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What challenges are keeping infrastructure as code from becoming the norm?

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By: Ben Lovejoy

Computers were invented to release us from the drudgery of low-level, repetitive tasks, and most IT specialists would agree that anything that can be automated should be. You'd think that the ability to view and control infrastructure as code would be irresistible to IT teams. 

Surprisingly, the approach hasn't achieved widespread adoption, and instead is typically seen more in enterprises with a reputation for being leaders in the technology field than in enterprises that typically follow that lead.

Infrastructure-as-code.V2.png

How can this apparent contradiction be explained? I'd argue that there are five factors to consider.

Limited awareness

The first reason is that anything new takes time to catch on: only the innovators and early adopters—the people who lead the charge on new technology—are fully aware of infrastructure as code and the benefits it offers. Even CTOs and CIOs in some fairly sizable organizations haven't yet taken the time to fully educate themselves on how an infrastructure as code approach can benefit them and the business as a whole.

Fear of change

There's always fear of anything new. In this case, there's the typical fear of change that most businesses experience, but there are also concerns about learning new skills and new ways of thinking. The late adopters and laggards learn new things only when they have to.

Specific fears

At first glance, infrastructure as code can seem frightening. Get a configuration wrong, and you could be inadvertently rolling out entirely the wrong resources. As with anything else in IT, processes and procedures are your friends, but it can take a friendly expert to provide the necessary guidance—along with the reassurance that infrastructure as code also makes it far easier to reverse and rectify issues than conventional approaches.

The need for a new mindset

Viewing infrastructure as code requires an ability to work at a high level of abstraction. You need to be able to understand and visualize your network as a whole, rather than focusing only on its individual components. That comes naturally to some, but for others it requires a change of mindset. Some will welcome that opportunity, while others will prefer to remain in their comfort zone for as long as possible.

Overestimating the difficulties

Finally, many IT teams currently overestimate the difficulties involved in switching to an infrastructure as code approach, envisioning it as a do-or-die, all-or-nothing endeavor. The reality, of course, is that you can take one step at a time—and easily ensure that the approach will work. For example, this can be achieved by creating a virtualized copy of your production environment, using infrastructure as code within that virtual environment, and then carrying out exactly the same functionality testing and monitoring as you do in the real environment today.

With the right approach and the right guidance, many IT teams find the main question they're left asking is why they didn't make the transition earlier.

For more insights on addressing the challenges read Building Agile IT with Infrastructure as Code.

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