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Best Infrastructure as Code (IaC) Tools [By Use Case]

The best Infrastructure as Code (IaC) tools, curated by use case and categorized into CSP-specific and CSP-neutral providers.

8 min read

The Fundamental Role of IaC Tools

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) tools have emerged as a cornerstone for managing and provisioning technology stacks in modern software development. These tools have revolutionized how we set up and configure our infrastructure, shifting the paradigm from physical hardware setups and manual configurations to machine-readable definition files.

At its core, IaC is a method where an application's infrastructure is managed and provisioned through code rather than manual processes. This approach treats infrastructure in the same way as any other software system. The infrastructure setup, including servers, databases, networks, and other services, is defined in source code files, which are version-controlled and can be audited and reviewed like application code.

IaC tools automate the process of setting up, changing, and versioning infrastructure. This automation brings about a significant increase in efficiency and a reduction in errors, as compared to traditional manual processes. It eliminates the need for developers to manually configure an environment, thereby reducing the risk of human error and ensuring a consistent and repeatable process.

Value proposition of IaC tools

There are multiple reasons to adopt IaC solutions.

  • First, they ensure consistency across environments by maintaining a single source of truth for the form of code. This means that the infrastructure can be reliably and predictably recreated at any point in time, which is particularly useful for disaster recovery scenarios or scaling out infrastructure.

  • Second, IaC tools save time by automating repetitive tasks. This allows developers and operations teams to focus on more strategic tasks, such as improving the application's functionality or optimizing its performance.

  • Lastly, IaC tools promote the principles of DevOps culture. They facilitate collaboration between development and operations teams, as both teams can understand and modify the infrastructure setup. This shared understanding and responsibility fosters a more efficient and harmonious working environment.

In summary, infrastructure-as-code tools play a pivotal role in modern software development. They provide a reliable, efficient, and collaborative way to manage and provision technology stacks, making them an indispensable tool in the DevOps toolkit.

Discovering the Ideal IaC Tool: Key Considerations

Choosing the right IaC tool is a critical decision that can significantly impact the efficiency and effectiveness of your operations. Below, we offer some key considerations to guide your selection process.

ConsiderationDescription
AutomationThe primary value of IaC tools lies in their ability to automate infrastructure management tasks. Look for tools that offer a high degree of automation and can integrate seamlessly with your continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipelines. Also, consider whether the tool provides automated documentation and reporting features, which can save time and ensure accuracy in your operations.
Cost-EffectivenessIaC tools come in various pricing models, including free, paid, scale-based, and flat-rate options. When evaluating cost, consider the upfront price and potential for reducing operational expenses via increased efficiency and fewer error rates. Remember, the most expensive tool isn't always the best fit for your needs, while a more affordable one may offer all the features you require.
ScalabilityYour IaC tool should be able to manage infrastructure of varying sizes, from small setups to large-scale deployments, thus accommodating growth over time. Consider how easy it is to add or remove resources and whether the tool can handle the complexity of your infrastructure as it evolves.
Ecosystem CompatibilityIt's crucial to choose an IaC tool that is compatible with your existing technology stack. This includes various operating systems, cloud providers, and other technologies you use. A tool that integrates well with your ecosystem will be easier to implement and will provide a smoother, more efficient workflow.
SecurityInfrastructure management involves handling sensitive data, so security is a paramount concern. Look for IaC tools with robust features for managing secrets, detecting configuration drift, and ensuring compliance. These features will help you maintain the integrity of your infrastructure and protect your data. By taking into account the above factors, you will choose a tool that will streamline your operations, enhance your productivity, and ensure the reliability and security of your infrastructure.

CSP-Neutral Tools

Tools that are neutral regarding your cloud service provider (CSP) are perfect for IaC due to their versatility and broad compatibility. Let's delve into some of the leading options in this category, grouped by their main capability.

