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DevOps IaC: Best Practices for Success

Learn about DevOps IaC best practices, benefits, tools, challenges, and tips for successful implementation. Explore Infrastructure as Code strategies and achieve DevOps success.

Zan Faruqui
May 16, 2023

In the world of DevOps, Infrastructure as Code (IaC) is a game-changer, enabling teams to manage their IT infrastructure with efficiency and precision. Here's a quick overview of what you need to know about DevOps IaC for success:

  • Why IaC? It saves time, ensures consistency, fosters teamwork, and scales easily.
  • Understanding IaC: It's about using code to automatically manage and provision your tech setup, ensuring reliability across environments.
  • Best Practices: Use version control, create modular components, implement comprehensive testing, document within the code, and promote cross-team collaboration.
  • Choosing an IaC Tool: Tools like Terraform, AWS CloudFormation, Ansible, and Azure Resource Manager have their own strengths and weaknesses. Your choice will depend on your specific needs and environment.
  • Overcoming Challenges: Address the skills gap, change resistance, inadequate testing, and siloed procedures to fully leverage IaC benefits.

This introduction encapsulates the key points of implementing and benefiting from DevOps IaC, aimed at making your team's work more efficient and aligned.

What is Infrastructure as Code?

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) is when you use text files to set up and manage your IT stuff, like servers and networks, instead of manually setting up each piece of hardware. It's like writing down instructions for your computer to follow, so everything is set up exactly the same way every time. This means you can:

  • Set up and manage things like servers and storage with just code
  • Keep track of changes to your setup in a way that's easy to check and roll back if needed
  • Make sure your setup is the same across different environments, like development and production
  • Change your setup with code updates instead of manual tweaks

Overall, IaC makes managing your IT setup more like updating software.

Benefits of the IaC Approach

Using IaC to manage your infrastructure comes with some big perks:

  • Consistency - You can make sure everything is set up the same way everywhere, from development to production.
  • Efficiency - It speeds up the process of building and changing environments because it's all automated.
  • Cost Reduction - You can avoid costly mistakes and easily turn off what you don't need.
  • Documentation - The code itself tells you what's set up where, acting as a record.
  • Collaboration - Teams can work together on the code, making it easier to share and improve.

By treating your setup like code, teams can work faster, make fewer mistakes, and help each other out more easily.

Declarative vs. Imperative IaC

There are two main ways to write IaC:

Declarative - You describe what you want the end result to be, like saying, "I want a server with 8 GB RAM and 4 vCPUs".

Imperative - You list the steps to get there, like "Run this command to add 2 vCPUs".

Declarative IaC is simpler to grasp because it's all about the outcome. But, imperative IaC gives you more control over the nitty-gritty details. Most of the time, you can use a bit of both.

Best Practices for Implementing IaC

Implementing infrastructure as code (IaC) can make managing your tech setup a lot smoother and help teams work together better. But to really get it right, there are some key steps you should follow. Here are 5 tips to help you make the most of IaC:

Use a Version Control System

  • Keep your IaC scripts in a system that tracks changes, like Git. This helps you see what's changed over time and go back to older versions if needed.
  • It also lets you try out changes in a separate area before making them live.

Create Modular Components

  • Split your setup into parts that can be used again, like the bits that handle networking, computing, and storage.
  • This makes it easier to manage and update parts without messing up others.

Implement Comprehensive Testing

  • Check your IaC scripts to make sure they don't have mistakes and do what they're supposed to.
  • Test the setup they create to catch any issues early.
  • Use special tests to see how different parts work together, and pretend expensive parts like databases are there to see how it all works.

Document Requirements Within the Code

  • Write notes right in your IaC files to explain what's going on.
  • This helps keep your setup and the instructions for it together, making it easier for everyone to understand.

Promote Cross-Team Collaboration

  • Share your IaC files where everyone can see and work on them.
  • This lets developers test their work in environments that are like the real thing, and operations teams can set up and manage these environments.
  • It helps everyone work together better and makes things run more smoothly.

Following these tips can really help you make the most of using IaC, making your setups more consistent, your teams more in sync, and cutting down on costs.

Choosing an IaC Tool

Picking the right tool for infrastructure as code (IaC) is super important. Here's a simple breakdown of some popular tools to help you figure out which one might be the best fit for you:

Tool Infrastructure Approach Strengths Weaknesses
Terraform Works everywhere Tells you the end goal Good for many setups, lots of help available, you can reuse parts Might be tricky to learn
AWS CloudFormation Just for AWS Tells you the end goal Works really well with AWS, easy if you only use AWS Only works with AWS, not as flexible
Ansible Works everywhere Tells you the steps Easy to start with, lots of tools, doesn't need extra software on servers Harder to reuse, might not stay up-to-date without checks
Azure Resource Manager Just for Azure Tells you the end goal Really good with Azure, lets you control who can do what Only for Azure, not great if you might switch

Terraform is a solid choice if you're dealing with lots of different places (like AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, and your own servers). It focuses on what you want in the end. There's a big group of people using it, which means lots of shared tips and tricks. But, it might take some time to get the hang of it.

AWS CloudFormation is made just for AWS stuff. It's straightforward if you're all-in with AWS. But, it means you can't really use it for anything else.

