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Infrastructure "as Code" (IaC) a necessity, need or false problem

September 24, 2018

Here's another acronym to define a new way of making infrastructure available as an extension of the groundswell that is profoundly changing development, namely DevOps.

Now that the DevOps has become the reference for CIOs.In order to be able to support this new approach, it is necessary to assess how the infrastructure will be able to support this new approach and this is where Infrastructure As Code comes into play.

What is Infrastructure As Code?

An IaC is a way of managing and provisioning IT resources in data centers in the broadest sense through automatic processes.

This includes both the provision of physical resources, virtual resources and the configuration of associated resources. It also allows the same procurement procedure to be repeated over and over again and to always have exactly the same result.

IaC is the natural complement to DevOps since it will allow to integrate the infrastructure naturally into the Ops process while adding ease of use (with APIs), quality of service (removal of human actions) and speed of execution.

Like DevOps, the IaC aims to reduce or even eliminate the business barrier associated with the infrastructure resource supply processes.

IaC is considered to have emerged with Public Cloud offers which in essence had to offer something new to meet the new expectations of the professions with regard to IT. This response was to offer standardised and automated services that respond immediately to user requests. All this combined with industrial API portals that can be used to integrate IaC processes directly into business developments.

The IaC for who?

As we have seen, IaC originally responded to the need for rapid resource provision.

Thus, the first users of the IaC were web companies looking for variability, immediate and reliable adaptability to the vagaries of the market. Thus, marketplaces and social networks immediately needed this responsiveness to increase or decrease power. But also to open new platforms without changing the quality of service perceived by the user.

The advantage for these companies was the ease of measuring the gains associated with IaC (the Web natively integrates real-time usage counters).

The new IaC users are now the companies that have integrated DevOps into their DNA and where the infrastructure must follow the movement without being a hindrance or an end in itself.

The only problem with these new uses is the unit of measurement used to define the gains associated with IaC, and this is where we touch on the company's major point: the ratio of gains to costs.

Indeed, beyond the real advantages of having an "agile" infrastructure capable of adapting to new uses, is there an associated ROI?

There is no single, binary answer as often in computing. It is obvious that setting up an As Code Infrastructure implies a significant initial and recurring cost.

  • The initial cost, because it is necessary to either rethink its entire infrastructure to standardize it (moving from SICOB for the older ones to a totally virtualized infrastructure with extended networks and sanctuarized datacenters); or to switch its entire IS to the Public Cloud. In all cases, there is a significant amount of work to be done in terms of application and business replateforming.
  • The recurrent cost, because when IaC says development, it means development and therefore MCO of development. It is also necessary to work on the platform and its permanent adaptability to anticipate new needs. 

The answer then depends on the need for the infrastructure according to the needs of the business. Thus, depending on the variability and need for responsiveness of the business, the IaC will be more or less profitable.

For example, a business related to industry that manages stock input/output and production monitoring will have a lower interest in IaC because its IS is more static. Indeed, the latter is linked to heavy business infrastructures whose variability is more limited. On the other hand, an online services business will essentially need IaC in order to increase or reduce its power (and therefore its cost) and to be very dynamic in its permanent evolution in order to remain attentive to its customers.


Is the IaC finally necessary or is it a false problem?

As we have seen previously, IaC brings flexibility, adaptability, quality and speed of execution. So yes, IaC is necessary, even indispensable, to meet new business needs and to integrate into the DevOps approach.

IaC is not a false problem, it must be taken into account in the evolution of business computing as virtualization, the Internet and IaaS were a few years ago.

It's just a matter of integrating the IaC into the right jobs and for the right needs, while asking the right questions upstream:

    1. Is my infrastructure compatible with IaC?
2. What level of security do I want to have?
3. How do I operate and control my infrastructure today and what will be the impact of IaC on my production?
4. What resources will I need for IaC vs. existing infrastructure and teams?
5. How will I manage this change and how will I make IaC communicate with the rest of my IS?
6. What are the expected business benefits that IaC will cover?

From this point on, IaC is integrated into the company's infrastructure as a new source of resources that will naturally fit into the IS, in operations and production.

Vincent PERRAUT, Pre-Sales Manager - ITS Integra.

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