IaC Supports Efficient, Secure, Compliant IT infrastructure
Infrastructure as Code (IaC) is in some ways a radical advance from the use of low-level scripting solutions such as PowerShell to perform and sometimes automate IT tasks.
Infrastructure as Code is a fuller, deeper approach that manages, configures and provisions IT infrastructure through code rather than time consuming, error-prone manual processes. IaC automates common, often complex tasks which are beyond the scope of basic scripting and handles them in a proven, tested and error-free way.
The benefits of IaC are enormous. “Infrastructure as code can deliver transformational agility and efficiency via infrastructure automation,” argues Gartner. “Leveraging infrastructure-as-code allows I&O leaders to make infrastructure consistent and repeatable for consumers, increasing the enterprise’s adaptability to change.”
Instead of manual configuration, policy creation, implementation and infrastructure management, the code automates all these functions.
Automation not only speeds IT tasks, but it also eliminates the human error that results in countless breaches and security risks. In fact, misconfiguration is not only a major security risk, but it also reduces system availability.
Repeatable Proven Processes
With IaC, IT, DevOps and SecOps can craft processes that are proven to work and apply them automatically and repeatedly anytime the need arises.
Manage IT Tasks at Scale
IaC is ideal for the hundreds — often thousands — of devices an enterprise might have. “Let’s say you have a Java application that needs to be deployed on a single machine. You don’t need automation for that — you can do it manually,” explains freeCodeCamp. “But what happens when a single machine cannot handle the load and you need to deploy your application on 10 or 50 or 100 more machines? Rather than manually deploying your application on every single machine, you can write code that does it for you.”
Here are a few ways to automate configuration management:
- Use policies: Policy as Code brings discipline to your configurations and also helps ensure compliance.
- Test policies: By testing policies before applying
them to configuration tasks, you ensure the code works and can become an immutable solution.
- Use workflows: Workflows are part of your configuration code development and also how this code can be applied.
Rebuild and Reproduce Systems and Configurations
Proven processes not only apply to new systems and tasks but are used to rebuild or reconfigure existing systems that might have had a problem or need an update.
IaC excels not just at configuration. In fact, offering continuous configuration, it is also a master at provisioning as well. A top IaC solution can describe and automate the whole cluster, soup to nuts, hardware to network to software. This is the promise of Infrastructure as Code: when you write your cluster configuration down as code, suddenly your clusters become testable, repeatable, self-healing, idempotent and, most importantly, easy to understand.
Cloud deployments can be handled via template files rather than manual IT iteration, reducing IT time and ensuring proper deployment.
Cloud Infrastructure Management
With IaC, cloud management actions are automated, including configuring and provisioning cloud infrastructure components.
IaC helps IT build test environments that exactly duplicate and mirror production systems.
Monitoring IT resources, including cloud resources, is critical. IaC ensures monitoring solutions are properly configured, up to date and supportive of continuous monitoring.
User error, IT error and misconfiguration are all sources of security vulnerabilities and causes of breaches and other attacks. At the same time, software built and tested in an undisciplined way is also a hacker’s delight.
Chances are your IT security team has spent countless manhours choosing defense-in-depth components, then building and configuring your security architecture. That is only step one. That very architecture must be updated, maintained, managed, upgraded and regularly configured and reconfigured. Do any of these steps wrong and that bullet-proof architecture is suddenly full of holes.
Software is the same way. While DevOps speeds software development and deployment, that velocity can introduce errors which make that same software easy pickings.
The answer to all these issues is leveraging IaC to perform error-proof configurations, keeping your security tools themselves safe and your internal applications free from worry.
Automating IaC security scanning is the only cost and time effective way to spot and fix security holes. “Ad hoc security scanning is an effective way to identify and correct vulnerabilities at a specific moment in time. Organizations that are serious about DevSecOps would likely take a more automated approach to this by integrating checks for IaC misconfigurations into the developer workflow,” argues the Best Practices for IaC Security blog.
DevOps, the approach where development and operations work in sync to achieve enterprise goals, aims to improve software and the manner in which it is built. “The DevOps movement is focused on delivering software faster and more efficiently, without breaking things as often,” argues the What DevOps Means to Me blog.
Automation is a key component of DevOps and this requires the right development tools which are increasingly IaC solutions. “The tools can start to stitch together an automation fabric for DevOps. Tools for release management, provisioning, configuration management, systems integration, monitoring and control, and orchestration become important pieces in building a DevOps fabric,” the blog maintains.
Configuration management is one area that IT pros dread and exactly where IaC shines. Managing multiple virtual machines requires proper configuration—loading them with the right software and making sure that software can run. But how can you manage infrastructure when the number of machines you’re responsible for changes daily? Instead of disruptive churn, the only way is to implement a policy as code-based automation solution that keeps environments consistent. With IaC, DevSecOps teams create pipelines that can cross both internal and external boundaries, standardizing environments and processes locally within the data center and up in the cloud. As a result, you get a dynamic environment that’s stable no matter how complicated your configurations are. When your application deployment and infrastructure changes move at the same pace, your entire IT organization functions better.
In fact, environmental configurations are foundational to application and business success. A DevSecOps team that turns configuration into code can leverage the same tools and processes you use on your applications to efficiently and successfully prepare environments to run applications.
With IaC, DevOps can:
- Configure systems based on defined business policies
- Test systems and validate states across environments
- Patch and remediate vulnerable systems
IaC helps ensure your software development environment is configured uniformly across all its components and for all its users, reducing errors and deployment/configuration time.
As you can see, IaC is a critical technical requirement for developing, running and maintaining business systems.
Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD)
Many of these CI/CD software changes are tweaks addressing security issues. This approach, to be truly successful, shouldn’t rely on point-in-time security checks, but rather a continuous process of identifying security issues. This requires the type of automation available from IaC.
Today, CI/CD goes beyond application code changes, automating not only the continuous integration of the software but also the delivery of infrastructure, supporting systems and requirements for running and maintaining the application. Successful continuous delivery requires not only the successful automated delivery of an application but also:
- Proof that the change was successful, and that the application is working as expected
- All environments (Dev, Pre-Prod and Prod) are updated and remain
- Deployment to any environment (on-prem, cloud or edge) can be automated
- Supporting tasks (provisioning, testing, auditing, etc.) are automated
- Delivery of supporting tools and platforms is automated
- Security and compliance concerns are addressed
Top IaC security testing solutions define policies as code and provide continuous visibility into compliance status across all systems and teams. They ensure audits are continuous, consistent and quick across heterogeneous IT estates.
With IaC testing, organizations can:
- Test the state of everything – from files, packages, users on a server to security groups on cloud resources
- Detect violations by comparing the actual state of systems with
the desired state as defined in the policy
- Understand security and compliance status of systems through detailed reports and planned remediation measures
- Scale policies across distributed systems and continuously test systems
- Streamline testing throughout the software delivery process
IaC testing also allows security and compliance policies to be defined as standardized code making it simpler to ensure endpoints within organizations are always secure and conform to regulatory and industry standards.
With Compliance as Code, IaC helps enterprises achieve compliance in several ways. On the DevOps front, IaC solutions help developers build apps quickly and compliantly. IaC solutions change the way security and DevOps teams test and vouch for software, moving from complex manual processes with spreadsheets and even large paper binders holding documentation and tracking assessments, to error-free automated code. This executable code represents controls that developers can build into their toolchain and workflows.
Meanwhile, compliance scanning can assess formal regulatory compliance, diagnose emerging or recurring security concerns and define compliance standards that suit your enterprise’s unique systems and needs. Compliance reports can then identify compliance issues, security risks and outdated software.