Key Criteria for Evaluating Infrastructure as Code and Configuration Management v1.0

An Evaluation Guide for Technology Decision Makers

Table of Contents

  1. Summary
  2. Infrastructure as Code and Configuration Management Primer
  3. Report Methodology
  4. Decision Criteria Analysis
  5. Evaluation Metrics
  6. Key Criteria: Impact Analysis
  7. Analyst’s Take
  8. About Michael J. Levan

Summary

While it is useful to consider Infrastructure as Code (IaC) and Configuration Management (CM) separately, there are similarities. IaC tools can deploy applications and CM tools can create cloud resources. As both tool sets offer comparable functions, it may lead to misunderstanding about which automation path to choose for any particular undertaking.

IaC uses text-based configuration and APIs to create, manage, and decommission resources such as servers, load balancers, databases, and other devices in the cloud. The most elementary use of IaC is to automate resource provisioning.

CM uses text-based configuration and APIs to manage the state of deployed resources, usually at the operating system or software application level. CM tools essentially ensure a system maintains its chosen configuration, detects any drift from that configuration, and remediates that drift when it occurs.

IaC is a technology shift that aims to expedite software deployment, simplify infrastructure management, and bring development and deployment together with infrastructure as part of a DevOps process. It’s a key element in the burgeoning world of DevOps and DevSecOps. It also offers unparalleled flexibility for developers and enterprises looking to create innovative and fast-moving solutions through automation tools, applications, and practices.

Deploying infrastructure traditionally has been a manual process. That was acceptable when infrastructure was relatively static, with only minor changes and upgrades happening every few months or years. Infrastructure is no longer a static resource involving only operating systems and applications. The advent of the cloud has made infrastructure more dynamic and has accelerated development practices. Applications are now more dynamic and scalable, and the infrastructure must follow suit.

IaC presents an opportunity to define the underlying infrastructure for applications and services using the same process and procedures as software development. Infrastructure deployment and management must become dynamic, automated, and consistent. Code-defining infrastructure should be stored in source control, added to Continuous Deployment (CD) pipelines, and tested for compliance and security.

At this point, it is important to differentiate between CM and IaC tools. Some might argue CM tools such as Chef, Puppet, or Ansible are different from those designed for provisioning infrastructure, and it is therefore not good practice to use them for doing so. Infrastructure provisioning tools such as Terraform or Cloud Formation would be more appropriate.

Many vendors have developed specialized tools for achieving IaC deployments. This GigaOm Key Criteria report details the Infrastructure as Code market, identifies key criteria and evaluation metrics for selecting the right IaC tools for your enterprise, and identifies vendors and products that excel in the space. This report will give you an overview of the IaC market and help decision-makers evaluate existing platforms and decide where to invest.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:

Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

Solution Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.

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