5 Infrastructure as Code Best Practices for Keeping Teams Secure, Compliant, and Efficient
Reduce friction and keep collaboration smooth with these fundamental guidelines
Building modern cloud applications requires a modern approach to cloud infrastructure. As development relies on many tools, applications, and microservices to scale deployment for a global market, the infrastructure connecting everything needs to be robust and secure. To facilitate the construction of cloud-native applications, developers are increasingly turning to Infrastructure as Code (IaC), which allows teams to provision environments quickly while reducing the chance of introducing human error.
There are essential principles to follow when building IaC to ensure teams can manage configurations across any application. Read on to learn critical Infrastructure as Code best practices that will set your team up for success.
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5 Infrastructure as Code Best Practices
Build Immutable Infrastructure
It may be tempting to create mutable infrastructure — that is, infrastructure that is variable and updated directly depending on your needs — but it’s increasingly difficult to work with when operating at scale.
For example, you may provision an environment and run a script to update your application. For a single environment, this is fine. But what if you have ten environments to update? Or 100? Or 1,000? You would need to run this script in each environment to update them to the latest version, and there’s a chance the script could fail. This leads to “configuration drift” as each version starts to fall out of spec across environments, increasing the chance for error and making updates a bigger headache than necessary.
Immutable infrastructure avoids configuration drift and makes updating far more manageable, especially at scale. In this case, you would create a duplicate instance of your application environment and make the necessary changes in this copy. Once you’ve confirmed both instances are operating correctly, you can decommission the old instance and replace it with the new version.
Immutable infrastructure and IaC go hand in hand to ensure these operations can happen at scale. DevOps teams set requirements for resource configurations within IaC, which then form the foundation for infrastructure automation. Necessary changes only need to be made once to an IaC reference server, where they can then be tested and deployed. Old instances can be destroyed as new ones using the updated IaC configurations can take their place, each one containing the same security and compliance configurations set within the IaC.
Immutable infrastructure is more expensive than mutable infrastructure (since you’re effectively running multiple instances at the same time), but it’s worth the extra resources to prevent introducing errors into your DevOps processes. Plus, IaC provides the added benefit of increased security, consistency, and provisioning speed across all instances.
Optimize Processes to Reduce Errors
Speaking of processes, it’s vital to constantly monitor your automation processes to ensure developers aren’t introducing mistakes during updates to the development environment or deployment of code. It’s easy for security conflicts or compliance issues to arise as changes are made, so your development environment should include checks within your CI/CD pipeline to monitor for these errors before and after deployment.
Infrastructure as code needs special attention, as errors introduced to IaC will filter down into all provisioned instances, requiring time and attention to fix through updates to the immutable infrastructure. IaC development should be treated with the same importance as other critical operations within the organization, so processes should be regularly examined and updated to ensure automation is secure and consistent.
That’s where a specialized IaC tool like DuploCloud is especially handy. DuploCloud automates large portions of cloud infrastructure creation and management to reduce costs and time to deployment while eliminating human error in configuration. It’s built to provision your cloud infrastructure and services to the most stringent security controls and compliance standards, like PCI-DSS, HIPAA, SOC 2, and GDPR, while continuously monitoring infrastructure to ensure adherence to these standards.
Read our white paper to learn more about how Infrastructure as Code can serve as a foundational pillar of your own internal development platform with the help of DuploCloud.
Implement Robust Version Control
The best way to ensure development teams aren’t stepping over each other or introducing configuration errors into the infrastructure is to create a single source of truth. That’s why implementing a robust version control system for your configurations is one of the most crucial infrastructure as code principles.
A platform like Git or Subversion provides accountability for development teams operating at scale. Individual developers can check out sections of the infrastructure, make changes, then submit merge requests requiring peer review and testing before implementation. Version control also ensures all developers are working on the latest iteration and aren’t making configuration changes to sections other developers are working on. Plus, if an issue crops up after deployment, it’s easy to roll back to an earlier working version.
Like building an application, maintaining Infrastructure as Code is a collaborative effort, and implementing version control ensures that teams are all working on the same page across the entire cloud environment.
Modularity Makes Infrastructure Management Easier
Your version control system will also help you manage development and infrastructure construction across more extensive programs by enabling a modular approach to Infrastructure as Code. Rather than requiring development teams to work on the infrastructure as a whole, teams should work with smaller configuration files, which then feed into the larger infrastructure.
This approach is a natural extension to utilizing a microservices architecture, where individual components can be easily tested and verified before being assembled into the whole. Plus, if errors crop up during configuration, they will be easier to detect when organized into smaller files than if they are all lumped into a single, larger document.
Your Code Is Your Documentation
Error reduction is one of the main benefits of Infrastructure as Code. You’ve already built a single source of truth within your version-controlled codebase, so use the code as your documentation.
For some applications, it’s important to keep a set of documentation to explain code functionality and configuration operations for IT and other developers to reference. In the case of IaC, however, keeping separate documentation outside your codebase can introduce inconsistencies as developers forget to update it alongside production releases as changes are introduced.
As IaC operations scale and grow, these knowledge bases become another massive project to maintain, increasing the chance of error or outdated information. Instead, your Infrastructure as Code should also act as your documentation source, which will reduce headaches as team members attempt to hunt down the latest changes and most up-to-date configurations.
For IaC, you don’t need separate documentation to explain your code — it should stand for itself.
Build Infrastructure as Code Fast With DuploCloud
Implementing Infrastructure as Code best practices starts with ensuring you have the right tools to lay a proper foundation. That’s where DuploCloud can help.
DuploCloud is a DevOps-as-a-Service platform that automates large portions of cloud infrastructure provisioning and configuration while adhering to robust security and compliance standards. Stitching together Infrastructure as Code by hand can take months, increasing the opportunities for errors to creep in — DuploCloud’s Terraform provider reduces deployment times by a factor of ten. Read our DevOps whitepaper to discover how developers can use DuploCloud to reduce cloud operating costs by up to 70%.