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Infrastructure as Code is the Answer

Explore the transformative journey of Infrastructure as Code (IaC) in this insightful article. From its early days in the late 1990s to the modern era of cloud computing, learn how IaC evolved from basic configuration management to sophisticated tools like Terraform and Ansible. Discover the rise of GitOps, a cutting-edge approach using Git for streamlined infrastructure management. This piece is a must-read for understanding how IaC is reshaping cloud infrastructure, offering automation, efficiency, and scalability.

Sören Martius
Sören Martius
· 6 min read
Infrastructure as Code is the Answer

Imagine manually crafting hundreds of identical paper planes, each with intricate folds and detailed symmetry. Sounds like a hectic task? That’s what managing large-scale cloud infrastructure feels like when done manually, also known as the process of “ClickOps”.

On the contrary, imagine having an automated machine that can craft perfect paper planes using a blueprint you provide. This is the soul of Infrastructure as Code (IaC), a game-changing practical approach gaining status as the only feasible way to manage complex cloud infrastructure at scale. Pretty exciting, right? It sure is! In this article, we will:

  • Explain why IaC stands victorious compared to “ClickOps.”
  • Explore the pitfalls of “ClickOps.”
  • Highlight the benefits of IaC.

Before diving in, why not join the Terramate Discord Community ? It’s a community for developers that love IaC to share their insights, get help, and stay up-to-date with the latest trends and best practices.

History of IaC

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) is a relatively young concept that has evolved since its emergence two decades ago. With the rise of virtualization, cloud computing, and the introduction of DevOps and Platform Engineering practices, IaC became the de-facto standard for managing cloud infrastructure.

Here’s a brief history of how it became what it is:

Late 1990s — Early 2000s

This was the era of visualization during this time when IT organizations began transforming from physical servers to dynamic virtual machines. This pivotal moment in its evolution allowed engineers to replicate different environments easily, setting the main stage for IaC.


The “early bird catches the worm” era is also known as the Configuration Management Tools era. This part of the IaC journey saw the introduction of tools like Puppet (2005) and Chef (2009), which aimed to ease machine setup automation from the ground up. These tools were some of the first steps towards IaC, allowing engineers to automate managing basic infrastructure such as servers.

2010 — Present

This is where the advent of cloud computing platforms like AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure happened. It forced the need for improved methods of managing and provisioning infrastructure. This paved the path for the development of modern IaC tools:

  • Terraform : An open-source tool by HashiCorp, launched in 2014. It enables users to outline and provision data center infrastructure using a declarative configuration language.
  • AWS Cloud Development Kit (CDK) and CloudFormation : Amazon Web Services offers these two potent tools, making it simpler for engineers and system administrators to generate and manage various resources on AWS.
  • Ansible : Introduced in 2012, Ansible is an open-source software provisioning, configuration management, and efficient application-deployment tool.
  • Google Cloud Deployment Manager and Azure Resource Manager by Microsoft also offer similar functionalities for their respective platforms.

Then came the Rise of containerization and fluid orchestration, giving power to container technologies like Docker (2013) and orchestration platforms like Kubernetes (2014), adding another layer to IaC. The realization of such powerful tools allowed for the packaging of applications with their entire dependencies into a standard unit for software development. At this stage, the capabilities of IaC became prominent in the dev world.

Comparing different IaC technologies on Google Trends

Present (GitOps)

GitOps, a trending concept in Infrastructure as Code (IaC), uses the version control system Git as the trusted source for managing infrastructure and applications. This approach means all modifications are saved in a Git repository, automatically triggering processes to update the actual environment to match the stored code. By doing so, GitOps simplifies the execution of complex deployments, enhances software dependability, and allows for easy auditing and reversal of changes using standard Git operations. This beneficial method was first championed by Weaveworks in 2017.

