Table of Contents

Key takeaway

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) is a methodology that allows IT infrastructure to be managed and provisioned through code and automation tools. This article discusses how IaC enables organizations to treat infrastructure as software, leading to increased efficiency, consistency, and scalability in managing their IT environments.


Infrastructure as Code (IaC) is a software engineering approach that allows infrastructure to be defined and managed using code. It involves writing code to describe and provision infrastructure resources such as virtual machines, networks, storage, and other components required for an application or system.

With IaC, infrastructure configuration is no longer done manually through a graphical user interface or command-line tools. Instead, the infrastructure is defined in code using a declarative language or configuration files. This code can be version-controlled, reviewed, and tested just like any other software code.

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) is a revolutionary approach to managing and provisioning infrastructure resources. In traditional IT environments, setting up and configuring infrastructure components like servers, networks, and storage devices was a time-consuming and error-prone process. However, with the advent of IaC, this paradigm has shifted dramatically.

Benefits of Infrastructure as Code

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) offers numerous benefits that revolutionize the management and provisioning of infrastructure resources. By treating infrastructure configuration as code, organizations can achieve greater efficiency, reliability, and scalability in their operations.

Firstly, IaC ensures consistency in infrastructure setups. With infrastructure defined in code, organizations can create and deploy identical infrastructure configurations across different environments. This eliminates the risk of configuration errors and reduces the chances of inconsistencies caused by manual intervention.

Reproducibility is another advantage of IaC. Infrastructure code can be easily reproduced in multiple environments, such as development, testing, and production. By executing the same code, organizations can ensure that the infrastructure setup remains consistent and reliable across various stages of the software development lifecycle.

Scalability is greatly enhanced with IaC. As infrastructure needs change, organizations can modify the code that defines the infrastructure to scale resources up or down automatically. This flexibility allows for efficient resource allocation based on demand, ensuring optimal performance and cost-effectiveness.

Collaboration is made seamless through IaC. Infrastructure code can be version-controlled, shared, and reviewed by team members. This promotes collaboration, knowledge sharing, and ensures that everyone is working with the latest version of the infrastructure code. Team members can contribute to the codebase, making improvements and addressing issues collectively.

Automation is a fundamental aspect of IaC. With infrastructure defined as code, provisioning and management tasks can be automated, reducing manual effort and increasing efficiency. Tools like AWS CloudFormation, Azure Resource Manager, and Terraform interpret the infrastructure code and handle the creation, modification, and deletion of the actual infrastructure resources. This automation streamlines processes, minimizes human error, and accelerates infrastructure deployment.

How does infrastructure as code work?

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) works by treating infrastructure configuration as code, allowing organizations to define and manage their infrastructure resources using code-based representations. This approach brings automation, consistency, and scalability to the provisioning and management of infrastructure.

At its core, IaC involves writing code that describes the desired state of the infrastructure. This code can be written in declarative languages or configuration files, depending on the chosen tool or platform. The code specifies the resources needed for the infrastructure, such as virtual machines, networks, storage, and other components.

To implement IaC, organizations typically use specialized tools like AWS CloudFormation, Azure Resource Manager, or Terraform. These tools interpret the infrastructure code and interact with the underlying cloud platforms or infrastructure providers' APIs to create, modify, and delete the actual infrastructure resources.

The process begins with defining the infrastructure requirements in code. This includes specifying the desired configuration, dependencies between resources, and any customizations required. The code is then executed using the IaC tool, which translates it into API calls or commands understood by the infrastructure provider.

During execution, the IaC tool compares the current state of the infrastructure with the desired state defined in the code. It identifies any differences and takes the necessary actions to bring the infrastructure into the desired state. This may involve creating new resources, modifying existing ones, or removing unnecessary resources.

One of the key advantages of IaC is the ability to version-control the infrastructure code. Just like software code, infrastructure code can be stored in a version control system, allowing teams to track changes, collaborate, and roll back to previous versions if needed. This ensures that infrastructure configurations are well-documented, auditable, and reproducible.

IaC also enables organizations to automate infrastructure provisioning and management tasks. By defining infrastructure as code, repetitive and error-prone manual processes can be replaced with automated workflows. Infrastructure can be provisioned, modified, and scaled up or down automatically based on predefined rules or triggers.

What are the different approaches to IaC?

