Breakbeat Technology

How Can Automation and Infrastructure as Code Help My Business?

Are you wasting valuable time manually provisioning your infrastructure? Inconsistencies between your environments due to user error or inconsistent processes leading to excessive troubleshooting?

Infrastructure Automation and Infrastructure as Code are powerful tools in helping resolve these issues. Read on to learn more.

What is Infrastructure Automation?

Put simply, Infrastructure Automation is the act of writing code that defines the desired state or configuration of your IT Infrastructure (Infrastructure as Code or IaC).

IaC allows Software Development practices like version control systems (For example, Git) and DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself) to be applied to infrastructure.

IaC can be utilized (and provide benefit) with both traditional Bare Metal Servers and modern Virtualized or Cloud Based Infrastructure (For example, AWS).

With a basic understanding of what Infrastructure Automation is, how can it help you meet your business objectives?

How Can Infrastructure Automation Help My Business?

Reduce Errors

Once your Infrastructure is automated and tested, you’re left with a consistent and reproducible set of code that can be used to deploy your infrastructure and application.

Future changes to the automation can be reviewed and tested before moving to active environments (Like production).

This avoids the errors inherent in manually provisioning infrastructure and leads to greater consistency.

This helps ensure a more reliable infrastructure (and application).

Consistency

Has your team ever struggled to reproduce a production error in on your development or staging environment?

Infrastructure as Code helps ensure that these environments are consistent with one another which can greatly simplify the troubleshooting process for your team.

Speed

Development, staging, and production environments are often virtually identical aside from differences in server size or other minor differences.

Infrastructure as Code allows allows us to write automation that can be used across each environment and utilize simple variables to define their differences.

Each of these environments can then be provisioned with a few key strokes.

This also allows rapid testing of the changes as well as rapid deployment of the tested changes.

This frees your IT teams to focus on other more pressing tasks instead of wasting time on error prone manual processes.

Change & Version Control

Since the Infrastructure is defined as code, it’s possible to store in a version control system which provides a wealth of it’s own benefits.

With version control, you’re able to tag individual modules in the automation code so infrastructure changes can be properly tested before deployment.

Version control allows developers to request changes to the automation code that are reviewed and tested by operations before being deployed (Change Control).

Collaboration between your development and operations team is improved (Furthering Devops cultural practices), change control processes are easier to implement (Further protecting your Infrastructure), and testing changes to the infrastructure is easier to accomplish.

Security

Perhaps your company needs to achieve PCI compliance or you’ve hired an external security consultant to spot issues in your current infrastructure design.

If there are issues that required remediation, an automated process will allow you to quickly implement, test, and deploy the changes required to remediate these issues.

The aforementioned Version & Change Control can help reduce the likelihood you’ll fall out of compliance again.

Minimize Risk

A key application developer or operations member just left your company and the remaining team members soon discover they don’t know how to properly provision or deploy the application.

I’ve seen this nightmare situation a number of times and it often leads to costly and time consuming reverse engineering to rediscover how to get back to a deployable state.

While nothing is a replacement for ample (and accurate) documentation, Infrastructure as Code can help protect against this by acting as a source of truth for how to provision and deploy a working version of your application if you lose a key member of your team.

Cost Savings

This leads us to perhaps one of the most important benefits of Infrastructure Automation: Cost Savings!

All of the above benefits help save your business money by reducing errors (and time consuming troubleshooting), allows rapid testing and deployment of changes, allows for rapid creation of similar environments, and much more.

Automation also allows for easier tagging (and tracking) of cost centers in your infrastructure and can help ensure that complex (and costly) infrastructure is fully deprovisioned when it’s no longer in use.

A Better Product

There is another benefit that ties with Cost Savings in importance: IaC helps you build a better product.

Reduction in errors help lead to a better user experience. Time saved can be allocated to other things to help make your customers happy.

Infrastructure as Code and Devops culture/practices help your company build a better product and happy customers.

Example:

Let’s look at some of the complexity involved in modern Infrastructure and compare the differences in how things would be handled in a traditional manual workflow as opposed to utilizing modern Infrastructure as Code practices.

Let’s assume we’d like to host a modern highly available, autoscaling, 3 Tier Web Application (Web, Application, and Database tiers) on AWS with 3 different environments for development, staging, and production.

We’ll want each of these environments to be virtually identical aside from a few changes to the number of servers, their size, credentials like API keys, and a few other things.

Here’s what our development and staging environment might look like:

Development Infrastructure for 3 Tier Web Application on AWS
Development and Staging Environments

Our production environment might look something like this:

Production Environment

Notice the difference in the server types, additional servers, and additional redundancy for the Databases (RDS)

Manual Workflow

In a traditional workflow, a developer or systems administrator would need to manually log into the AWS Console and provision each component of this complex infrastructure piece by piece.

This process must not only be performed correctly once, it would need to be performed correctly for every environment your business requires (3 times in our case).

This is time consuming and prone to operator error due to the complexity involved. An error at any stage of this process could leave you with an improperly configured infrastructure with all the associated problems to go along with it (Downtime, increase in application errors, security issues, time wasted troubleshooting, more).

If any of these environments need to be updated or recreated (For example, after deciding on changes to the architecture, deciding to launch another application, or if a dev needs a similar standalone environment for testing), these changes would need to be replicated across each environment leading to a further waste of time and opportunity for costly errors.

Automated Workflow

In an automated workflow, reusable modules would be written to define each aspect of the Infrastructure and these modules would then be used to define each environment.

Differences would be handled with variables that can be easily changed to suite each environment (For example, using a different server size or number of servers), reducing repetition of code (DRY)

Once this initial automation is complete the infrastructure can be tested to ensure it’s working as expected, and then each environment can be created.

Each of the environments can then be easily spun up by executing a few commands.

In the future, if a similar application needs to be launched the existing automation can be reused and if there is ever a requirement for changes to the infrastructure, these changes can be easily tested before moving them to production.

This process helps reduce the likelihood of user errors when provisioning infrastructure and frees up your operations team to focus on more important tasks instead of wasting time on an error prone manual process.

Summary

Infrastructure Automation and Infrastructure as Code help provide a number of benefits to your business operations such as cost savings, reduction in errors, improved security, and a better end product.

Now that you understand the clear benefits Infrastructure Automation can provide, do you need proven expertise to help implement these changes?

Let’s have a chat!

You can easily schedule a free, one hour initial consultation below.

 

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