Welcome!

FinTech Journal Authors: James Carlini, Yeshim Deniz, Xenia von Wedel, Ed Featherston, Elizabeth White

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Microservices Expo, @DevOpsSummit

@CloudExpo: Blog Post

Have You Started Your Infrastructure as Code (IaC) Journey? | @CloudExpo #IaaS #Cloud #Analytics

What is Infrastructure as Code? How do you determine if your IT infrastructure is truly automated?

A recent survey done across top Fortune 500 companies shows almost 70% of the CIOs have either heard about IaC from their infrastructure head or they are on their way to implementing IaC. Yet if you look under the hood, while some level of automation has been done, most of the infrastructure is still managed in a traditional / legacy way.

What is Infrastructure as Code? How do you determine if your IT infrastructure is truly automated? "IaC is an approach and mind-set to automate infrastructure provisioning and management based on best practices from the world of software development. It underscores consistent, repeatable procedures for provisioning and changing systems configuration". The two key words here are ‘approach' and ‘mind-set'. While ‘approach' signifies that the deploying and managing infrastructure should not be any different from the deploying and managing of a software application, the ‘mind-set' signifies a radical change on how a traditional operations engineer thinks of operating and managing systems (compute, storage, network).  Treating infrastructure as a piece of software requires a major shift from the traditional way of provisioning and managing infrastructure. It requires change in both technology and underlying processes. It warrants the need to think like a software engineer rather than think like a systems administrator. ‘Kief Morris', Author of Infrastructure as code book has described following basic principles of Infrastructure as Code

  1. Systems are easily reproduced
  2. Systems are disposable
  3. Systems are consistent
  4. Processes are reproducible
  5. Design is always changing

Principle #1. Systems are easily reproduced.
In the cloud based world we live today, this is the fundamental building block. Systems needs to be provisioned automatically with a press of button. While most of the companies have figured this out and have some form of automation to provision compute infrastructure, it's still far from where business can see value. Value gets generated not when one element of infrastructure gets provisioned programmatically, but when all components of infrastructure can be provisioned programmatically. From compute to storage & network everything should be automated. And why stop at the IaaS layer? Automation should go all the way to configure and install required software which can then be immediately used by business. This will result in achieving maximum business value. Automating end to end not only results in reduction of provisioning time but also reduces risk of human error and configuration mismatches which often occurs when building manually. It also makes life easy for infrastructure engineers to manage the systems over the period of systems life-cycle.

Principle #2. Systems are disposable.
A common analogy given in the industry is of cattle and pets. Pets are treated special and needs to be given special care. Cattle is in plenty, they serve the same purpose and most important they are easily replaceable. In traditional infrastructure world, all the systems are treated like pets. Each system needs to be given special care and most important each system differ from one another. If the system goes down for any unplanned reason, the only option is to scramble the operators to bring it up. This method comes at a huge cost of business downtime and high maintenance cost.  With the advancement of cloud native applications which are mostly resilient at application layer, this problem can be avoided. By creating systems which are clones of each other (containers) and that can be easily created, destroyed, replaced, resized and moved we no longer need to treat each system like pets. If one system (VM or container) goes down, instead of spending time to troubleshoot and bring it, we simply build another one from predefined image and replace it with the one which went down. While this sounds simple, complexity of implementation lies at the application tier. If the applications are traditional monolithic application which depends on infrastructure to provide resiliency, implementing this model will be tough. However, if applications are cloud native, stateless micro services, it's easy to treat systems as disposable.

