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3 actions to optimize infrastructure as code initiatives

Learn how to get the most out of IaC and read analyst insights from HashiConf 2022, including Terraform updates and predictions about what's next for observability.

Given the vital role that application development and digital operations play in contemporary business, accelerating developer velocity should be a priority for nearly every organization.

According to recent research from TechTarget's Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), only 34% of the average developer's time is spent on net-new innovation. Increasing that percentage can deliver tremendous benefits to any organization.

To accelerate developer velocity, organizations are increasing investment in automation and adopting infrastructure as code (IaC) initiatives. IaC refers to managing and provisioning on-premises or cloud infrastructure through machine-readable definition files, rather than through physical hardware configuration or interactive configuration tools. IaC accelerates infrastructure provisioning and configuration while reducing the risk of human error.

Terraform updates from HashiConf 2022

At this year's HashiConf, attendees were presented with multiple innovations spanning HashiCorp's broad portfolio. Some notable announcements related to HashiCorp's infrastructure automation and IaC technology, Terraform, include the following:

  • The addition of continuous validation for Terraform Cloud Business (beta). This expansion of Terraform's drift detection capability enables users to add pre- or post-conditions to a Terraform configuration. Terraform then continuously checks to see if those conditions are met, notifying users if they fail.
  • No-code provisioning for Terraform Cloud Business (beta). With no-code provisioning, developers can self-serve infrastructure by selecting the no-code ready module they need without using HashiCorp Configuration Language. The result helps simplify efforts and frees up time for higher-value actions.
  • Native Open Policy Agent support for Terraform Cloud (beta). This update extends the policy-as-code features of Terraform Cloud.

How to get more from IaC

Even as firms like HashiCorp augment their IaC technologies, organizations still face challenges scaling IaC-based initiatives across multiple teams and infrastructure environments. For example, ESG research identified the following as the two most common challenges among organizations that use IaC templates in development:

  • ensuring quality and consistency across teams (cited by 57% of respondents); and
  • making sure changes are made to the infrastructure safely (cited by 56%).

Addressing these challenges typically requires more than just the right tools; it is often necessary to adjust the organization's processes as well.

Based on ESG research, coupled with insights from conversations with HashiConf attendees, here are three things that organizations should do immediately to better use IaC and accelerate innovation across their organizations.

  1. Treat automation and IaC as business- and mission-critical operations. Mission-critical services are defined as being vital to business operations. If application development fuels customer engagement and revenue opportunity, then IaC tools and automation certainly qualify. Organizations often don't prioritize IaC development in the same manner as other mission-critical activities. IaC development and updates should be managed by CI/CD processes and pipelines to ensure they receive the right level of scrutiny. A key benefit of IaC is minimizing the chance of human error. Added scrutiny in development and updates helps ensure that remains the case.
  2. Invest in IaC tools and explore SaaS options. Given the importance and value of IaC tools to developer velocity and operational efficiency, it is essential to invest in enterprise-level capabilities. Given the dynamic nature of contemporary multi-cloud environments, drift detection or continuous validation is an essential capability to ensure changes are applied to the infrastructure safely. Organizations need to properly prioritize investments in IaC to ensure that developers get the best these tools have to offer. Using free, open source options is a great way to get started. But once these tools become essential cogs in your operations, it is time to use the right resources to get the best support and functionality. In addition, providers such as HashiCorp offer SaaS options to further reduce the burden of supporting IaC environments.
  3. Develop a culture that balances collaboration with independence. Based on its research and conversations with IaC users, ESG believes finding the right balance of collaboration is key to scaling use of IaC and automation tools. Some organizations provide too much autonomy to siloed development teams, leading those teams to constantly reinvent the wheel when it comes to IaC. Other organizations have too much forced collaboration, causing teams to take too long trying to develop the single perfect service for everyone when multiple smaller efforts would have been more efficient. The key is finding the right balance for your organization to accelerate operations while promoting collaboration and minimizing risk.

The bottom line is that IaC is an incredibly valuable practice for accelerating developer velocity. And given the current pervasive challenges in finding developer talent, it should be on any digital organization's radar.

Other thoughts from HashiConf

Success with IaC is fueling interest in other "as-code" initiatives, such as observability as code. I had a great conversation with Datadog, an observability leader and a key partner of HashiCorp. Through their collaboration, Terraform can be used to automatically apply monitoring for IT environments, simplifying operations and ensuring the right monitoring is applied. Observability as code will be something to watch in the coming years.

To read more about the HashiConf announcements, HashiCorp offers several blogs for additional details here.

Enterprise Strategy Group is a division of TechTarget.

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