Infrastructure as Code - Configuration vs Orchestration Management

Infrastructure as Code
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In earlier times, the management and provisioning of the infrastructure was a difficult task as most of the configurations and setup of hardware and software had to be done manually. It started becoming more hectic with the additional requirements of the infrastructure. With cloud computing coming into the picture, it has become very efficient to design, configure and provision the infrastructure. Infrastructure as Code (IaC) is a method to provide and maintain the IT infrastructure by creating human-readable configuration files. It has turned out to be an efficient way to manage the infrastructure in a fast manner as the same configuration files can be applied across the stack of servers. It also eliminates the repetitive manual tasks that the system administrators had to do and minimizes human errors.

Configuration Management

Configuration Management refers to automating the configuration and the maintenance of the servers and their components. Once the servers have been provisioned, the components in the servers like storage, networking, applications, etc need to be maintained and at times re-configured as well. These activities are completed in an automated manner through the use of code that is controlled using version control software. It helps in documenting the changes that have been implemented in the servers, and thus it will be easier to debug in case any issue arises due to these changes. Configuration management helps in maintaining the consistency of the servers or even the entire cluster as the same configuration files could be applied across the cluster. It also helps in improving the efficiency of the team as these tasks are automated through the use of source code. There are various tools like Ansible, Chef, Puppet, etc that can be used for enabling configuration management in the system maintenance process.

Orchestration Management

Orchestration Management is the process of automating the coordination of the processes or workflows that need to be implemented on the servers. The generally orchestrated processes include providing requested resources, installing the essential services and libraries, etc. In cloud environments, orchestration management is generally used to provision the resources in an automated fashion. For example, when we want to scale a certain application horizontally, the orchestration management takes care of spinning up new instances in the cloud environment along with installing the required software. This can reduce the downtime of an application to a great extent and also reduce the load on the existing infrastructure thus preventing bottlenecks. Tools like Terraform are used for orchestration management.

IaC tools - Terraform and Ansible

Terraform is an open-source Infrastructure as code tool developed by HashiCorp. It is used for defining the resources of the infrastructure like storage, compute, networking, etc using configuration files. Along with creating the infrastructure, it also supports changing and versioning the infrastructure for better consistency and efficiency. It can manage the resources from public clouds like AWS and GCP as well as private clouds like VMWare, HPE, etc. It is essentially used for orchestration management of the infrastructure. For example, if you want to spin up several instances with specific resources, then you could achieve the same by creating a configuration file and deploying that using Terraform. It also allows destroying the built instances if required and re-provision the resources elsewhere. It cannot be used for configuration management of the infrastructure i.e. to manage and install tools on existing systems.

Ansible is an open-source Infrastructure as code tool developed by RedHat. It is an automation tool that helps in the automation of many services like cloud provisioning, configuration management, orchestration, application deployment, etc. It can serve most of the needs that are related to the DevOps domain. It helps in configuring a bunch of servers all at once, as opposed to the traditional method of configuring the servers one by one. It becomes a pain point when there are many servers to be maintained and configured. It requires a greater workforce to do such activities. Using Ansible and similar tools reduces a lot of effort and saves time for the system administrators and DevOps teams by automating these tasks. Each of the tasks that need to be configured in the servers can be accomplished by creating Ansible playbooks that are nothing but configuration files written in YAML format.

Both tools have served a great purpose in provisioning, configuring, and managing the infrastructure as code i.e in form of configuration scripts. These tools have proved to be very useful for DevOps folks and system administrators. Provisioning, managing, and maintaining the infrastructure has never been so easy before the Infrastructure as code era. It is not only restricted to the people in these sectors as automation can be applied in almost all sectors of any organization. The configuration files that need to be created for such tasks are easily understandable.

About KodeKloud

If you like what you have read about IaC and tools related to it, KodeKloud is the perfect platform for you to get started on your DevOps journey and upskill yourself in the DevOps domain. It provides courses on tools like Ansible, Terraform, Puppet, Kubernetes, etc that are essential for the DevOps world. Each of the courses comes with a hands-on lab environment so that you can get familiar with the tool. The platform provides a wide range of courses that comprises over 30 courses and also provides a DevOps playground to get yourself comfortable with the IaC and other tools. By joining KodeKloud you get access to all the courses listed on the platform as well as the hands-on labs.