  1. Configuration Management Tools

    1. Chef

    2. Puppet

    3. Ansible

    4. Salt

  2. Server Templating Tools

    1. Vagrant

    2. Docker

    3. Packer

  3. Provisioning Tools

    1. Terraform

    2. Pulumi

    3. Gyro

Configuration Management Tools

Chef

Chef is a robust IaC tool that uses a pure-Ruby domain-specific language (DSL) to describe system configuration. It comes with an extensive library of modules, known as cookbooks, which can be used to automate the configuration of systems.

Chef supports multiple platforms, making it a versatile choice for diverse environments. It also encourages a test-driven development approach, which can help ensure the reliability and stability of your infrastructure. Chef is particularly suited to organizations with complex systems and diverse configurations, especially if there's a strong Ruby skillset within the team.

Puppet

Puppet is a pioneer in the IaC space and uses declarative language to describe system configuration. It's a mature tool with extensive community support, which can be a significant advantage when troubleshooting or seeking advice.

Puppet also offers robust reporting and auditing tools, making it a good fit for large-scale deployments where tracking changes and maintaining compliance are critical. Puppet is an excellent choice for large enterprises with multiple administrators and teams, as this mandates strict control over configurations.

Ansible

Ansible is a simple yet powerful tool for configuration management and application deployment. It's agentless, meaning it uses Secure Shell (SSH) instead of requiring a special agent on the target nodes, which can simplify setup and management.

Ansible uses a simple YAML syntax, making it easy to read and write, even for those new to IaC. It also offers a wide array of modules and is ideal for orchestrating complex tasks. Ansible is a great fit for small to medium businesses that need a lightweight but powerful tool; it’s also good for DevOps teams handling application deployment alongside configuration management.

Salt

Salt, also known as SaltStack, is a Python-based open-source configuration management software and remote execution engine. Supporting the "infrastructure as code" approach to deployment and cloud management, it competes primarily with Puppet, Chef, and Ansible. Salt uses a master-minion model where commands are issued to the minions from a central master, and the minions then handle the execution of the commands.

Server Templating Tools

Vagrant

Vagrant is an open-source software product for building and maintaining portable virtual software development environments. It's not an IaC tool in the traditional sense, but it does allow you to script the setup of a development environment. This can be useful for ensuring consistency between development environments or between development and production.

Docker

Docker is a platform that uses OS-level virtualization to deliver software in packages called containers. Containers are isolated from each other, bundling their own software, libraries, and configuration files and communicating via well-defined channels. While Docker itself is not an IaC tool, it is often used alongside them to manage the deployment and operation of containers.

Packer

Packer is an open-source tool for creating identical machine images for multiple platforms from a single source configuration. Like Vagrant, it's not an IaC tool in the traditional sense, but it is often used alongside IaC tools as part of a CI/CD pipeline.

Provisioning Tools

Terraform

Terraform, developed by HashiCorp, is a widely used IaC tool that allows you to build, change, and version your infrastructure. It supports multiple cloud providers, making it a versatile choice for businesses operating in multi-cloud environments.

Terraform uses declarative language, which means you describe your desired state, and Terraform figures out how to achieve it. This approach simplifies the process of managing complex or large-scale infrastructure. Terraform also offers state management capabilities and modules for code reuse, further enhancing its efficiency and ease of use.

Terraform is ideal for companies seeking to manage multi-cloud deployments and complex dependencies, or for those wishing to adopt a “single pane of glass” for all infrastructure.

Pulumi

Pulumi is a modern IaC tool that lets you use general-purpose programming languages like Python, Go, TypeScript, and C# to define and manage your infrastructure. This can make the tool more accessible to developers and allow for more complex logic within your infrastructure code.

Pulumi supports multiple cloud providers and even allows you to mix resources from different providers in the same program. This makes it a good choice for multi-cloud deployments or for deploying resources that interact with each other across cloud boundaries.

Gyro

Gyro is a multi-cloud IaC tool for creating, updating, and maintaining infrastructure. It uses a DSL (domain-specific language) to define resources, and it supports a number of cloud platforms, including AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud.

