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Perspectives on Infrastructure as Code: An Interview with Scott Talevich

Scott Talevich is an emerging leader and expert in Infrastructure as Code (IaC). His work has largely focused on best practices around DevOps and systems configuration with a focus on automating IT workloads. He has led the successful migration and adoption of IaC through multiple fortune 1000 deliveries resulting in increased organizational efficiency, decreased release risk, and reduced website downtime and customer impact. 

Xentaurs: What is your philosophy on Digital Transformation?

Scott Talevich: To succeed at implementing Infrastructure as Code in a consistent, standardized and usable manner, IT Infrastructure organizations need to adopt the ways in which software teams develop, build, test, store, and deploy code. At Xentaurs we call this Infrastructure Engineering. In addition, the choice of tools is paramount in determining the capabilities and elegance of infrastructure deployment systems and the manageability of the infrastructure codebase itself. At the heart of this are deployment orchestration and variable management systems. Selecting the right tools allows an organization to make modular, standard, and re-usable templates and scripts, reducing code sprawl and boosting productivity. 

What is the most misunderstood aspect of this technology?

Often IT ops staff become intimidated when they think about having to understand and write code, but the reality is that deployment systems can be engineered by just a few people who do the vast majority of the coding work and system design. The principle IT infra task is template modification, and a template is essentially just a list of infrastructure resources and options that are desired, like a shopping list or a dinner menu. At first blush making and modifying templates seems daunting, but it can be picked up quite quickly if the systems are well-designed. Something organizations should strive to avoid are extremely large, application-specific IaC templates. Templates should be more modular in nature and variable-driven. 

Think of this like a full seven-course meal versus Tapas or Dim Sum. The seven-course meal can be tiring and rather rigid in the options available. To get more options you may need to go to a different restaurant entirely. With bite-size dinner options like Tapas and Dim Sum you can choose between a large variety of options to suit your dinner party’s tastes that evening, and the next time you come with different people and needs you can still eat at the same restaurant and serve everyone the dinner they want. 

Who benefits from this technology and how?

Infrastructure as Code offers such efficiency improvements that it benefits everyone in the organization. IT Infrastructure teams have more time to work on new projects and tackle the technical debt they normally can’t resolve. Self-service deployments allow software engineering teams to produce quality code in less time. Faster time to market for new products and features benefits several groups: software engineering teams, product owners, sales teams, and customers. Fewer production outages and defects help everyone in the organization from the executives on down. 

Name one outstanding fact that should blow your mind regarding this technology.

Modern infrastructure provisioning technologies do their work surprisingly quickly, with many resources provisioned in parallel from one set of templates. An entire datacenter can be provisioned from scratch in a matter of minutes rather than the days or weeks it takes to do it by hand.