The evolution of Infrastructure as Code (IaC) has been a transformative journey, transitioning from manual to fully automated deployment practices as we see today. As technological advancements continue to reshape the landscape, IaC has proven its adaptability, becoming increasingly critical for managing the intricate complexities of distributed systems. Its flexibility ensures it remains at the forefront, ready to meet the challenges of future system infrastructures.

Importance of IaC

Imagine being a magician in the domain of cloud computing, where with a simple spell (or rather, a push of code), you can create, manipulate, or replicate entire virtual environments. This eliminates the need for manual labor leaving no room for human error, and the magic spell is reusable countless times.

This is the power of Infrastructure as Code (IaC), a revolutionary approach to managing and provisioning cloud infrastructure with the minimum effort needed. IaC is not just a cool new trick or a trend but a life-saver and resource saver for engineers. It’s an essential tool that has proven to be a game-changer in the era of cloud computing.

Here’s why IaC is important:

  • Speed and Automation: IaC can rapidly set up your entire infrastructure, saving time and effort.
  • Reliability and Error Reduction: By automating the setup, IaC minimizes the risk of human error, guaranteeing a consistent setup every single time.
  • Easy Replication and Scalability: With IaC, you can duplicate your infrastructure setup swiftly and conveniently, making it simpler to grow with your business needs.
  • Clear Visibility and Accountability: By using version control systems, all alterations and updates to the infrastructure can be tracked, making it easier to audit and maintain records.

Benefits of Adopting IaC

Modern technology practices and the advent of cloud computing have led to a significant shift in how we manage infrastructure. Infrastructure as Code (IaC) is an integral part of this evolution, an innovative approach that treats infrastructure setup and management like any other codebase. Here, we explore the distinct benefits of adopting IaC.

  1. Consistent Reproducibility
    One of the major advantages of IaC is its reproducibility. Infrastructure configuration is codified and stored in a version control system, enabling the recreation of the same environment flawlessly at any time and place. This repeatability streamlines development, testing, and production environments and facilitates swift disaster recovery.
  2. Self-Documenting Code
    IaC acts as documentation. The code used to define infrastructure serves as a clear, concise guide to the system’s configuration, eliminating the need for separate, often outdated, documentation. This self-documenting nature ensures that the infrastructure’s current state is always reflected accurately, making it easier for teams to understand and manage.
  3. Improved Visibility and Traceability
    Transparency is another key benefit of IaC. With infrastructure defined as code, all changes are visible and traceable through the version control system. This visibility enhances collaboration across teams, improves accountability, and simplifies audit trails for compliance.
  4. Minimizes of Human Errors
    By minimizing manual interventions, IaC substantially reduces the risk of human error. Automated scripts are less likely to make mistakes. When they do, the issues are easier to track down and fix. Additionally, incorporating testing into the IaC pipeline allows catching and correcting errors before they affect the live environment.
  5. Cost-Effectiveness
    IaC can significantly reduce costs by automating repetitive tasks, increasing efficiency and decreasing the time-to-market. Additionally, IaC’s scalability allows for optimal resource utilization, meaning you only use and pay for the resources you need when you need them.
  6. Effective Drift Detection
    Configuration drift, the most frequently occurring issue in IaC, are differences between the infrastructure defined in code and the current deployed state that often cause catastrophic failures such as broken pipelines If undetected and unresolved. IaC plays a pivotal role in detecting and rectifying these drifts. It does this by continuously monitoring and adjusting the infrastructure to align with the desired state, thereby enhancing the stability and reliability of systems.
  7. Toil Reduction and Enhanced Job Satisfaction
    By eliminating manual, repetitive tasks, IaC reduces toil for IT teams. This automation allows them to focus on higher-value activities, increasing job satisfaction. Moreover, the predictability and control that IaC provides over the infrastructure setup brings joy to the work, enhancing team productivity and morale.
  8. Self-Service Provisioning
    Finally, IaC facilitates a self-service model. With infrastructure codified, teams can provision their environments without needing specialized knowledge or waiting for the operations team. This self-service capability speeds up development cycles and fosters a culture of autonomy and responsibility.