Gyro's strength lies in its extensibility. It allows you to write your resource definitions, making it possible to manage nearly any kind of cloud resource.

In summary, CSP-neutral IaC tools offer a range of features and capabilities to suit different needs and environments. By understanding each tool's strengths and ideal use cases, you can make an informed decision that best supports your infrastructure management goals.

CSP-Specific IaC Tools

While CSP-neutral tools offer broad compatibility, there are also IaC tools specifically designed to work with particular cloud service providers (CSPs). These tools offer deep integration with their respective platforms, providing a seamless and efficient way to manage infrastructure. Let's explore some of the leading CSP-specific IaC tools:

AWS CloudFormation

AWS CloudFormation is Amazon's IaC service, designed to manage and provision resources on AWS. It offers deep integration with AWS services, allowing you to automate the setup of your AWS infrastructure and any changes made to it.

CloudFormation uses JSON or YAML templates to describe the desired state of AWS resources, making it easy to define and manage complex environments. It also employs a stack-based management approach, which groups related resources together, making it easier to manage and update them as a unit. 

AWS CloudFormation is an ideal choice for businesses that heavily use AWS services and need to automate setup and changes.

Azure Resource Manager

Azure Resource Manager (ARM) is Microsoft Azure's own IaC tool. Like CloudFormation, it offers deep integration with Azure services, allowing you to manage your Azure resources very efficiently.

ARM uses JSON templates to define the desired state of Azure resources. It also supports role-based access control, which provides precise control over who can do what with which resources, enhancing security and governance. 

Azure Resource Manager is a great choice for businesses primarily using Azure for their infrastructure and in need of precise control over resources and access.

Google Cloud Deployment Manager

Google Cloud Deployment Manager is Google's IaC service for automating infrastructure on Google Cloud Platform (GCP). It offers deep integration with GCP, allowing you to manage your GCP resources declaratively.

Deployment Manager uses YAML or Python/Jinja2 templates to define the desired state of GCP resources. This flexibility lets you choose the language that best suits your team's skills and preferences. 

Google Cloud Deployment Manager is an excellent choice for businesses primarily using Google Cloud, which requires the ability to manage GCP resources in a declarative manner.

In summary, CSP-specific IaC tools offer deep integration with their respective platforms, providing a seamless and efficient way to manage infrastructure. Therefore, evaluating them will entail checking out their features and how you may or may not currently be using the corresponding cloud provider.

Detecting Misconfigurations and Secrets in IaC Templates

As businesses increasingly adopt IaC tools to manage their infrastructure, ensuring secure and error-free configurations becomes critical. Misconfigurations and exposed secrets in IaC templates can lead to serious security vulnerabilities and unauthorized access, posing significant risks to your business.

The Potential Risks

Misconfigurations in IaC templates can inadvertently leave your infrastructure exposed to potential attacks. For example, a misconfigured firewall could allow unauthorized access to your network, or incorrect permissions could grant users more access than they should have. Malicious actors can exploit these vulnerabilities to gain access to sensitive data or disrupt your services.

Similarly, secrets such as API keys, passwords, and tokens, if not properly managed, can end up exposed in IaC templates. If malicious actors discover these secrets, they can use them to gain unauthorized access to your systems and data.

Enter Wiz's IaC Scanning Solution

To help businesses mitigate these risks, Wiz offers IaC scanning capabilities that automate the detection and correction of misconfigurations, effectively securing your cloud from source to production.

Wiz's IaC Scanning Solution provides a comprehensive view of your cloud configuration lifecycle, ensuring that your infrastructure is configured correctly from the start and ensures your containerized applications are secure throughout their lifecycle.

Additionally, for businesses using virtual machines, Wiz's Golden VM Image Pipeline feature makes sure that your VM images are secure and compliant before they're deployed. This proactive approach helps prevent security issues from being introduced into your environment.

To learn more about how Wiz can help secure your IaC templates, book a demo today and secure your infrastructure from the start!

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