The automation of infrastructure deployments through the use of Infrastructure as Code (IaC) tools has become a standard best practice in the industry. The easy to see benefits of saving time and cost are easy to understand. However, there are several other key benefits to automating infrastructure deployments. This article goes into detail about the key benefits of infrastructure automation to help you understand how infrastructure automation can help your team / organization, and even help you sell your manager on the importance of adopting this industry standard best practice.
Top 7 Key Benefits of Infrastructure Automation
It’s easy to see some of the time and cost benefits of writing automation code. With the rise of newer infrastructure systems, including cloud computing platforms (Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS, Google, etc), it is now possible to use APIs and other tools to automate full infrastructure deployments and their configurations.
The following is a look at the key benefits for organizations and teams to setup infrastructure automation:
Higher Consistency and Reliability
Increasing automation and reducing manual tasks will result in lower potential for human error. This will increase the consistency and reliability of infrastructure deployment and configuration since automation code will run the same every time it’s executed.
Increased consistency of infrastructure deployment makes it much easier to deploy multiple environments (Production, Development, Test, etc) that are configured the same. It’s a best practice in software development to keep the different environments for development, testing and production configuration synchronized as much as possible. This keeps error from only occurring in Production that were never encountered in Development or other lower environments. This adds the benefit of making it easier for the team to deliver reliable value to the customer / business.
Faster Deployment & Delivery
Configuration changes and value for the customer / business can be delivered much faster through automated infrastructure deployments. Automated deployment workflows don’t just run faster than doing the same steps manually, but this will also enable the team to run deployments much more often.
Within Agile and DevOps development methodologies it has become a common best practice to “release early and often”. This enables you to deliver value to the customer / business more quickly with incremental updates; rather than large monolithic ones. It also enables any news errors / bugs that are introduced to be rolled back quickly, so they can be fixed with minimal user impact. Deployment automation enable a shorter deployment cycle during this process.
The automated infrastructure deployments can be used to easily scale infrastructure as needed. This will allow the team to respond more quickly to changing business requirements. Also, scaling infrastructure up or out can be completely automated based on measured performance metrics, if necessary, enabling even further agility in responding to changing requirements.
It’s commonly necessary to. deploy new infrastructure to handling scaling in response to changing requirements. Infrastructure automation doesn’t just enable this to be done more quickly, but it also ensure that any new infrastructure deployed is done with the correct configurations in a reliable fashion.
Easy Auditing and Compliance
Automating infrastructure deployment and configuration will make auditing easier by keeping a change log of deployments, code versioning in source control, along with accountability of who made the change. These are all items that help with ensuring to meet compliance standards.
There are many Infrastructure as Code (IaC) tools available (HashiCorp Terraform, Azure Bicep, AWS CloudFormation, etc.) for automating infrastructure deployment. The one big thing these have in common is the infrastructure configuration and deployment workflow is defined as source code that can be committed to a source control repository (Git, GitHub, Azure DevOps, etc.) This code repository enables version control of the infrastructure automation code. The versioning allows auditing to be done to see which developer or engineer made a specific change and when it was committed. This also allows for changes to be easily rolled back if they need to be undone.
Ensuring all the infrastructure deployed meets the necessary compliance requirements is also easier with automation code. The compliance requirements can be configured and saved in the Infrastructure as Code. Then, when infrastructure deployments are run, you will always know the necessary requirements have been configured every time in a reliable fashion.
Security is extremely important for any and all infrastructure deployed. Automation can help improve overall infrastructure security by including the security requirements in the automation code; similarly to how compliance requirements are included. Infrastructure configurations that are included in this are networking configurations, firewall settings, network routing, VM appliances, and even operating system configurations. The automation code can ensure security requirements are always met on any infrastructure deployed.
Better Team Collaboration
The development and engineering teams can work together more effectively by sharing knowledge and skills to build out the infrastructure automation. This is done through the use of common DevOps and Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) best practices. A streamlined and less error prone deployment workflow is the result of having Operations and Development teams work together to collaborate on both infrastructure and software deployments.
Operations and Infrastructure Engineers can always write automation code in isolation. However, communicating and working together with the entire engineering team (or even integrating multiple teams) will always result in delivering more value to the customer / business.
Any task that’s performed multiple times that can be automated for infrastructure deployment should be automated. This will enable the engineering team to free up more time to spend on other tasks that deliver value to the customer / business. This will reduce the amount of time spend on those repetitive tasks, and lower the ongoing maintenance and development costs for the business. Through automation, the engineering team will be able to work more efficiently and able to deliver more business value in less time.
Importance of Automation Engineers
It’s easy to see that automation will save time and enable more reliable deployment workflows, but that only scratches the surface of the full benefits that can be realized. As you can see, there are several major benefits of setting up infrastructure deployment automation. Generally, these benefits are realized through the use of DevOps practices and even hiring Site Reliability Engineers to the engineering teams.
Infrastructure deployment and other forms of automation are primary reasons for the Site Reliability Engineer (SRE) and DevOps Engineer roles. Incorporating automation engineers within the overall engineering team will help realize the full benefits of automation; as not all developers or engineers have the cross cutting skills necessary for an SRE role.
Some organizations hire SREs, other automation engineers, to be a part of the Operations team responsible for infrastructure alone. While other organizations will hire SREs to be a part of the development team so the development team itself can own the full infrastructure and source code of deployment workflows; via Infrastructure as Code. Also, even other organizations will hire SREs to be a part of an “SRE Team” that specializes in automation work and will collaborate across operations and development teams to get the work done. There are several possibilities of how to effectively run a team of SREs within an organization.