Welcome!

SDN Journal Authors: Destiny Bertucci, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Amitabh Sinha

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Microservices Expo, @DevOpsSummit

@CloudExpo: Blog Post

Have You Started Your Infrastructure as Code (IaC) Journey? | @CloudExpo #IaaS #Cloud #Analytics

What is Infrastructure as Code? How do you determine if your IT infrastructure is truly automated?

A recent survey done across top Fortune 500 companies shows almost 70% of the CIOs have either heard about IaC from their infrastructure head or they are on their way to implementing IaC. Yet if you look under the hood, while some level of automation has been done, most of the infrastructure is still managed in a traditional / legacy way.

What is Infrastructure as Code? How do you determine if your IT infrastructure is truly automated? "IaC is an approach and mind-set to automate infrastructure provisioning and management based on best practices from the world of software development. It underscores consistent, repeatable procedures for provisioning and changing systems configuration". The two key words here are ‘approach' and ‘mind-set'. While ‘approach' signifies that the deploying and managing infrastructure should not be any different from the deploying and managing of a software application, the ‘mind-set' signifies a radical change on how a traditional operations engineer thinks of operating and managing systems (compute, storage, network).  Treating infrastructure as a piece of software requires a major shift from the traditional way of provisioning and managing infrastructure. It requires change in both technology and underlying processes. It warrants the need to think like a software engineer rather than think like a systems administrator. ‘Kief Morris', Author of Infrastructure as code book has described following basic principles of Infrastructure as Code

  1. Systems are easily reproduced
  2. Systems are disposable
  3. Systems are consistent
  4. Processes are reproducible
  5. Design is always changing

Principle #1. Systems are easily reproduced.
In the cloud based world we live today, this is the fundamental building block. Systems needs to be provisioned automatically with a press of button. While most of the companies have figured this out and have some form of automation to provision compute infrastructure, it's still far from where business can see value. Value gets generated not when one element of infrastructure gets provisioned programmatically, but when all components of infrastructure can be provisioned programmatically. From compute to storage & network everything should be automated. And why stop at the IaaS layer? Automation should go all the way to configure and install required software which can then be immediately used by business. This will result in achieving maximum business value. Automating end to end not only results in reduction of provisioning time but also reduces risk of human error and configuration mismatches which often occurs when building manually. It also makes life easy for infrastructure engineers to manage the systems over the period of systems life-cycle.

Principle #2. Systems are disposable.
A common analogy given in the industry is of cattle and pets. Pets are treated special and needs to be given special care. Cattle is in plenty, they serve the same purpose and most important they are easily replaceable. In traditional infrastructure world, all the systems are treated like pets. Each system needs to be given special care and most important each system differ from one another. If the system goes down for any unplanned reason, the only option is to scramble the operators to bring it up. This method comes at a huge cost of business downtime and high maintenance cost.  With the advancement of cloud native applications which are mostly resilient at application layer, this problem can be avoided. By creating systems which are clones of each other (containers) and that can be easily created, destroyed, replaced, resized and moved we no longer need to treat each system like pets. If one system (VM or container) goes down, instead of spending time to troubleshoot and bring it, we simply build another one from predefined image and replace it with the one which went down. While this sounds simple, complexity of implementation lies at the application tier. If the applications are traditional monolithic application which depends on infrastructure to provide resiliency, implementing this model will be tough. However, if applications are cloud native, stateless micro services, it's easy to treat systems as disposable.

Principle #3: Systems are consistent.
How many times you have come across an incident only to realize the root cause is due to missing file or outdated driver/firmware? Chances are most of the time outages happen because the systems are not consistent. Each system looks different from one another even though they serve the same application running on them. Commonly known as snow-flake computing in the industry, this creates a huge problem for any infrastructure head. Inconsistent systems not only result in unplanned outages, but can also lead to performance issues and other problems which impacts business. Peeling the onion further will lead to the underlying root cause as human failure. Humans are prone at making mistakes, we forget and even the best system engineer can cause an outage if he or she is manually making system changes. By automating configuration and system management, one can avoid snow flake computing. Manual system changes should only be allowed in rare circumstances like critical incidents only if there are no other alternatives. A defect ticket should be created post incident to ensure all the systems gets updated with the system changes done during incident. Systems should be built from a common operating system image and any application related customization should be pushed via run-books. This will ensure at any given time all the systems are consistent to each other and will guarantee higher business uptime.

