Self-service infrastructure as code supporting flexible, secure, and temporary cloud environments.
To operate effectively you must make it reproducible and programmatic.
What is Infrastructure as Code?
Infrastructure as code or IaC is the evolution of deploying and managing IT infrastructure using human-readable code rather than through manually processes. DevOps principals dictate that IT infrastructure should be created and managed in the same manner developers create and manage code. Like development code, IaC should be written in accordance with rules of the programming language, or infrastructure cannot be created. IaC like development code should be managed in a version control system that logs historical changes and bugs.
A few examples of how IaC is used
IaC is most prominently used for the architecting, building, and maintaining of cloud resources, such as Azure, AWS (Amazon Web Services), GCP (Google Cloud Platform). Through coded configuration files IaC provides flexibility and can build infrastructure within nearly any cloud resources.
Another common use for IaC is something called the Blue-Green deployment method. This practice of patching and deploying web applications with little to no downtime is made highly possible with the use of infrastructure as code. At a high-level infrastructure code is deployed to rapidly bring up an entire web application (Blue) while simultaneously bringing down an entire web application (Green). Blue may be the latest version of the application while Green was the old version. With the help of load balancers end users may never know an update, patch, or maintenance is taking place, thanks in part to IaC.
Who writes and runs Infrastructure as code?
To be able to write IaC one must be familiar with both programming and operations. Typically, the bridge between development teams and operation teams is gapped by the DevOps team. DevOps engineers have both experience in software development and IT Operations, making DevOps engineers best suited to write IaC. As DevOps engineers will be writing and testing, they will initially be the ones with access to run IaC. Once IaC is in production, access can be granted to allow other departments or application access to execute the IaC.
Why do organizations need temporary cloud environments?
One of the primary reasons is TESTING! Test is a key principle of DevOps best practices, be it testing code, testing new applications, testing scenarios, or just testing to test. All of these methods require testing environments, which IaC paired with cloud providers can rapidly deploy at minimal costs.
The first example is for testing code, the traditional use of infrastructure as code is to integrate the infrastructure builds into the continuous integration and continuous deployment pipeline (CI/CD). By integrating infrastructure into application development there is less room for error as the entire scope of the application is tested from hardware to software.
The second example is for testing new applications, be it in house application testing or vendor application testing. The first step to either of these is to provide infrastructure, for which the application will live on. Prior to infrastructure as code, new infrastructure acquisition and deployment was a time consuming and labor-intensive process. With the capabilities infrastructure as code provides testing environments can be set up rapidly and for low costs.
The third example is for testing scenarios. In this example an organization may need to test a mock data center or a mock operation center, these environments would be primarily made up of infrastructure and applications. With the use of infrastructure as code these scenarios can be coded and thus spun up rapidly.
The last example is that of testing just to test. For instance, a sandbox environment in which infrastructure is cloned from existing infrastructure, with the use of IaC any coded pre-existing infrastructure can be replicated and rapidly deployed for sandbox Testing.
As discussed above deployment of infrastructure via code is typically carried out by the DevOps team. so how does the DevOps team write and deploy their code. IaC comes in a variety of formats and languages, which are typically written as configuration files and executed via a Command Line Interface (CLI). Terraform for example uses HCL (Hasicorp language) which speaks to provider plugins most commonly via their API. YAML and JSON are also popular languages used by AWS CloudFormation, Terraform, and Google Cloud Deployment Manager to name a few. The configuration files are typically restricted to the DevOps team, and thus it is their responsibility to execute or build out tools that allow others to execute.
As you can see when it comes to infrastructure as code, it is typically limited to the DevOps team. Let me share with you a few ways the DevOps team could allow others access to self-service infrastructure.
Using a GUI or graphical user interface. A DevOps team in part with a development team could create a user-friendly interface in the form of a local or web application. This Application (GUI) would allow a user to select resources or scenarios from a simplified drop-down menu. These actions would in turn execute IaC in the backend, creating the requested infrastructure. Additional rules could be put in place limiting access where needed, setting time limits on infrastructure, setting resource allocation limits etc.
Rather than building new applications, IaC can be integrated into existing enterprise applications. One example of this is Terraform and Service-Now. By enabling integrations on both ends, these applications can talk with one another providing a familiar interface of Service-Now and the capabilities of Terraform to deploy infrastructure.
Advantages of self-service infrastructure
A self-service infrastructure with a back end running IaC will benefit from many of the advantages of infrastructure as code:
Infrastructure as code advantages
Faster speed, IaC allows for rapid delivery as there is less human interaction and rather predefined code execution.
Reduces overhead, as mentioned above the code is executed rather than manually implemented, this requires less resources and man hours for deploying infrastructure
Minimizes risks, infrastructure as code allows for greater testing of not only infrastructure but applications thus minimizing risk and human error
Consistency, since infrastructure is deployed from code rather than manual human intervention there is less room for inconsistencies, further the coded infrastructure can be viewed as a blueprint, machine building from blueprint is logical and consistent.
Cost savings, infrastructure that is blueprinted can be spun up and spun down rapidly, this paired with cloud environments allow for maximum cost savings of data center resources.
Accountability, as infrastructure code follows development practices changes to infrastructure code are stored in code repositories with gated check-ins and checkouts, this allows for a paper trail of.
How Cyberhill deploys IaC for test
Cyberhill’s partnerships have given birth to an in-house infrastructure testing center known as Virtual Cyber Range Manager (VCRM). Our VCRM concept is a GUI based Self-Provisioning tool which allows users to select a scenario and have correlating infrastructure created. Please see link for more details (LINKTOPPT)
Cyberhill’s team of Security Engineers require environments for our various partnered software, for this we utilize IaC. Using IaC we can spin any required environment DEV/TEST/PROD/SANDBOX at a moment’s notice. Additionally, this code is portable and can be used to help our clients set up new environments when onboarding new security tools.
IaC delivers flexibility, security, and cohesion throughout an organization, allowing for maximum efficiency and speed to market. The best way to get moving forward with IaC is not to hire in-house or risk vendor lock but by hiring a dedicated team of experienced DevOps engineers from a reputable Managed Services Provider, like CyberHill Partners.
Cyberhill Partners team of professionals will help optimize your infrastructure and workflows speeding up delivery of critical infrastructure, in a consistent manner with more accountability and efficiency.
CyberHill Partners is ready to assist your business with DevOps adoption and IaC implementation. Contact us and begin using Infrastructure as Code today!