What is Infrastructure as Code?

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Cloud computing has changed the IT world forever. This applies to both the hardware and software sectors. Processes can be executed more effectively, more cheaply and more comprehensively than was imaginable just a few years ago. A particularly important pillar of this upheaval is Infrastructure as Code. We have summarized what this is and how to use it most effectively in this guide.

IaC for the modern IT infrastructure

Infrastructure as Code, often abbreviated as IaC, refers to a process in which IT services computing power, storage and networking are executed using machine-readable code. Manual tasks become obsolete. IaC is based on virtualization and is indispensable for IaaS products and the use of DevOps team in the own company.

In German, IaC is often also referred to as programmable infrastructure, which pretty much hits the nail on the head. This is because the infrastructure can be built and used or programmed in a similar way to a software application. For the execution of the infrastructure, the respective files and scripts are read by the machines and then executed automatically.

The advantages of IaC

The most obvious benefit of IaC is that it eliminates much of the workload normally required for IT services such as computing, storaging or networking. After all, the execution of the services is programmed and can thus be done automatically without the need for manual monitoring and management anymore.

However, it is precisely this management that has so far made the operation of networks so costly and labor-intensive. At the same time, of course, changes can be made to an infrastructure much more quickly and easily than if these changes had to be made manually.

In addition, once code has been written for programming, it can of course be reused at any time. This in turn means that the construction of a new infrastructure can be carried out much faster, more securely and more consistently than with conventional infrastructures. At the same time, the risk from manual errors is also significantly reduced.

In addition, a programmed infrastructure, being virtual, is much easier to scale. Computing, storage and network services can be added, changed or removed at any time, as required. Ultimately, this means that the infrastructure can be managed like software, which in turn means that services and resources can also be restored on the basis of versions used.

Virtualization as the basis of IaC

The virtualization of IT services is the technical basis for IaC. Virtualization is a method by which IT processes that were previously assigned to a specific physical device can be distributed to or used by several virtual computing machines. The aim here is to decouple IT services from the physical computing machine.

In practice, you can imagine it like this, for example: Until now, each employee in your office had an individual computer for their personal desktop, running Windows. With virtualization, all actual computing processes are now only performed by a central point and then displayed virtually on the desktop. So the desktop only needs an Internet connection to run.

And that's exactly how Infrastructure as Code works. Instead of infrastructure applications being tied to a specific physical device as before, they are now represented virtually and executed using a program. In this way, several virtual machines can also be created from a single physical computing machine.

Declarative and imperative IaC approach

When it comes to using IaC, an infrastructure must be programmed for it. There are two different ways to do this: The declarative and the imperative approach. Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages, and it depends entirely on the situation and requirements in question which method is ultimately most suitable for you.

With the declarative approach, you first define the desired state of the system as well as the required resources including their properties. Then the IaC program automatically configures the desired system. So you specify a target and the corresponding commands are then programmed by this system. Changes to the infrastructure are also carried out automatically.

The imperative approach works the other way around. Here the developer gives the system only commands, which are to lead then to the desired final result. However, it is important to be absolutely error-free when entering the commands, and any changes to the infrastructure must be made by the developer himself.

IaC and DevOps

IaC is indispensable if DevOps is to be applied in a company. After all, the basic idea behind DevOps is that developers and operations work together seamlessly here to achieve results faster, more effectively and more cost-effectively. But this only works if the underlying infrastructure can be adapted to current needs at any time.

And that's exactly what IaC can do. Because it allows developers and system admins to actually work hand in hand, which in turn allows developers to have more influence on the infrastructure used. Operations, in turn, can work much more closely with developers and incorporate feedback more quickly into new updates. The end result of IaC is that the deployment of the software and the infrastructure is realized in a single process, which creates optimal framework conditions for DevOps.

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