Principle #4. Processes are reproducible.
One cannot deny the fact that any enterprise today is loaded with processes. The more processes humans are expected to follow, higher the chances of human error. While processes are integral part of operations, it's important that they are consistent and reproducible so everyone can follow the same exact steps to do a particular task. Left to humans, each human will execute the same task following a slight different process leading to issues. We have probably encountered issues when one of key member leaves the team and other team members cannot figure out how to carry on the same task. Solution lies in ensuring each task is scripted and stored in a common software repository. Every system operator is expected to execute the predefined script rather than executing manual steps which differs from the scripted tasks. Any change in process or task should result in a new version of the script being uploaded in the repository with clear documentation of the changes done.

Principle #5. Design is always changing.
In today age where business model is changing at much faster pace than ever before, its expected that the underlying infrastructure serving the business application can adapt to the change at the same pace. Yet, most of the times in traditional enterprise IT, change in application architecture almost results in building new underlying infrastructure which is very costly. Systems are built for specific application architecture and any change at application layer becomes complex and expensive task at infrastructure layer to implement. In the cloud based world, infrastructure should be built in such a way that's easy to scale to meet business demand. Systems should be designed to accept change as a norm rather than as exception. After all the only thing that is constant is change!

Infrastructure as Code sounds complex to implement, however it's a journey and every journey starts with a single step. It is no longer an option, but a must for any IT to move towards automating infrastructure to meet the business demand. What are you waiting for?

More Stories By Ashish Nanjiani

Ashish Nanjiani is a Senior IT Manager within Cisco IT managing Cisco worldwide IT data centers as an operations manager. With 20 years of IT experience, he is an expert in data center operations and automation. He has spoken in many inter-company events on data center automation and helps IT professionals digitize their IT operations. He is also an entrepreneur and has been successfully running a website business for 10+ years.

Ashish holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical and Electronics and a Masters in Business Administration. He is a certified PMP, Scrum master. He is married and has two lovely daughters. He enjoys playing with technology during his free time. [email protected]