Principle #3: Systems are consistent.
How many times you have come across an incident only to realize the root cause is due to missing file or outdated driver/firmware? Chances are most of the time outages happen because the systems are not consistent. Each system looks different from one another even though they serve the same application running on them. Commonly known as snow-flake computing in the industry, this creates a huge problem for any infrastructure head. Inconsistent systems not only result in unplanned outages, but can also lead to performance issues and other problems which impacts business. Peeling the onion further will lead to the underlying root cause as human failure. Humans are prone at making mistakes, we forget and even the best system engineer can cause an outage if he or she is manually making system changes. By automating configuration and system management, one can avoid snow flake computing. Manual system changes should only be allowed in rare circumstances like critical incidents only if there are no other alternatives. A defect ticket should be created post incident to ensure all the systems gets updated with the system changes done during incident. Systems should be built from a common operating system image and any application related customization should be pushed via run-books. This will ensure at any given time all the systems are consistent to each other and will guarantee higher business uptime.

Principle #4. Processes are reproducible.
One cannot deny the fact that any enterprise today is loaded with processes. The more processes humans are expected to follow, higher the chances of human error. While processes are integral part of operations, it's important that they are consistent and reproducible so everyone can follow the same exact steps to do a particular task. Left to humans, each human will execute the same task following a slight different process leading to issues. We have probably encountered issues when one of key member leaves the team and other team members cannot figure out how to carry on the same task. Solution lies in ensuring each task is scripted and stored in a common software repository. Every system operator is expected to execute the predefined script rather than executing manual steps which differs from the scripted tasks. Any change in process or task should result in a new version of the script being uploaded in the repository with clear documentation of the changes done.

Principle #5. Design is always changing.
In today age where business model is changing at much faster pace than ever before, its expected that the underlying infrastructure serving the business application can adapt to the change at the same pace. Yet, most of the times in traditional enterprise IT, change in application architecture almost results in building new underlying infrastructure which is very costly. Systems are built for specific application architecture and any change at application layer becomes complex and expensive task at infrastructure layer to implement. In the cloud based world, infrastructure should be built in such a way that's easy to scale to meet business demand. Systems should be designed to accept change as a norm rather than as exception. After all the only thing that is constant is change!

Infrastructure as Code sounds complex to implement, however it's a journey and every journey starts with a single step. It is no longer an option, but a must for any IT to move towards automating infrastructure to meet the business demand. What are you waiting for?

More Stories By Ashish Nanjiani

Ashish Nanjiani is a Senior IT Manager within Cisco IT managing Cisco worldwide IT data centers as an operations manager. With 20 years of IT experience, he is an expert in data center operations and automation. He has spoken in many inter-company events on data center automation and helps IT professionals digitize their IT operations. He is also an entrepreneur and has been successfully running a website business for 10+ years.

Ashish holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical and Electronics and a Masters in Business Administration. He is a certified PMP, Scrum master. He is married and has two lovely daughters. He enjoys playing with technology during his free time. [email protected]

