In recent years, the demand for geographically dispersed applications has increased. This made it difficult, if not impossible, to properly manage these applications.
One way to solve the problem is to think of and treat all of your components and processes as code. It’s a practice that Amazon, Confluent, and other tech companies have already embraced.
Here’s what you need to know about everything as code — its features, its benefits, where it can match your organization’s needs — and six lessons before you dive into implementing the practice.
The problem: the configuration sprawl
Manual procedures are no longer possible for provisioning, upgrading, monitoring, and decommissioning thousands of endpoints such as virtual machines, containers, and other computing devices. We live in a technological age in which businesses are no longer dependent on physical servers located in a corporate data center.
Before you start building your software, you need to configure and deploy a workflow such as CI / CD. These workflows are created from static scripts and configuration files, and because of this there may be no version or testability. As your teams grow, these configuration files can quickly get out of sync. You will need manual effort to keep everything working and staying up to date.
This challenge has grown even further with COVID-19, as companies have had to deal with changes in their operating plans now that their workforce is remote around the world. As such, the need to eliminate manual and repetitive tasks has never been greater. Fortunately, you can take an all-as-code approach to programmatically manage infrastructure the same way you write code to build software.
Enter everything as a code
An all-as-code approach treats operations, infrastructure, security, configuration management, and compliance like application code, so everything adheres to the same software development practices. It’s a methodology or practice where you write infrastructure as software, where everything is expressed as code.
In other words, it treats all aspects of a system like code, changing the focus of manual tasks into automated workflows.
Everything as code can be extended to computer components such as operating systems, network configurations, and pipelines. Adopting code at every stage of the software development lifecycle can open the door to automation, which high quality software delivered faster.
Writing code might not be the only way to build software, configure, and manage infrastructure, but it is a core skill nonetheless. And the practice has been made so simple that even many non-programmers in your IT group can write code (via simple code in configuration files, for example) to automate the infrastructure.
How to apply everything as code
All As Code can help you scale operations by reusing the same configuration files and tools in large-scale environments.
For example, you can take advantage of the all-as-code approach to:
- Create Docker containers for your application binaries and use YAML to create Docker Compose files
- Take advantage of the Docker CLI to send images to a container registry
- Take advantage of Kubernetes to automate the deployment and management of containers
You can do all of these steps in your DevOps CI / CD pipelines. But now imagine that it has to be done several times to adapt to different environments. When using the all-as-code approach, you can assign parameters and values that correspond to each environment, such as name, number of assets, etc.
You can even create temporary environments and then destroy them when they’re no longer needed. If you had to do all of this manually, it would be a tedious and error-prone process.
Six things you should know
Here are the lessons I learned; you can benefit from this before you decide to implement everything as code in your company.
1. It helps both software developers and IT engineers to work more efficiently
They can leverage everything as code to scale their operations by reusing configuration files in different environments. Everything as code helps reduce the risk of human error and increases consistency between IT systems and processes. You don’t have to worry so much about losing institutional knowledge if an employee who has managed a critical system wants to leave the organization.
2. A change in mindset is a prerequisite for the successful use of everything as code in your organization.
IT operations professionals need to adopt a development mindset and automate everything possible. Development and operations teams need to work together to improve processes and develop software that can get to market quickly.
3. Success depends heavily on the efforts of your team.
Team leaders need to emphasize empathy, feedback, and emotional attention – that is, paying attention to the emotional states of team members. Empathy helps team members understand where their colleagues are coming from and how they can help. Feedback helps teams identify challenges and celebrate successes. Emotional attention helps build trust and reliability within the team.
4. The ability to follow high quality procedures or doors is one of the most attractive features
These are comparable to those used in the software development lifecycle. For example, you can take advantage of code reviews and pull requests to make sure that at a minimum, a second person knows what an infrastructure component or pipeline is. Automation is key here, as you can use static analysis tools to get real-time insight into best practices that you’re not conforming to and recommendations on how to improve your code.
5. Testing infrastructure code is complex and you need to create automated tests
To properly test the infrastructure code, you must deploy it in a real environment and validate that it works as expected. Terratest is an open source tool that you can use for this purpose. It is able to test Kubernetes, Docker, Google Cloud Platform and Amazon Web Services APIs, and execute shell commands locally and on remote servers.
6. Do not define the entire infrastructure for all environments (dev, stage and production) in one file
This ban also applies to any collection of files that you deploy as a single unit. If your infrastructure was specified in one place, you would need access or modify rights. As a result, your code will be insecure and risky. The more code you have in one place, the more difficult it can be to understand, test, review, and maintain over time.
How to start
Development teams are under pressure to deliver speed, flexibility, and precision, and that’s exactly what All As Code delivers. To get started, you need to set up policies to govern how the software will be built, deployed, and monitored.
Because Everything As Code allows you to develop and manage the entire application delivery pipeline, you should define all of your workflows as code.