@CloudExpo Stories
The dynamic nature of the cloud means that change is a constant when it comes to modern cloud-based infrastructure. Delivering modern applications to end users, therefore, is a constantly shifting challenge. Delivery automation helps IT Ops teams ensure that apps are providing an optimal end user experience over hybrid-cloud and multi-cloud environments, no matter what the current state of the infrastructure is. To employ a delivery automation strategy that reflects your business rules, making r...
Modern software design has fundamentally changed how we manage applications, causing many to turn to containers as the new virtual machine for resource management. As container adoption grows beyond stateless applications to stateful workloads, the need for persistent storage is foundational - something customers routinely cite as a top pain point. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 21st Cloud Expo, Bill Borsari, Head of Systems Engineering at Datera, explored how organizations can reap the bene...
Kubernetes is an open source system for automating deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications. Kubernetes was originally built by Google, leveraging years of experience with managing container workloads, and is now a Cloud Native Compute Foundation (CNCF) project. Kubernetes has been widely adopted by the community, supported on all major public and private cloud providers, and is gaining rapid adoption in enterprises. However, Kubernetes may seem intimidating and complex ...
In a recent survey, Sumo Logic surveyed 1,500 customers who employ cloud services such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). According to the survey, a quarter of the respondents have already deployed Docker containers and nearly as many (23 percent) are employing the AWS Lambda serverless computing framework. It’s clear: serverless is here to stay. The adoption does come with some needed changes, within both application development and operations. Tha...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Michael Burley, a Senior Business Development Executive in IT Services at NetApp, described how NetApp designed a three-year program of work to migrate 25PB of a major telco's enterprise data to a new STaaS platform, and then secured a long-term contract to manage and operate the platform. This significant program blended the best of NetApp’s solutions and services capabilities to enable this telco’s successful adoption of private cloud storage and launching ...
In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Dumas, Calligo’s Vice President and G.M. of US operations, discussed the new Global Data Protection Regulation and how Calligo can help business stay compliant in digitally globalized world. Greg Dumas is Calligo's Vice President and G.M. of US operations. Calligo is an established service provider that provides an innovative platform for trusted cloud solutions. Calligo’s customers are typically most concerned about GDPR compliance, application p...
The past few years have brought a sea change in the way applications are architected, developed, and consumed—increasing both the complexity of testing and the business impact of software failures. How can software testing professionals keep pace with modern application delivery, given the trends that impact both architectures (cloud, microservices, and APIs) and processes (DevOps, agile, and continuous delivery)? This is where continuous testing comes in. D
The 22nd International Cloud Expo | 1st DXWorld Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo, to be held June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY, brings together Cloud Computing, Digital Transformation, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Machine Learning and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding busin...
Smart cities have the potential to change our lives at so many levels for citizens: less pollution, reduced parking obstacles, better health, education and more energy savings. Real-time data streaming and the Internet of Things (IoT) possess the power to turn this vision into a reality. However, most organizations today are building their data infrastructure to focus solely on addressing immediate business needs vs. a platform capable of quickly adapting emerging technologies to address future ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Synametrics Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Synametrics Technologies is a privately held company based in Plainsboro, New Jersey that has been providing solutions for the developer community since 1997. Based on the success of its initial product offerings such as WinSQL, Xeams, SynaMan and Syncrify, Synametrics continues to create and hone in...
You know you need the cloud, but you’re hesitant to simply dump everything at Amazon since you know that not all workloads are suitable for cloud. You know that you want the kind of ease of use and scalability that you get with public cloud, but your applications are architected in a way that makes the public cloud a non-starter. You’re looking at private cloud solutions based on hyperconverged infrastructure, but you’re concerned with the limits inherent in those technologies.
Nordstrom is transforming the way that they do business and the cloud is the key to enabling speed and hyper personalized customer experiences. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ken Schow, VP of Engineering at Nordstrom, discussed some of the key learnings and common pitfalls of large enterprises moving to the cloud. This includes strategies around choosing a cloud provider(s), architecture, and lessons learned. In addition, he covered some of the best practices for structured team migration an...
With tough new regulations coming to Europe on data privacy in May 2018, Calligo will explain why in reality the effect is global and transforms how you consider critical data. EU GDPR fundamentally rewrites the rules for cloud, Big Data and IoT. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Adam Ryan, Vice President and General Manager EMEA at Calligo, examined the regulations and provided insight on how it affects technology, challenges the established rules and will usher in new levels of diligence arou...
Most technology leaders, contemporary and from the hardware era, are reshaping their businesses to do software. They hope to capture value from emerging technologies such as IoT, SDN, and AI. Ultimately, irrespective of the vertical, it is about deriving value from independent software applications participating in an ecosystem as one comprehensive solution. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Kausik Sridhar, founder and CTO of Pulzze Systems, discussed how given the magnitude of today's application ...
The “Digital Era” is forcing us to engage with new methods to build, operate and maintain applications. This transformation also implies an evolution to more and more intelligent applications to better engage with the customers, while creating significant market differentiators. In both cases, the cloud has become a key enabler to embrace this digital revolution. So, moving to the cloud is no longer the question; the new questions are HOW and WHEN. To make this equation even more complex, most ...
As you move to the cloud, your network should be efficient, secure, and easy to manage. An enterprise adopting a hybrid or public cloud needs systems and tools that provide: Agility: ability to deliver applications and services faster, even in complex hybrid environments Easier manageability: enable reliable connectivity with complete oversight as the data center network evolves Greater efficiency: eliminate wasted effort while reducing errors and optimize asset utilization Security: imple...
Mobile device usage has increased exponentially during the past several years, as consumers rely on handhelds for everything from news and weather to banking and purchases. What can we expect in the next few years? The way in which we interact with our devices will fundamentally change, as businesses leverage Artificial Intelligence. We already see this taking shape as businesses leverage AI for cost savings and customer responsiveness. This trend will continue, as AI is used for more sophistica...
In his Opening Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, John Considine, General Manager of IBM Cloud Infrastructure, led attendees through the exciting evolution of the cloud. He looked at this major disruption from the perspective of technology, business models, and what this means for enterprises of all sizes. John Considine is General Manager of Cloud Infrastructure Services at IBM. In that role he is responsible for leading IBM’s public cloud infrastructure including strategy, development, and offering m...
Digital transformation is about embracing digital technologies into a company's culture to better connect with its customers, automate processes, create better tools, enter new markets, etc. Such a transformation requires continuous orchestration across teams and an environment based on open collaboration and daily experiments. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Alex Casalboni, Technical (Cloud) Evangelist at Cloud Academy, explored and discussed the most urgent unsolved challenges to achieve f...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Raju Shreewastava, founder of Big Data Trunk, provided a fun and simple way to introduce Machine Leaning to anyone and everyone. He solved a machine learning problem and demonstrated an easy way to be able to do machine learning without even coding. Raju Shreewastava is the founder of Big Data Trunk (www.BigDataTrunk.com), a Big Data Training and consulting firm with offices in the United States. He previously led the data warehouse/business intelligence and B...