Ansible is about listing the steps to get something done, which makes it pretty simple to pick up. But, it might not be as neat and tidy for keeping things updated over time. It's good because you don't need to install anything extra on your servers to use it.

Azure Resource Manager is perfect if you're using Azure and want to keep things tight and right within that world. It's not so great if you think you might want to move to a different cloud later on.

The best tool for you depends on what you're already using and what you plan to do in the future. Tools like Terraform give you lots of options but can be a bit more complex. Options that stick to one cloud, like CloudFormation, are simpler but mean you're putting all your eggs in one basket. Think about what your team knows already, if you need to be able to move things around, and what kind of ready-made stuff you want to use. Knowing the pros and cons helps you pick the right IaC tool for your team.


Overcoming Common IaC Challenges

Adopting infrastructure as code (IaC) can make managing tech stuff easier, but it's not always smooth sailing at the start. Here's a look at some common bumps in the road and how to get past them:

Bridging the Skills Gap

IaC needs a mix of tech and coding skills. Some ops folks might be new to coding, and some devs might not know much about the deep tech stuff.

  • Learn together - Have workshops where devs can learn about tech setups and ops folks can improve their coding. This helps everyone get better.
  • Start small - Try IaC on easy projects first. This way, everyone gets to practice without the pressure of big, complicated tasks.

Moving Past "It's Always Worked That Way" Mindsets

People sometimes stick to old ways because they're used to them. Changing can be hard.

  • Show the benefits - Use real numbers to show how much time and effort IaC saves compared to doing things by hand.
  • Try it on the side - Use IaC on less important systems first. This lets people get comfortable without risking important stuff.

Inadequate Testing

Just like any code, IaC scripts need to be checked to make sure they work right.

  • Set up a test space - Have a separate area that's just like the real deal where you can try out scripts safely.
  • Do more tests - Don't just check if the code looks right. Make sure it does what it's supposed to, check for security issues, and more. Test a lot and test early.

Unifying Disparate Procedural Silos

Even with IaC, teams might still do things their own way, which can cause mix-ups.

  • Bring everything together - Keep all scripts in one place and have the team check them before making changes. This makes sure everyone is on the same page.
  • Make rules - Have clear steps for moving scripts from development to real use. This keeps things consistent.

Switching to IaC is a big move, but these tips can help make it smoother. Focus on learning together, showing how it helps, doing lots of tests, and making sure everyone follows the same steps. Soon, you'll see the good stuff IaC brings, like being more reliable, efficient, and flexible.


To really get the most out of using code to set up and manage our tech stuff, we need to stick to some important steps. Let's quickly go over what these steps are:

Use Version Control

  • Keep a history of all changes with tools like Git. This helps us know what was changed and when.
  • Always test new changes on their own before adding them to the main setup.

Modular Components

  • Divide the setup into small, reusable pieces for things like internet connections, computers, and storage.
  • This makes it easier to handle and update.

Comprehensive Testing

  • Make sure everything works as it should, fits well with other parts, and is secure.
  • Pretend to use expensive stuff to keep costs down.

Embedded Documentation

  • Put explanations right in the code.
  • This keeps all the info and instructions together, making it simpler for everyone.

Cross-Team Collaboration

  • Put the code where everyone can see and work on it together.
  • This helps both the developers and the operations team work better together.

By following these steps, we get:

  • Faster and easier ways to build and change setups.
  • Fewer mistakes and less downtime.
  • Saving money by using resources better and cutting down on waste.
  • The freedom to try new things with less risk.

It also makes it easier to check on things for security and to make sure we're following rules.

Starting to use code for our tech setups can be tough at first, but the benefits are huge in the long run. Keeping to these main ideas helps teams do well now and in the future.

What are some best practices for creating a successful DevOps culture?

To build a good DevOps culture, try these tips:

  • Use agile methods to make changes and improvements quickly.
  • Set up automated systems for testing and putting out your software.
  • Get the ops team involved early in the software making process.
  • Automate routine tasks to save time.
  • Keep an eye on your systems and listen to what they tell you to make things better.
  • Work together across different teams to break down walls.
  • Give teams the tools and freedom to try out new ideas.

What is the IaC strategy?

IaC, or Infrastructure as Code, means managing your computer systems with code instead of manually setting them up. Here's what it involves:

  • Using code to set up and manage things like servers.
  • Keeping this code in a system that tracks changes, so you can go back to older versions if needed.
  • Making sure your environments are exactly the same by using this code.
  • Updating things by changing the code, which lets you test and fix mistakes easily.

This approach helps make managing computer systems more efficient and reliable.

What are the best practices for DevOps implementation?

For a smooth DevOps process, follow these practices:

  • Use automated systems for building, testing, and releasing your software.
  • Adopt agile methods to make changes faster.
  • Monitor your systems and use the feedback to improve.
  • Automate as much as you can to save time.
  • Test your software thoroughly to catch problems early.
  • Encourage teams to work together and share ideas.

How do you achieve DevOps success?

To be successful in DevOps, focus on:

  1. Learning how to write scripts to automate tasks.
  2. Understanding different operating systems.
  3. Knowing about networking, security, and how the internet works.
  4. Getting good at managing servers.
  5. Learning about containers and tools like Kubernetes.
  6. Using IaC tools such as Terraform to manage your systems with code.

The key is to automate as much as possible, encourage teamwork, and integrate operations early in the development process.

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