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Why viewing infrastructure as code is the next logical step for IT

By: Ben Lovejoy

"Man minus the machine is a slave; man plus the machine is a freeman." So said Henry Ford, long before the emergence of infrastructure as code.

Infrastructure as code One of the defining characteristics of an IT aficionado is belief that same view—that anything that can be performed by a machine should be performed by a machine. Not just because automated approaches are faster, cheaper, and more reliable, but because they free us from the drudgery of repetitive tasks, allowing us to focus on what machines aren't yet very good at: thinking.

The evolution of automation

In the early part of the twentieth century, automation was about mechanical devices; in the latter half, it was about electronic ones. In the twenty-first century, it's about taking automation to the next level.

Enter the concept of infrastructure as code. Treating infrastructure as code means that the IT team does the intelligent bit—determining what needs to happen to meet business needs. The actual nuts and bolts of realizing that vision, from initial provisioning to application deployment, is taken care of by the software.

This philosophy goes far beyond scripting. With scripting, you tell the systems what they should do; with an infrastructure-as-code approach, you simply define the desired end result, and the automated systems achieve that result, regardless of the starting point or issues encountered along the way. This is a far faster and more reliable approach than relying on procedural scripts, which merely complete a fixed sequence of steps.

The ultimate goal

The Holy Grail of infrastructure as code has been described as the ability to completely replicate or reconstruct a business using nothing but a source code repository, a data backup, and access to the combination of bare metal and cloud computing resources on which it all ran.

That vision may yet be some way off, but tools like Chef mean that we're already a long way down that road. Building, deploying, and managing infrastructure are all things that can be automated in much the same way as we might image a set of laptops.

The full vision will one day be realized. There will come a time—not too far off now—where taking a scripting approach will seem as antiquated as manually installing software on laptops. IT will be about figuring out what solutions are required to meet a business need, with most of the work needed to implement that vision being executed by code.

The first step toward that future is the change in mindset—the second is investigating just how far down that road you can go today. Start your journey first by reading Get faster value from 'infrastructure as code'.

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About the Author


Roger Mallett

It is amazing to see how HP Enterprise is working to meet the balance of customer demand, machine and software requirements. Whilst cost reduction is always a key driver, innovation and ensuring risk is minimised is the prime reasons for change.

Speed of change is certainly accelerating.

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