@ThingsExpo Stories
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settle...
BnkToTheFuture.com is the largest online investment platform for investing in FinTech, Bitcoin and Blockchain companies. We believe the future of finance looks very different from the past and we aim to invest and provide trading opportunities for qualifying investors that want to build a portfolio in the sector in compliance with international financial regulations.
Leading companies, from the Global Fortune 500 to the smallest companies, are adopting hybrid cloud as the path to business advantage. Hybrid cloud depends on cloud services and on-premises infrastructure working in unison. Successful implementations require new levels of data mobility, enabled by an automated and seamless flow across on-premises and cloud resources. In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Tevis, an IBM Storage Software Technical Strategist and Customer Solution Architec...
Nordstrom is transforming the way that they do business and the cloud is the key to enabling speed and hyper personalized customer experiences. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ken Schow, VP of Engineering at Nordstrom, discussed some of the key learnings and common pitfalls of large enterprises moving to the cloud. This includes strategies around choosing a cloud provider(s), architecture, and lessons learned. In addition, he covered some of the best practices for structured team migration an...
Product connectivity goes hand and hand these days with increased use of personal data. New IoT devices are becoming more personalized than ever before. In his session at 22nd Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo, Nicolas Fierro, CEO of MIMIR Blockchain Solutions, will discuss how in order to protect your data and privacy, IoT applications need to embrace Blockchain technology for a new level of product security never before seen - or needed.
Imagine if you will, a retail floor so densely packed with sensors that they can pick up the movements of insects scurrying across a store aisle. Or a component of a piece of factory equipment so well-instrumented that its digital twin provides resolution down to the micrometer.
No hype cycles or predictions of a gazillion things here. IoT is here. You get it. You know your business and have great ideas for a business transformation strategy. What comes next? Time to make it happen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jay Mason, an Associate Partner of Analytics, IoT & Cybersecurity at M&S Consulting, presented a step-by-step plan to develop your technology implementation strategy. He also discussed the evaluation of communication standards and IoT messaging protocols, data...
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Raju Shreewastava, founder of Big Data Trunk, provided a fun and simple way to introduce Machine Leaning to anyone and everyone. He solved a machine learning problem and demonstrated an easy way to be able to do machine learning without even coding. Raju Shreewastava is the founder of Big Data Trunk (www.BigDataTrunk.com), a Big Data Training and consulting firm with offices in the United States. He previously led the data warehouse/business intelligence and B...
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
When shopping for a new data processing platform for IoT solutions, many development teams want to be able to test-drive options before making a choice. Yet when evaluating an IoT solution, it’s simply not feasible to do so at scale with physical devices. Building a sensor simulator is the next best choice; however, generating a realistic simulation at very high TPS with ease of configurability is a formidable challenge. When dealing with multiple application or transport protocols, you would be...
Smart cities have the potential to change our lives at so many levels for citizens: less pollution, reduced parking obstacles, better health, education and more energy savings. Real-time data streaming and the Internet of Things (IoT) possess the power to turn this vision into a reality. However, most organizations today are building their data infrastructure to focus solely on addressing immediate business needs vs. a platform capable of quickly adapting emerging technologies to address future ...
We are given a desktop platform with Java 8 or Java 9 installed and seek to find a way to deploy high-performance Java applications that use Java 3D and/or Jogl without having to run an installer. We are subject to the constraint that the applications be signed and deployed so that they can be run in a trusted environment (i.e., outside of the sandbox). Further, we seek to do this in a way that does not depend on bundling a JRE with our applications, as this makes downloads and installations rat...
Widespread fragmentation is stalling the growth of the IIoT and making it difficult for partners to work together. The number of software platforms, apps, hardware and connectivity standards is creating paralysis among businesses that are afraid of being locked into a solution. EdgeX Foundry is unifying the community around a common IoT edge framework and an ecosystem of interoperable components.
DX World EXPO, LLC, a Lighthouse Point, Florida-based startup trade show producer and the creator of "DXWorldEXPO® - Digital Transformation Conference & Expo" has announced its executive management team. The team is headed by Levent Selamoglu, who has been named CEO. "Now is the time for a truly global DX event, to bring together the leading minds from the technology world in a conversation about Digital Transformation," he said in making the announcement.
In this strange new world where more and more power is drawn from business technology, companies are effectively straddling two paths on the road to innovation and transformation into digital enterprises. The first path is the heritage trail – with “legacy” technology forming the background. Here, extant technologies are transformed by core IT teams to provide more API-driven approaches. Legacy systems can restrict companies that are transitioning into digital enterprises. To truly become a lead...
Digital Transformation (DX) is not a "one-size-fits all" strategy. Each organization needs to develop its own unique, long-term DX plan. It must do so by realizing that we now live in a data-driven age, and that technologies such as Cloud Computing, Big Data, the IoT, Cognitive Computing, and Blockchain are only tools. In her general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Rebecca Wanta explained how the strategy must focus on DX and include a commitment from top management to create great IT jobs, monitor ...
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
The IoT Will Grow: In what might be the most obvious prediction of the decade, the IoT will continue to expand next year, with more and more devices coming online every single day. What isn’t so obvious about this prediction: where that growth will occur. The retail, healthcare, and industrial/supply chain industries will likely see the greatest growth. Forrester Research has predicted the IoT will become “the backbone” of customer value as it continues to grow. It is no surprise that retail is ...