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Infrastructure as Code - The Key to DevOps

DevOps is not about the tools

That’s true, in the same way that agile is not about the tools either, it’s a set of ideas, concepts, best practices,…

Anger

Nice, but… how can I successfully implement it?

Tools can enable change in behavior and eventually change culture [Patrick Debois]

Printer in 1568

The same way the Guttemberg printer was a tool that enabled a cultural change, or that Agile development wouldn’t be possible without Continuous Integration servers, DevOps relies on some tools to implement its principles.

Unfortunately, the same way everyone thinks of themselves as being intelligent enough, and every tool out there is magically cloud enabled, now every tool claims to be DevOps.

However, there is agreement that tools that allow us to deal with infrastructure as code are key on implementing DevOps concepts.

It’s all been invented already, now it’s standardized with tools like Chef or Puppet. Before, you could write your own scripts to automate server installation, configuration,… but everyone would do it their very own way.

Now there’s some common language used by Puppet or by Chef, that allows to share and reuse configuration as modules or recipes.

Infrastructure as Code, a key concept

The concept that infrastructure should be treated as code is really powerful. Server configuration, packages installed, relationships with other servers,… should be modeled with code to be automated and have a predictable outcome, removing manual steps prone to errors. Doesn’t sound bad, does it?

But new solutions bring new challenges, and when infrastructure is code we face the same problems faced by developers.

  • What version of the infrastructure are we using in production?
  • how can we ensure that when an issue is found it gets fixed and redeployed?
  • how can we test the infrastructure as we develop it?

That’s why when dealing with infrastructure as code we should follow development best practices.

For instance we can (and should!)

  • tag, branch and release the code that define our servers.
  • have a lifecycle that covers different stages through the infrastructure code, ie. dev, QA, production.
  • continuously test our infrastructure as we make changes.
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