Infrastructure as code (IaC) promises to make developers more agile, but it’s not without risk. Learn more about what IaC is, its benefits, and best practices for how to use this technology securely.
As applications move to cloud environments and organizations rely more heavily on cloud service providers, provisioning infrastructure has shifted from the IT team to developer and DevOps teams. Infrastructure as code (IaC) introduces a code-first approach that supports building and terminating cloud infrastructure components via cloud specification templates.
In essence, IaC is the managing and provisioning of computer data centers through machine-readable files, rather than manually configuring physical hardware or using interactive configuration tools. IaC uses code to automate the management and provisioning of servers, storage, databases, networks, logs, and more to save time and money by removing manual configuration, which carries the risk of human error.
As developers continue to push applications into production faster than ever, IaC enables teams to efficiently automate environment provisioning — at the speed required to get business done.
IaC promises a number of benefits, including the following:
While IaC boosts efficiency overall, it can also amplify mistakes. By moving so quickly, a minor error by a DevOps admin at the template level can be propagated across an organization’s entire cloud infrastructure. For this reason, IaC security must be implemented to reduce cloud security risk.
IaC security solutions vary from traditional appsec testing tools to managing policies and IaC templates. Because developers far outnumber security professionals, security needs to be shifted left to as early in the development life cycle as possible.
Developers need an IaC security solution that allows them to consistently apply security best practices across the SDLC to reduce potential security misconfigurations and vulnerabilities from being deployed to production environments.
IaC security should also encompass who is and who is not allowed to run scripts as well as limiting the permissions of IaC users. The principle of least privilege, in which users are given the absolute minimum levels of access required to perform their job functions, applies here and is an important part of IaC.
There are a number of IaC tools on the market that help you manage cloud resources. Some are specific to a cloud platform provider:
Others are cloud-agnostic and support IaC in almost any environment. Tools in this category include Ansible, Chef, and Terraform.
IaC tools allow you to write infrastructure as code using declarative configuration files. Not only do these tools automate the provisioning of cloud environments, but the scripts allow the process to be reproduced and repeated while also serving as documentation for how your infrastructure is configured.
Deploying an IaC tool is the first step toward streamlining your deployment workflows. To ensure the success of your implementation, the following best practices can help:
The promise of IaC is in its ability to standardize all cloud configuration processes to maximize efficiency and minimize costs. Automation of infrastructure is now a major requirement for all organizations. As modern applications move more and more to the cloud, IaC will take on even greater importance.
When selecting an IaC tool, always keep security top of mind. Look for solutions that help organizations secure IaC templates and check for security issues, compliance violations, and other misconfigurations. The best solutions are those that allow developers to detect, track, and fix the misconfigurations as part of their normal workflow without leaving their code repositories to view results or set up a separate workflow to scan. A solution that puts security first gives security admins the confidence they need in IaC built and operated by DevOps.