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 accelerates IT tasks but also eradicates human errors that lead to numerous breaches and security threats. Indeed, misconfiguration is not just a significant security risk, but it also diminishes system availability.
Repeatable Proven Processes
With IaC, IT, DevOps and SecOps can develop processes that are proven to be effective and implement them automatically and consistently whenever required.
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, an approach where development and operations collaborate to achieve enterprise objectives, aims to enhance software and its development process. As the What DevOps Means to Me blog states, "The DevOps movement focuses on delivering software more rapidly and efficiently, while minimizing disruptions."
Automation is a crucial element of DevOps, necessitating the appropriate development tools, which are increasingly IaC solutions. The blog asserts, "The tools can begin to weave together an automation framework for DevOps. Tools for release management, provisioning, configuration management, systems integration, monitoring, control, and orchestration become essential components in constructing a DevOps framework."
Configuration management is a domain that IT professionals often find daunting, and this is precisely where IaC excels. Managing multiple virtual machines demands proper configuration—equipping them with the right software and ensuring that software operates. But how can you manage infrastructure when the number of machines under your purview fluctuates daily? The only viable solution is to implement a policy-as-code-based automation system that maintains consistent environments.
Using IaC, DevSecOps teams develop pipelines that traverse both internal and external boundaries, standardizing environments and processes within data centers and in the cloud. Consequently, you obtain a dynamic, stable environment regardless of the complexity of your configurations. When application deployment and infrastructure changes occur at the same rate, your entire IT organization operates more effectively.
Indeed, environmental configurations are fundamental to application and business success. A DevSecOps team that converts configuration into code can employ the same tools and processes utilized for applications to efficiently and successfully prepare environments to run those 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 CI/CD software modifications address security concerns through small adjustments. For this approach to be truly effective, it should not depend on isolated security checks, but rather on an ongoing process of identifying security issues. This necessitates the kind of automation that IaC provides.
Modern CI/CD extends beyond application code changes, automating not only the continuous integration of software but also the delivery of infrastructure, supporting systems, and requirements for running and maintaining the application. Successful continuous delivery demands not only the 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 in-sync
- 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 Infrastructure as Code (IaC) security testing solutions establish policies as code, offering continuous visibility into compliance status across all systems and teams. They guarantee ongoing, consistent, and rapid audits across diverse IT environments.
IaC testing enables organizations to:
- Evaluate the status of all elements, from server files, packages, and users to security groups on cloud resources
- Identify violations by comparing systems' actual state with the desired state outlined in the policy
- Comprehend security and compliance statuses of systems through comprehensive reports and proposed remediation actions
- Extend policies across distributed systems and conduct continuous testing
- Streamline testing throughout the software delivery process
IaC testing also allows for defining security and compliance policies as standardized code, simplifying the process of ensuring organizational endpoints are consistently secure and adhere to regulatory and industry standards.
Leveraging Compliance as Code, IaC assists enterprises in achieving compliance in various ways. In the DevOps sphere, IaC solutions aid developers in rapidly and compliantly building applications. IaC solutions transform how security and DevOps teams test and verify software, transitioning from intricate manual processes involving spreadsheets and extensive documentation to automated, error-free code. This executable code embodies controls that developers can integrate into their toolchains and workflows.
Simultaneously, compliance scanning can evaluate formal regulatory compliance, detect emerging or persistent security issues, and establish compliance standards tailored to your enterprise's unique systems and requirements. Compliance reports can then pinpoint compliance challenges, security risks, and outdated software.