There is no denying we are living in a world where technology is evolving at an exponential rate. The leaps on a scale similar to going from steam to electrical power now take only a few short years to develop. Don’t believe us? Just take a look at the nature of the IT infrastructure.
It was only a couple of years ago when system administrators had to run from device to device and set up each machine and platform manually. These days, courtesy of cloud computing, the updates and maintenance are delivered directly through software without the need for manual processes.
We like to call this trend IaC or “infrastructure as code.”
The definition of Infrastructure as Code
The introduction above should give you a pretty good idea about what IaC is all about. But, just to make the whole matter as clear as possible, we will try to sum this developing trend in one beautiful bookish definition.
So, Infrastructure as Code can be best described as the practice of provisioning and managing computer data centers through digital pipelines and definition-flies rather than traditional configuration tools and physical hardware configuration.
The shorter version of the definition above would be – IaC manages the IT infrastructure by using digital configuration files.
The ideas we have just presented do sound really novel, but what do they change when it comes to real-life business operations? Let’s try to assess the objective benefits of IaC, some of the limitations of this concept, and see how the whole thing plays out in day-to-day business operations.
The problems solved by IaC
To put it in the simplest of terms, managing the IT infrastructure is a true pain in the neck. Until recently, the maintenance staff had to set up every server and deploy every application manually. This caused a couple of real problems.
High overhead costs and lost time
First and foremost, this whole process produced very high costs. Each step of the maintenance needed to be performed by a hired professional. If there were several of them, this staff needed to be managed. But, aside from salaries and management overheads, the companies also had to enable communication, optimal work conditions, etc. All these things weren’t coming cheap.
The issue of scalability
The second thing that proved to be a considerable problem was scalability. Namely, since distribution was so slow, the applications would experience frequent spikes during which the efforts of system administrators were brought to a halt. When the products finally became available, the administrators needed a lot of time to integrate them into existing systems.
All the things we mentioned above caused a great deal of inconsistency between the different builds of the same products. With so many different versions floating around at the same time, the overall productivity within one company inevitably had to take a hit.
We have to point out that some of these burning issues were solved with the arrival of Cloud computing. As a matter of fact, with the use of the Cloud platform, the problems of availability and scalability permanently became the things of the past.
But, even with moving business data up to the Cloud, the problem of inconsistency remains just as relevant as ever.
How IaC is changing the industry
Enter Infrastructure as Code, the technological concept that solved this decade-old problem in such an intuitive and obvious manner we can’t help but wonder why we haven’t come up with something similar years ago.
Manual processes result in numerous discrepancies, no matter how hard the administrators are trying. By moving the infrastructure data into the configuration files and making them the absolute structural authority, IaC guarantees that all configurations will be developed consistently as long as the files are distributed evenly.
Also, the system configuration is as simple as running the script, so all the inconsistencies between different environments are virtually non-existent. What’s even better, the configuration files are sent to one central repository, while the platforms pulling the data from it take all the necessary steps to download the files and configure the computer resources.
So, the margin of human error is brought to a bare minimum. Accountability lies with the creator of the original file and no one else.
As we can see from the discussion above, the IaC is a technology that shows a lot of promise and irons out problems we took for granted until we slowly started addressing them. Since we are still talking about the breakthrough concept, talking about its final possible outcomes is still very hard. However, we can observe that with IaC on disposal, the tech landscape becomes more even, egalitarian and consistent, and all these things are good.