Declarative Configuration Management in Infrastructure as Code

The declarative approach is the backbone of Infrastructure as Code (IaC). In this model, you specify the ‘what’ instead of the ‘how’, describing the desired state of your infrastructure and letting the IaC tool figure out how to realize it.

Consider this analogy, you’re at a restaurant, and you order a dish from the menu. You don’t tell the chef how to prepare the dish, you just state what you want (the final product), and the chef takes care of the recipe. In other words, within the declarative paradigm, you define the results you want a program to accomplish without describing its control flow. That’s the main idea of the declarative approach, along with reducing errors and inconsistencies.

A declarative IaC tool like Terraform or AWS CloudFormation helps you define your infrastructure in code. You might specify the required number of servers, with specific software installed and desired network settings. The IaC tool then compares this desired state with the current state of your infrastructure and makes the necessary adjustments to fill the gaps.

What if I tell you about a practice that extends this principle by using Git as a single source of truth, further reinforcing the power of declaring your desired system state. It’s called the GitOps approach.

Infrastructure as Code and GitOps

Here’s how it works, you declare the desired state of your system in a Git repository. Any change to the system must be committed to the repository first and automated pipelines, often called Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery, roll out these changes to your infrastructure. If the actual state of your infrastructure changes from the desired state, the system automatically alerts you or even reverts the changes. In summary:

  • Git is the single source of truth for your infrastructure and application code.
  • It ensures that your infrastructure is always in sync with your Git repository.
  • GitOps enhances the observability and control of your system by pairing changes to Git commits.

Suppose you want to deploy a new version of an app in a Kubernetes cluster. The first step is updating the Docker image tag in your deployment manifest stored in Git, then, the GitOps pipeline would identify this change and roll out the new version in the cluster.

Simply put, GitOps brings the Git workflow principles to infrastructure management. This makes the whole process more streamlined, auditable, and easy to understand for engineers.

Overcoming IaC challenges

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) is beneficial in multiple facets but it’s important to acknowledge the complications it can present, such as:

  • Large code bases often cause long pipeline execution runtimes and don’t scale.
  • IaC is best to manage with automated CI/CD pipelines that are often missing or poorly designed.
  • Drifts can prolong your product development lifecycles and must be detected and resolved effectively. Alongside downtime, this is one of configuration drift’s most common consequences.
  • IaC needs to be learned and adopted by engineers. Often a specific subset of engineers, such as DevOps, Cloud and Platform engineers, obtain the required domain-specific knowledge, which makes them become a bottleneck.
  • IaC often causes significant maintenance overhead for, e.g., management dependencies.
  • Importing and codifying existing infrastructure to IaC is a costly and time-consuming process that often leads to only partially managing cloud platforms with IaC, leading to inefficient change management.
  • Often teams lack insights such as observability and IaC coverage, making it hard for them to monitor and understand their IaC environments.

Overcoming these hurdles requires a combination of best practices like thorough testing, continuous monitoring, and maintaining up-to-date documentation. There is a plan of action that can be used to tackle these challenges in the most efficient way possible.

If you are working with Terraform, you should give Terramate a try. It supercharges Terraform with Stacks, Orchestration, Git Integration, Code Generation, Data Sharing and more. It focuses on improving the Developer Experience (DX), providing workflows, and lowering the time spent writing and maintaining infrastructure code for projects at any scale.


IaC brings tremendous benefits but poses unique challenges, such as managing complex dependencies, maintaining security and automation, and handling configuration drift. Overcoming these hurdles requires a combination of best practices like thorough testing, continuous monitoring, and maintaining up-to-date documentation. But the rewards — cost savings, increased efficiency, improved collaboration, and more — make it worthwhile.

Soren is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer at Terramate. Prior to founding Terramate, he consulted companies such as Flink, 1Komma5 and Nothing to design and implement cloud- and internal developer platforms.