Automate All the Things: A Primer to Infrastructure as Code
Learn to set up complex systems with the press of a button by automating the hundreds or even thousands of steps necessary to make many computers work together. This workshop introduces you to several free tools that make up a toolkit useful for digital infrastructure automation and walks you through each step of how to make a “cloud” server environment for any project that relies on computers. From there, you’ll see why doing things automatically can make your systems more secure, easier to use, and simpler to maintain or grow.
In today’s IT environments, application servers, databases, file shares, and even network devices are too numerous for any individual or team to provision, configure, and administer one at a time. To deploy, maintain, and secure large digital fleets, site reliability engineers leverage the inherent power of computerized automation to perform everything from daily tasks (patching, updating code) to critical but rare operations (migrations, incident response). But even small groups can take advantage of this sort of automation to massively amplify their impact; today, a two-person hobby project can outperform a 100-person company if they use the right tools the right way.
Generically called Infrastructure as Code (IaC), modern configuration management tools like Ansible, Chef, SaltStack, and Puppet make it possible for a single operator to paralellize executing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) like initiating backups or performing blue-green deployments on hundreds or thousands of machines at once. By using virtualization through IaC tools like Vagrant, entire “cloud” environments can be emulated for heterogenous development teams, massively streamlining everything from software development, to R&D, to education and onboarding. (Tech Learning Collective’s own course exercises and practice labs are defined in code as Vagrant configurations!) Encoding your organization’s infrastructure requirements in standard, vendor-neutral, open formats such as Terraform means you can switch from one infrastructure provider to another with ease. But perhaps most important of all, “automating all the things” means that potential disasters like ransomware extortion attempts, outages, or even mere accidents can be audited, diagnosed, and remediated in a matter of minutes instead of days or weeks.
In this workshop, you’ll get a practical introduction to cloud infrastructure automation. You’ll learn how to create your first virtual private cloud (VPC), add multiple machines to it, automatically install server software on those machines, and write exectuable runbooks to automatically perform upgrades and other maintenance tasks on your new infrastructure. Whether you’re already administering a fleet of servers at work, or just want to slim your “weekend project” time down to size, this far-reaching workshop will solidify your understanding of the development operations (DevOps) skills every IT professional needs to hone to have success with modern digital infrastructure projects.
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