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) offers various approaches to define and manage infrastructure resources using code. These approaches provide flexibility, control, and automation in provisioning and managing infrastructure. Here are some of the commonly used approaches to IaC:

  1. Declarative Configuration: This approach involves defining infrastructure by declaring the desired state of resources. Tools like AWS CloudFormation, Azure Resource Manager, and Google Cloud Deployment Manager use declarative configuration files (e.g., JSON or YAML) to specify the desired infrastructure state. The tool interprets the configuration and handles the provisioning and management of resources to match the declared state. Declarative configuration simplifies infrastructure management by abstracting away the implementation details.
  2. Imperative Configuration: In this approach, infrastructure is defined and managed through imperative scripts or code. Tools like AWS CLI, Azure CLI, and Google Cloud SDK provide command-line interfaces that allow users to write scripts or execute commands to create and manage infrastructure resources directly. Imperative configuration provides more fine-grained control and flexibility, allowing for complex logic and dynamic configurations. However, it requires more manual intervention and can be less reproducible compared to declarative approaches.
  3. Infrastructure Provisioning Tools: Tools like Terraform and Pulumi take a hybrid approach, combining elements of declarative and imperative configuration. They use their own domain-specific languages (DSLs) or configuration files to define infrastructure resources and dependencies. These tools provide a higher level of abstraction and support multiple cloud providers, making it easier to manage infrastructure across different environments. Infrastructure provisioning tools offer features like dependency management, resource graph visualization, and infrastructure drift detection.
  4. Configuration Management Tools: Configuration management tools like Ansible, Chef, and Puppet primarily focus on automating software and system configurations. However, they can also be used for IaC by defining infrastructure resources and configurations as part of their automation workflows. These tools excel at enforcing desired states on existing infrastructure, and integrating with existing configuration management processes.
  5. Container Orchestration Platforms: Container orchestration platforms like Kubernetes provide their own mechanisms for defining and managing infrastructure resources. They use declarative configuration files (e.g., YAML) to describe the desired state of containers, networking, storage, and other resources. Kubernetes operators and Helm charts are examples of tools that enable IaC within the context of containerized applications. Container orchestration platforms offer powerful features for scaling, load balancing, and managing containerized workloads.

What is the role of IaC in DevOps?

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) plays a vital role in DevOps by enabling organizations to automate, standardize, and collaborate on infrastructure provisioning and management.

One of the key roles of IaC is automation. By defining infrastructure configurations as code, organizations can automate the process of creating, modifying, and scaling infrastructure resources. This automation eliminates manual intervention, reduces human error, and accelerates the deployment of infrastructure, leading to faster software delivery.

Reproducibility is a significant benefit of IaC that enables standardization. Infrastructure configurations defined as code can be executed repeatedly, ensuring that the same  standardized infrastructure setup is replicated across different environments. This reproducibility is essential for testing, debugging, and troubleshooting, as issues can be identified and resolved in a controlled and consistent environment.

Collaboration is facilitated through IaC. Infrastructure code can be version-controlled, shared, and reviewed by team members, promoting collaboration and knowledge sharing. This collaborative approach ensures that everyone is working with the latest version of the infrastructure code and encourages cross-functional teamwork.

Furthermore, IaC seamlessly integrates with Continuous Integration and Deployment (CI/CD) pipelines. Infrastructure changes can be version-controlled, tested, and deployed alongside application code. This integration ensures that infrastructure updates are synchronized with application updates, facilitating continuous delivery and deployment practices.

By incorporating IaC into their DevOps practices, organizations can achieve greater agility, reliability, and efficiency in their software development and operations. IaC aligns with the principles of automation, consistency, collaboration, and reproducibility, enabling organizations to deliver high-quality software at a faster pace while maintaining infrastructure stability and scalability.

How can Harness help with Infrastructure as Code (IaC)?

Harness Infrastructure as Code Mangment allows you to define, deploy, and manage infrastructure across environments, ensuring compliance and control. Key features include cost estimation, approval steps, PR automation, policy enforcement, and drift detection, which can integrate seamlessly with other Harness modules and third-party services, enhancing your DevOps lifecycle.

Harness Infrastructure as Code Management (IaCM) provides a way to avoid the following common issues:

  • Manual processes: Infrastructure provisioning and change processes are often manual. A request for new infrastructure or an update can take days or even weeks to be fulfilled by a dedicated team that owns the IaC processes. This leads to development and deployment delays.
  • Basic/poor governance: Security and best practices are poorly governed across the infrastructure. Without central policy definition and enforcement, teams are left to manually review infrastructure plans and monitor infrastructure for issues. This can lead to security vulnerabilities, lack of consistency/compliance, and unexpected or untethered costs.
  • Limited visibility: Lack of centralized visibility into infrastructure state, health, usage, cost, and dependencies.
  • Manual rollbacks: When issues occur due to infrastructure changes, rolling back to a stable state is manual. This introduces delays and downtime and can be error-prone.
  • Organizational complexity and scale: As infrastructure scales, it requires more teams to maintain it. For effective collaboration, it's essential to delegate ownership of infrastructure across these teams and empower them to work in parallel without conflict. Also, allow them to determine their tools and processes while ensuring compliance.
  • Lack of collaboration: Users and small teams face challenges when it comes to collaboration on shared resources and may end up with conflicts when it comes to resource changes.

You can learn more about Harness IaCM here.

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