DevOps is a field of engineering that focuses on the tools and practices required to deliver software applications or services to organisations quickly and continuously. DevOps requires the manual configuration of software requirements, such as virtual machines, storage and servers, to deploy software solutions appropriately. This is all done in a release pipeline. Different teams are consulted to carry out this process such as security teams, network teams and the development team. Since many teams are involved there is an increased possibility of human error occurring during the configuration process which can result in increased maintenance costs. Therefore, a goal in DevOps is to try to make the deployment of software as automated and efficient as possible.
A shortcoming of release pipelines is that developers are required to maintain the individual development environment to the point where it becomes unique. Therefore the release pipeline cannot be reused or reproduced automatically. Code has made it possible to automate the DevOps process and the creation of release pipelines using a concept called Infrastructure as Code (IaC). IaC allows teams to manage their infrastructure using tools that automatically maintain and carry out required tasks including the creation, destruction, updating and deployment of required software.
There are various tasks associated with using IaC. Firstly, a user has to provision the infrastructure that they need to use. This includes creating databases, servers and load balancers that are necessary to set up the environment on which an application will run. Hashicorp’s Terraform and AWS’s CloudFormation are two examples of existing tools that can be used to provision infrastructure. Secondly, a user is required to provide the configuration for their environment to accommodate their deployment needs. This includes installing the necessary applications and managing these applications required for deployment. A container orchestration tool such as Kubernetes, or IaC management tool, such as Ansible, can be used to automate the configuration of the environment. Lastly, a user has to deploy their infrastructure. This can be done using Docker containers and a container orchestration tool. When using IaC, it is necessary to continuously manage the infrastructure that is being used, with regards to installing and configuring required tools/applications, installing updates and re-configuring tools when necessary.
There are a number of reasons as to why DevOps teams should opt to use IaC, these include the automatic deployment of software allowing for the DevOps process to be faster. IaC decreases the risk of human error occurring during the deployment process since it is reusable and automated. IaC possesses version control which allows teams to revert back to a working version of the code if errors occur during deployment. IaC enables DevOps teams to test their code in production relatively early in its development process and allows for automated tests to be conducted regularly. A benefit of IaC is that users have direct access to the source code of infrastructure therefore developers can make changes directly to the JSON file and configure the environment as well as release pipeline where necessary. IaC allows you to deliver stable environments quickly and are scalable.
However, there are a couple of challenges that users may face when using IaC, these include the steep learning curve that can be experienced since IaC is code-based. Therefore, it is recommended that users of IaC have good experience with coding. It can also be time-consuming to move from using manual processes for deploying software to using IaC.
Using IaC gives your DevOps team the opportunity to deliver quality software solutions as quickly and effectively as possible, without spending a significant amount of time in the deployment phase.
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