There are many DevOps tools available to help you accomplish many different tasks. Every day, a startup releases a new product or an improved version of an existing tool. One of the biggest innovations has been infrastructure-as-code (IaC). Infrastructure admins and developers have the ability to modify, create and destroy infrastructure with code files. This will change the way we manage our environments. These tools can be revolutionary and solve many problems. However, they can also create new issues.
IaC tools should be run locally first. If an infrastructure administrator or developer is just getting started with it, they may store the files locally. This is a very common practice, and it’s perfectly acceptable. This is where the problems arise, for example with visibility and governance. The team won’t be able to see who is doing what deployments, when, and with which variables if everyone is running them locally. IaC automation tools are here to help.
These problems can be solved with many tools. Some tools are better than others. Each has its pros and cons, including custom-built automation platforms, CI/CD pipeline tools, and purpose-built IaC platforms. It can be difficult to understand all the options and I could go on for hours.
We’re going to be talking a little more broadly today. We’ll save that discussion for later. For now, let’s take a step back and talk about the top five infrastructure as code automation platforms as much as any infrastructure you’re considering. We won’t be able to address each case and company in the same order.
Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)
This is a very important factor. I know I didn’t say I was going to discuss these in order, but this is a crucial factor for anyone interested in IaC automation. We discussed how IaC automation can lead to visibility issues as you scale across teams. For example, you might want to know who, what, where, and why. You want to be able to manage all aspects of the deployments. This will help you reduce waste, budget problems, security issues, and other concerns.
Self-service deployment access may be desired but within certain limits. This could include limiting access to specific people or teams. A granular RBAC will help you create a security policy that is most appropriate for your organization. While some tools already have this capability, others require you to do some work. You should have some control over the deployment process.
The security thread continues: Many of these IaC automation software tools can be used on SaaS platforms. SaaS platforms can be extremely secure. Sometimes, however, compliance and regulatory reasons may require you to have more control over the deployments. Self-hosted agents and runners are the answer. This design allows you to protect your “secrets”, such as your cloud credentials or other sensitive variable information, in your own secure way.It doesn’t matter if you use a third-party or cloud provider secret management software.
You can also keep your code safe with it. When you deploy your code, all of these tools will need a copy of the code. They’ll perform a “Git clone” or some other file copy process to obtain your files from their storage and execute them. They will have access to your code if this is a SaaS solution. This may not seem like a big issue to some, but it is very important for others. A self-hosted agent, or runner, can keep your code and secrets safe and under your control.
Plan on Pull Request
This feature is crucial for workflow. Until they see how simple it makes their lives, some may not realize the importance of plan on pull request (PR). Depending on which platform, this feature might be called something else. On plans, per plan, speculative scheme, etc. This basically means that every time you open a pull-request against a branch of code, your automation platform will perform a deployment right up to the “plan” phase.
This allows you to see exactly what this code change will do. You might end up with 100 instances if you accidentally add 0 to a code file or variable. In order to avoid potential mistakes, it’s best to be able to see what the change will do before it is deployed. DevOps is all about failing faster and closing the loop to avoid making big mistakes.
This is why this feature has become so crucial. If the automation platform is performing this step correctly, it will automatically update the pull request with any changes made as comments when it runs the planning phase. Your developers will be able to see what’s going on before merging the deployment back into the main branch to deploy to production.
You can also add service checks to your pull request so that developers are prevented from merging the PR until the issue is resolved. These features allow you to use GitOps. I won’t even get started about the misuse of GitOps. It is very precise. GitOps’ central pillar is to use your repository as the “single source truth” for what should go out. However, this is not only about Git being used to store Terraform files. It is also an infrastructure administration using pull request methodology.
For most people, this feature is vital. It may not be as important depending on your workflow. It may not be a necessity right now but it could become an important feature as you develop and expand your workflows. Continuous deployment allows your automation platform to connect to your source code repository via a webhook. This allows it to trigger a deployment process when you commit to or push to the repository.
This feature is similar to the plan pull request feature that we have just discussed. A CD feature is required to make this feature work properly. Let me clarify. Continuous deployment doesn’t automatically push to production every commit or push. After the planning phase, you should still have the option to pause the deployment. Before you approve the deployment, you will need to validate that your plan is acceptable.
You may choose to “auto-approve”, which is a way of avoiding validation for certain use cases like developer sandboxes. It all depends on how you work and what your processes are. You can control everything with a good platform.
Also read: 15 Websites To Test Online Your Codes
Shift Left Extensibility
This one is a little wild. It can be used to mean many different things, depending on the context. It refers to the ability to integrate, or at least interoperate with a variety of tools during deployment. continuous validation is a concept that allows you to move some tools and processes into the deployment process so that you are able to keep track of potential problems before they occur.
We discussed earlier in the section on PR plans how to catch issues before they start. This applies to more than just resource configuration issues. What about security concerns? Compliance issues Performance issues? Budget issues? Your IaC automation tool can integrate the tools and processes you use to validate the process into the deployment process. If you constantly validate the budget every time you deploy, you won’t have to worry about running out of budget.
If you are validating security at every deployment, there is no need to be concerned about security issues. This functionality can look different between tools. As long as you are able to access all the other groups (security and finance, for example), everything will be fine. Everyone will benefit if they are able to get all of these other groups (security, finance, etc.) involved sooner. As we have discussed, DevOps is all about failing faster. This can be achieved by integrating these checks into your deployments.
We made it through all five! We have covered some basics security features. We also discussed some essential automation workflow features that will make your life more efficient. We even touched on the next steps, such as continuous verification. This was a lot. I hope this helped anyone who is interested in IaC automation platforms.
Although some features are named differently, the idea behind them all remains the same. These features may not be possible on your platform. Maybe it’s not important enough to you. As I mentioned, your mileage may vary. Every company is unique.