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By Tim Campbell, Product Marketing Manager, Rackspace

Infrastructure as code seems like an easy concept, but for optimum results it’s best left to the experts

Infrastructure as code, or IaC, is one of the foundational elements of cloud computing. It enables the ‘elasticity’ of the cloud: the ability to spin up, configure and dispose of hundreds of machines in a matter of minutes with the push of a button and at no great cost. IaC helps enable innovation, change and growth. But the speed, convenience and scope of its capabilities can lead to operational headaches when not managed by an expert.

How infrastructure as code works
IaC applies the same concepts used to manage application or code releases toward the management of an operations environment. Rather than manually making configuration changes or using one-off scripts to make infrastructure adjustments, the operations infrastructure is instead managed using the same rules and strictures that govern code development — particularly when new server instances are spun up.
That means the core best practices of DevOps, including version control, virtualised tests and continuous monitoring, are applied to the underlying code governing the creation and management of the infrastructure. Basically, the infrastructure is treated the same way that any other code would be.
Infrastructure as code enables a more consistent, higher-quality infrastructure build with improved ongoing management capabilities. It’s the foundation of DevOps, combining automated testing, validation and deployment, maximising efficiency and mitigating human error.
Users can deploy or update an infrastructure consisting of dozens of servers within a matter of minutes without the need to install anything on their servers. Just kick off the process you’ve articulated in your code and let the machines do the work. If needed, it’s also possible to roll back to the last stable version of the server configuration, making preproduction testing easier.
Every configuration and every machine can be easily replaced – no need to agonise over the time spent in set-up because you’ve committed it into your code. This allows for endless opportunities to test and experiment without resource constraints.

How experts can help
The inherent simplicity and convenience of IaC deployment and reconfiguration of server environments allow novices to spin up a hundred instances, with minimal effort, in just a few minutes. This means, however, that you can do a lot of damage, quickly, if you don’t know what you’re doing. Sometimes users try to do things outside of basic use cases and end up tinkering with things beyond their expertise. This is where the assistance of a next-generation managed service provider can help. Experts understand the importance of a deliberative rollout of IaC to your team, ensuring that users have the supervision and guidance to innovate with confidence.

Infrastructure as code enables a more
consistent, higher-quality infrastructure build
with improved ongoing management

Platforms like AWS and Azure continue to evolve quickly, and third-party tools often become incompatible or outdated when popular IaC platforms evolve. Some of the key pain points and use cases that may need to be solved include:

  • Improving the transparency, collaboration and change governance of large, complex environments throughout an application environment’s life cycle
  • Increasing deployment pipeline speed
  • Reducing the time and resources necessary for validation and automated testing

IaC enables DevOps principles, simplifies complex processes, reduces costs and facilitates innovation. Maximising these benefits is best achieved through partnership with a platform and vendor-agnostic managed service provider which can ensure your infrastructure is architect-designed, allocated and optimised to support your unique application suite and operational concerns.

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