization is managing its own servers or running instances in a cloud environment, leveraging IaC strategies allows them to streamline that process and allow IT teams to focus on other key priorities. Increased automation generally results in fewer errors, which means less system downtime and less time spent diagnosing simple mistakes.

5. Greater IT Agility

The ability to deploy IaC rapidly across different environments gives companies tremendous versatility. This is especially true of data center deployments that have access to a wide range of connectivity options. Colocation customers, in particular, can pair their ability to quickly secure additional cloud services or cabinet space with IaC tools to reshape their network and processing capabilities at a moment’s notice. Since their code-based configurations are easily transferable, they don’t need to worry about the “sunk costs” that typically come with setting up new infrastructure elements.

Enhance Your Infrastructure with vXchnge Data Centers

As a carrier-neutral data center provider, vXchnge offers extensive connectivity options that allows companies to build the network infrastructure they need to grow their business. With direct on-ramps to the leading cloud services, easily provisioned cross-connections, and high-density server cabinets, our colocation facilities are designed with IT agility and reliability in mind. 

Every one of our national data center locations is backed by a 100% uptime SLA and offers 24x7x365 remote hands support to help our customers realize the best version of their digital infrastructure. Whether they’re deploying innovative IaC tools or taking a more hands-on approach to managing their deployments, our innovative in\site intelligent monitoring platform gives IT managers the visibility they need to make better infrastructure and networking decisions. To learn more about how vXchnge data centers can support your technology goals, talk to one of our colocation experts today.

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