There is a great deal going on in today’s cloud market. Everyone is marking 2020 as one of the most turbulent years in history, primarily in health and economy. Cloud tech, on the other hand, is experiencing massive growth and for very good reasons. People are beginning to utilize the cloud in various ways to improve their lives and work. Large companies are accelerating cloud adoption to achieve scalability, agility, granularity and altogether better workflow. Today’s cloud gives you the ability to run everything through code. That’s where remarkable open-source software such as Terraform fits in.
Infrastructure as Code: the Perfect Infrastructure Orchestration Tool
So, what does Infrastructure as Code (IaS) even mean? It’s simple. It means managing infrastructure (networks, VMs, and so on) in a descriptive model, through code, of course. The delightful thing about today’s public cloud environment is being able to dive in and have everything written or translated to pure code. Terraform gives you this ability and it rises to the occasion as one of the best Infrastructure orchestration tools out there. It is one of the most intuitive and practical tools for building and improving infrastructure efficiently. Essentially, you utilize configuration files, to build, fine-tune, describe and manage public cloud infrastructure. It’s really an extremely helpful orchestration tool. It has now grown so much that it is also manages a vast array of technologies from and an incredible variety of providers.
When enterprises adopt cloud technologies and tools such as Terraform, they are basically already creating stable and strong building blocks of a more efficient workflow. DevOps teams are now relying on the numerous practicalities, including unit and integration testing, version control, design patterns, and smaller, rather than monolithic deployments. Now, before we dig into the benefits of this cool open-source software, you might want to check out our latest infographic, which offers a detailed depiction of Deploying Cloud Technology Through Terraform.
Terraform: 9 Essential Benefits
Working with Terraform denotes 9 key benefits. Check it out below:
Many companies underestimate the power of open-source. The ability to extend or modify your favorite software to better suit your needs. Terraform is fully open-source with a strong community and fast release cycle.
Promotes Immutable Infrastructure
Just like container has changed our mentality on how to run applications, Terraform has been slowly helping us to design immutable infrastructures that are easy to test, manage and deploy.
Multi Cloud? No, Multi Provider
Providers are the plugins that Terraform uses to interact with various technologies and their APIs. With the ever-growing list of official and community supported providers, Terraform is positioning itself as the de-facto orchestration tool for the future.
Modules that are available allow you to abstract ordinary blocks of configuration into reusable infrastructure components, once again proving the value of infrastructure as code.
HashiCorp Language (HCL):
Can you read JSON? If yes, then you can read Terraform code. HCL is an intuitive and special purpose declarative language designed to make orchestration a breeze.
Terraform saves the state of your infrastructure and config and refreshes it prior each deployment. The state file consists of configuration data, dependency relationship between resources and metadata about those same resources.
Terraform can follow a traditional workflow models like Git Workflow or nicely incorporate in your current development practices. The tool is CI/CD friendly with plenty of capabilities to provide outputs to other tools to ingest or receive inputs from other applications.
Terraform can be integrated with tools like Open Policy Agent. This helps you apply policies for your infrastructure code that can be evaluated even before Terraform had a chance to contact the API of the provider you manage. The capabilities are limitless, from security checks (e.g. request manual approval if IAM roles are changed, fail the pipeline run if insecure security rules are added to your security groups etc) to operations and even cost estimation checks. At Hentsu we are also integrating our Terraform orchestration with Ansible to provide end to end configuration of our environments.
Spin up an entire environment, rolling out complex network and storage changes can be done in minutes.
When developing, people want to learn and make changes fast through automation and code. When we are talking about the best DevOps practices, Terraform is really one of the top tools out there. It effectively reinforces and relies on Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment (CI/CD). Utilizing Terraform pipelines, you’ll get a swift and automated process that helps you build, and verify releases almost effortlessly.
Terraform is CI/CD friendly and can easily be integrated with your favourite CI/CD tool (Jenkins, Bamboo, GitHub, GitLab, CircleCI, etc). HashiCorp have written a very comprehensive blog posts on how to run Terraform in automation which we suggest you visit here.
Workflow and Building Blocks
At Hentsu, we are following a DTAP model where D stands for Development, T for Testing, A for Acceptance and P for Production. Our code is organized in different Git branches which are protected and have a workflow enforced on them to control the flow of code from left to right in the DTAP model.
As well as automated checks, we are enforcing manual reviews whenever code is deployed to the Acceptance and Production environments. In order to work efficiently with Terraform, you should consider the main building blocks.
Terraform can validate your code without even calling any of the service providers and their APIs.
Whilst formatting does not have a functional impact on your code, it does have readability impact if your code is not properly formatted. Terraform can automatically format your code with the right indentation and structure. You can also use your pipeline to check if the code is formatted using the same fmt tool and its –check and –recursive switches.
Tools like terratest can help test your modules and Terraform code.
Integration testing can be done using terratest and by deploying all or some of your infrastructure in a development/testing account. Integration tests are much harder to write and perform, especially if bigger infrastructures are involved. Testing certain elements might have a fleet of dependencies that would make it slow and rather expensive to perform integration tests. Terraform can perform basic Planning to provide an indication of what exactly will be changed in the environment. Plans can work as simple test. However, you must keep in mind that sometimes errors only show up when you perform the actual deployment of your code, I.e. when the API calls are made.
We have mentioned the Open Policy Agent above. If you are not familiar with it, it is a tool that can help write and evaluate policies for your infrastructure code. Its simplistic approach can be very integrated with your pipeline easily, not to mention that all policies are also version controlled in the same repository.
There is nothing worse than a poorly documented code. Tools like terraform-docs come very handy when working with Terraform. We are also encouraging people to version control their documentation and even diagrams. We use DrawIO which has the ability render its diagrams in Markdown format and save the source files as XML, which make it just a text file that is easily version controlled.
Business Continuity and Enterprise Benefits
With crucial tools like Terraform other robust tools can be brought into the fray thanks to powerful public cloud providers. Our knowledge of the cloud market is ever increasing, as we continue to specialize in the hedge fund and financial services space. We have noticed that clients are increasingly looking for extra benefits such as capacity, scalability and security that come with public cloud environments.
Hentsu continues to utilize tools like Terraform to push cloud tech beyond the limits of traditional, on-premise environments. Our code library and knowledge on handling complex workloads. The goal is to design and create core elements of a data management strategy that’s best for your business. Speaking of code and DevOps best practices, Terraform and infrastructure as code are on the top of the list. When utilized accurately within a Git workflow, Terraform becomes the ultimate tool for continuous managing your business infrastructures. Complete with detailed Git history, we successfully track any changes made to the infrastructure. While it can be a great challenge to pull off, it is also possible to revert to a previous state of the infrastructure, which is a useful additional facet.
Alongside these benefits, using Hentsu services can help speed up deployment time dramatically. Years of practice and experience allowed us to create a robust Terraform module library that help us and our clients to deliver secure and consistent infrastructures for less time.
Hentsu utilizes Terraform to provide complete end-to-end solutions for clients. We were one of the first to fully deploy our Landing Zone templates using Terraform. Landing Zone is a concept / architecture pattern that we follow to deliver modular infrastructure that is easy to manage, security compliant and fully defined as code.