Automate Provisioning with Infrastructure as Code (IaC)

Infrastructure provisioning as Code (IaC) is important because it drives an approach to systems deployment, with consistent outcomes.

Carolyn Norton

Director of Cloud

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Table of Content

    Infrastructure as Code, (IaC), is the process of provisioning resources in data centers (normally in the cloud) through scripts (machine-readable files); rather than using interactive configuration tools. IaC is important for organizations because it drives a prescriptive approach into systems deployment, with repeatable, consistent outcomes. With IaC, DevOps teams can work together with a unified set of practices and tools to deliver applications and their supporting infrastructure rapidly and reliably at scale. IaC is used to define and deploy infrastructure such as networks, virtual machines, load balancers, and connection topologies. Just as the same source code always generates the same binary, an IaC model generates the same environment every time it deploys.

    I liken it to getting a new phone. In the past, the set up and configuration was up to you. In your previous phone, settings evolved over time, and what you didn’t have documented was often lost. It was difficult to replicate what you had in your old phone in the new phone, and often you missed out on apps or features that you once had. Now, with the cloud, it’s all transferred over automatically. This is what IaC can do for your organization. It’s a prescriptive approach which allows you to deploy infrastructure consistently, cutting down on human error. IaC ensures that steps aren’t missed, and all policies are correctly applied. It ensures that infrastructure deploys as expected in a repeatable and enforced way, for future state or even retroactively back to things that are already deployed.

    Organizations most often leverage IaC when moving to the cloud and establishing cloud space. This is important because, when moving to the cloud, you can grow and scale much faster than in the past. With IaC, you can properly plan for growth and set up enough real estate in your cloud environment to support this growth.

    In today’s rapidly changing business landscape, digital transformation has become a critical initiative for organizations of all sizes and industries.

    Eliminate Manual Provisioning

    Provisioning all your infrastructure by hand is risky. It requires manual work that is error prone. It may require a single person to do. That person could leave the company, taking all that knowledge with them. Infrastructure as code minimizes both risks. By representing infrastructure as reproducible blocks of code we are far less error prone. IaC lives in a source code repository. Its history and changes are visible to everyone on the team. The benefits of automated provisioning with IaC are many, and include:

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    1.     Stable & consistent environments for faster iterations

    When environments must be manually configured or modified it slows down product development. This is especially true if the product wants to change its architecture to better serve its users. With Infrastructure as Code (IaC), environments are stable, consistent, and easily modifiable. They live in code alongside the product, so when we want to change one, we can change the other at the same time. This harmony means that new features can be developed for the product faster. There is less overhead to managing a given environment.

    2.     Cost optimization

    When all resources are represented in code you can see what is running and what shouldn’t be. Optimizing cost maintains product profit margins. Those optimizations become much easier with infrastructure as code. The IaC script also saves you money by allowing you to eliminate resources when they are no longer needed. By reducing manual provisioning processes, you can also free up time and resources for other tasks. You also avoid user downtime when they don’t have the access they need, which results in greater productivity, lowering operational costs, and greater operational efficiency.

    3.     Self-documenting

    There is a philosophy in software development that says good code is easy to read. It often doesn’t need extensive comments because it’s clear what it’s doing. The idea is that a new developer should be able to come in, read the code, and understand the logic that is happening. With IaC, it is self-documenting like any other code. This makes it easier to add more people to the team. With self-documenting code, you can reduce the time it takes for a new developer to onboard into the team.

    4.     Reduce Human Error

    Because automated provisioning eliminates manual processes, it also greatly reduces the margin of error. There’s less of a chance of a slip-up when adding a user to the system, and provisioning access to applications.

    In addition, by automating user provisioning, you reduce the risk of security threats and data breaches, as the only way to get access to these applications is through the roles and permissions set up by the organization.

    Organizations have full visibility into who has access to what, significantly reducing risk of a security mishap.

    5.     Disaster Recovery When Needed

    Speaking of security mishaps, you can generate the disaster recovery stack with the same resources that were deployed in the production environment, without missing anything. Once you’re ready to deploy your disaster recovery environment, you can execute the script and route the traffic to this environment.

    6.     Streamline Onboarding

    Imagine manually onboarding and provisioning hundreds of new employees at once. If you’re an enterprise organization without IaC, that’s often the case. How do you provision hundreds of new users to their respected systems and applications efficiently?

    Automated provisioning allows you to take the onboarding burden off your Human Resources or IT department. Organizations can add their new employees, contractors, consultants, etc. into their identity management system, and through automated provisioning, they’ll get access to specific applications and resources needed to do their job.

    Automated Provisioning also increases productivity by giving users the access they need on day one. Users don’t have to wait to receive access and are empowered to start their work immediately.

    IaC with Microsoft Azure

    Microsoft Azure has its own set of IaC that can be defined through templates and specifications noted in the code. Azure provides native support for Infrastructure as Code (IaC) via the Azure Resource Manager, (ARM), model. Teams can define declarative ARM templates that specify the infrastructure required to deploy solutions.

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    When you send a request through any of the Azure APIs, tools, or SDKs, Resource Manager receives the request. It authenticates and authorizes the request before forwarding it to the appropriate Azure service. Because all requests are handled through the same API, you see consistent results and capabilities in all the different tools.

    The following image shows the role Azure Resource Manager plays in handling Azure requests.

    Azure Resource Manager

    ARM also allows you to:

    • Manage your infrastructure through declarative templates rather than scripts.
    • Deploy, manage, and monitor all the resources for your solution as a group, rather than handling these resources individually.
    • Redeploy your solution throughout the development lifecycle and have confidence your resources are deployed in a consistent state.
    • Define the dependencies between resources so they’re deployed in the correct order.
    • Apply access control to all services because Azure role-based access control (Azure RBAC) is natively integrated into the management platform.
    • Apply tags to resources to logically organize all the resources in your subscription.
    • Clarify your organization’s billing by viewing costs for a group of resources sharing the same tag.

    IaC can help you roll out repeatable processes without missing a step. Let me know if you have any questions about IaC, or IaC within Microsoft Azure and ARM.

    What’s your next step? Talk to us about how we can keep you ahead of the competition in today’s digital-first business environment. Velosio has helped thousands of companies like yours. I am here to help. As Always, connect with me on LinkedIn if I can answer any questions.

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    Carolyn Norton

    Director of Cloud

    Follow Me: