Best Practices Architect and Automate Infrastructure
When you establish operational excellence, you enable your team to focus on development by creating safe, consistent, and reliable workflows for deployment. Standardized processes allow teams to work efficiently and more easily adapt to changes in technology or business requirements.
Manual provisioning of infrastructure is risky, inefficient, and difficult to scale. Operator error is inevitable, and while you can create audit logs of user actions, it can be hard to diagnose failures. Furthermore, as your organization grows, there will be a higher volume of changes to monitor and deploy, and manual processes will slow your development velocity. By standardizing on best practices and automating repeated workflows, you can more safely and efficiently introduce changes to your infrastructure.
Principles and practices
The following guiding principles for codification and automation of your infrastructure will enable you to more easily define consistent, repeatable workflows and to modify them as your organization and systems evolve.
Infrastructure as code (IaC) tools, such as Terraform, allow you to codify your resource definitions, making it easier to understand your resource configurations and infrastructure topology. Codifying your resources also enables collaboration since your team can more easily review changes made in code than manual updates. When you define your infrastructure as code, you can use the same engineering practices for your infrastructure as for application development, such as code review, automated deployment, and phased rollout that allows you to test your configuration across environments. Terraform supports a variety of use cases in its configuration and workflows.
Identify reusable components
When you identify collections of resources that you repeatedly provision, you can design collections of components that comply with your organization’s best practices and security guidelines. Defining reusable collections of components, such as Terraform modules, also reduces your time to provision giving engineers a configurable way to deploy commonly-used resources. You can also adapt these components to account for changes to service demand or design, or modify them based on failure modes, and trust that downstream users will all deploy the updated configuration.
Creating a more modular infrastructure can also encourage decoupling between services by helping you focus on resources that are logically related, helping you reduce the scope of failure and deploy more efficiently due to reduced system dependencies.
Defining modules for your infrastructure can also help you more easily define multiple identical environments for testing and development, allowing your team to experiment with changes prior to pushing them to production.
Use version control
When you use change management systems to store your infrastructure configuration, you can more easily collaborate on infrastructure development. Version control systems add predictability and visibility to your infrastructure management process by creating a single source of truth for your infrastructure configuration. Storing your configuration in version control also allows you to revert any changes. Terraform Cloud also supports automated deployments based on changes to version control through features such as its integration with GitHub Actions.
Make small, reversible changes
To make your rollouts more stable and manageable, make sure to keep your changes scoped and deploy them often. When coupled with CI/CD pipelines, this allows you increased safety and speed, helping you ship improvements to your services sooner. Terraform's speculative plan feature allows you to preview changes so you can understand the effects of your modifications on your infrastructure prior to deploying them.
Standardize and automate workflows
One of the key HashiCorp prinicples is to design for workflows, not underlying technologies, giving you the flexibility to more easily introduce new tools to your organization as necessary. When establishing a culture of automation, you should also ensure that you regularly reflect on your operations procedures as your team evolves. You can more easily modify and adjust standardized automation procedures than inconsistent manual processes. This also allows you to review any operational failures and update your workflows accordingly.
Consistent and automated workflows for infrastructure provisioning makes deployment safer by eliminating the risk of operator error. Terraform allows you to use the same workflow to manage resources across cloud providers, so you do not need to learn provider-specific workflows. This lets your team work more efficiently and enables you to choose the best service for the job, rather than being tied to any one platform. Check out the getting started collections for AWS, Azure, GCP, and OCI, just to name a few of the providers supported by Terraform today.
Plan for scale
Along with automating your operations, you should plan for variations in capacity and traffic by automating scaling events. By using monitoring and alerting to track your service resource usage, you can more proactively and dynamically respond to varying demands to your services, ensuring more reliability and resilience. HashiCorp's tools enable monitoring and alerting on the systems themselves, such as Vault's integration with Prometheus for telemetry collection.
HashiCorp's Sentinel is a policy as code framework that allows you to introduce logic-based policy decisions to your systems. Codifying your policies offers the same benefits as IaC, allowing for collaborative development, visibility, and predictability in your operations. You can use Sentinel to help manage your infrastructure spending or manage your Vault operations.