Configuration as Code: Everything to Know
By Hamid Akhtar, Community Contributor - January 19, 2023
With modern tools and QAOps methodologies, infrastructure as code and configuration as code is taking development practices in an operational context to a whole new level. As a result, you get a much more rigid, streamlined process that’s much faster, better automated, and drastically reduces errors, not to mention giving you very consistent output. This is what configuration as code provides us.
An application’s codebase and server deployment configuration are usually separated during software development and deployment.
The Ops team often creates the configuration settings and tools necessary to build and deploy your app across various server instances and environments. Using configuration as code entails treating configuration settings similarly to your application code. For configuration settings, you should take advantage of version control.
What is Configuration as Code?
An approach to managing your software called “configuration as code” advocates for configuration settings (such as environmental settings, resources provisioning, etc.) to be defined in code. This entails committing your software configuration settings to a version control repository and handling them the same way you would the rest of your code.
This contrasts with having your configuration located elsewhere other than the repository or possibly needing to create and customize the configuration for each deployment.
As a result, it becomes way easier to synchronize configuration changes across different deployments or instances. You can publish server change updates to the repository like any other commit, which can subsequently be picked up and sent to the server like any other update, saving you from having to configure server changes or use another out-of-code solution manually.
Infrastructure as Code vs Configuration as Code
The approach of treating infrastructure as though it were software is known as infrastructure as code (IaC). You can write code to specify how your infrastructure should seem if you consider it another application in your software stack. Once tested, you may use that description to create or destroy infrastructure automatically.
IaC and CaC both automate the provisioning and configuration of your software, but they do so in various ways. In infrastructure as a code, you codify your infrastructure so a machine can manage it.
Before deploying your system, you build scripts that specify how you want it to be configured and how it should look. IaC is frequently used to automate the deployment and configuration of both physical and virtual servers.
Before deploying an application, CaC requires you to model its configuration.
When you implement new software configurations, your application configuration settings are updated without requiring manual involvement. CaC applies to containers, microservices, and other application types.
Merge requests, CI/CD, and IaC are essential GitOps techniques. Git is the only source of truth in GitOps, a method of controlling declarative infrastructure.
Infrastructure updates are a crucial part of the software integration and delivery process with GitOps, and you can incorporate them into the same CI/CD pipeline.
This integration simplifies config updates. Simply creating and pushing the configuration modifications to the source control repository is all that is required from a developer. Before making changes to the underlying infrastructure, the code in this repository is tested using CI/CD technologies.
Why use Configuration as Code?
Teams can benefit from implementing configuration as code in several ways.
- Handling configuration changes as code, like IaC, enables teams to create, update, and maintain config files from a single centralized location while leveraging a consistent deployment approach.
- For instance, you require configuration files for each storage option if you are developing USB devices.
- You may create thousands of configurations by combining these files with the required software.
- To handle these variations, you need a robust, centralized source control that can be accessed from different levels in your CI/CD pipeline.
- When the configuration is written like source code, you can use your development best practices, such as linting and security scanning.
- Before they are committed, config files must be reviewed and tested to guarantee that modifications adhere to your team’s standards.
- Your configurations can be maintained stable and consistent via a complicated microservices architecture.
- Services function more effectively together when a set process is in place.
- Setting up configuration as code requires version control.
- You require a robust system that can conveniently save and track changes to your configuration and code files.
- This could improve the level of quality of your release.
- You can locate its source if a bug still slips through and rapidly identify/fix an issue by comparing the versioned configuration files.
Also Read: Why integrate with a Bug Tracking System?
- You may streamline your build cycle by turning configurations into managed code. Both IT and end users are more productive as a result.
- Your administrators may incorporate everything into a release or build from a single version control system.
- Developers are confident in the accuracy of their changes because every component of your workflow has been tested in concert.
When to Use Configuration as Code?
Configuration as code is used to manage settings for packages and components. This works across a wide range of industries. During the development of an app, configurations might be utilized to support several operating systems. By maintaining configuration as code, you may track hundreds or even thousands of hardware schematics and testing information for embedded development.
How Teams implement Configuration as Code
You must decide how to save the configuration files you create or refactor in your code in your version control system. Teams can accomplish this in various ways:
- Put configuration files and code in the same repository (monorepo).
- Keep configuration files and code together based on your needs.
- component-based development and microservices.
- Keep configurations and code in separate repositories.
Your workflow may be simpler if all your files are in one repository. However, if you treat configuration files as source code, any change to a setting can result in a fresh build. This might not be necessary and might make your team work more slowly.
Not every config update demands a build. Your system’s administrators would have to configure it to enable the merging of changes to configuration files. They might then be deployed to one of your pre-production environments to do further testing.
Because everything is code, it might be challenging to distinguish between configuration files and source code when performing an audit. Establishing a naming convention that is uniform across teams is crucial.
Microservices/Component Based Development
Teams often separate their code into several repos for various reasons. According to this architecture, configuration files are kept and versioned alongside the particular microservice or component.
Even though you might get a similar problem with trigger builds, it might be simpler to handle. Collaborate with your DevOps teams if you plan to version config files with their microservice or component. Plan how configuration changes will be distributed.
Must-Read: How to improve DevOps Feedback Loop
Separate Repos for Configuration Files
Whatever method you use to save your source code, some teams prefer to keep their configuration files in a separate repository. Although it sounds like an excellent idea, this is rarely viable.
Even the most complicated projects may contain fewer than a thousand configuration files. As a result, they would occupy a relatively small space within a repository. The setup of your build pipeline would require time from your administrators. You might wish to consider alternative solutions, even if this paradigm can be useful for audits, rollbacks, and reviews.
Config as Code: Use Cases
What does “Config as Code” mean in practice? It can be put into effect in several different ways, not all of which are appropriate for every organization. See if the broad strokes below meet your particular needs:
- Making use of unique configuration source control repositories.
- Creating a custom build and deployment procedure.
- Establishing test environments with a focus on configuration.
- Making sure there are procedures for approval and quality control.
- Secrets management within configurations.
Creating Test Environments for Configuration
Maybe setting up a complete testing environment for application code is not necessary for a simple configuration modification. A company can save time and money by limiting the scope of a test environment to the requirements of the configuration deployment process.
Additionally, this might imply that various changes can co-occur. During the testing of a configuration change, application developers can test their code. You improve environmental management and operation efficiency with this capacity for parallel testing.
Your development team can reap significant advantages by incorporating configuration as code into your process. Applying updates and ensuring that everything works as intended is made simpler by automating the deployment of configurations across environments. Changes are simple to manage and track because it uses a single repository.
While enhancing the development and deployment of code, configuration as code is a valuable tool for managing and controlling complex infrastructure and pipelines. As a result, you have the visibility and control you need to speed up development without compromising the security of your deployments.