What is Infrastructure as Code? The Best Way to Fully Control Your Cloud Configuration

Cloud-first computing has taken the tech world by storm, and for good reason. Cloud native infrastructure gives developers and organizations the tools to create and scale new software more quickly and efficiently than ever before. Unfortunately, increased scalability and availability can result in significant new opportunities for security failures at many stages of the development cycle.

Today, the world’s 6.8 million cloud native developers need to keep their eyes on hundreds–or even thousands–of different APIs, container images, and other critical parts of their new cloud services. This is a daunting task, especially considering the fact that developers don’t just need to monitor their assets — they also need to make sure those assets are up-to-date and compatible with their cloud provider’s new features and updates.

Clearly, managing this myriad of assets manually is an untenable concept in today’s world of rapid growth, so how can we fully control them and make sure they’re secure? The answer lies in Infrastructure as Code (IaC) and its ability to check code at every step of the development process, identifying weaknesses and misconfigurations that could result in security breaches.

 

What is Infrastructure as Code?

Before we can understand how IaC represents the future of cloud native security, we need to understand what it is.

Infrastructure as Code is a term used to describe the processes and technologies utilized to manage cloud infrastructure with machine-readable languages instead of manual work. IaC lets developers use code to design, create, and manage their cloud assets and infrastructure at scale instead of using a cloud provider’s UI or a long list of potentially outdated CLI commands.

IaC predates the cloud native revolution. Early IaC languages primarily followed an Imperative operating method, which relied on a list of ordered, logical commands and did not specify the desired result. However, in today’s cloud native world, Declarative IaC represents the best way to harness and control this rapidly expanding tech ecosystem because of its predictable outcomes and scalability. Declarative IaC is now the norm in cloud computing and is most often referred to simply as IaC. You can learn more about the history and use cases for both forms of IaC in the video below:

 

The Benefits of IaC in Cloud Native Infrastructure

Essentially, IaC lets developers configure specific resources by defining the desired outcome and feeding that outcome into frameworks like CloudFormation, Azure Resource Manager (ARM), or Kubernetes. Once the framework receives this set of outcome instructions, it will automatically configure and provision the resource to meet that outcome. If all runs smoothly, running the same code will provide the same result over and over again, a property known as idempotency. If your framework doesn’t provide the same result every time, you’ll know you’ve got a problem, making it easier to identify and rectify misconfigurations and weaknesses.

IaC relies on automation to do much of the heavy lifting involved with creating, scaling, and maintaining cloud resources, providing several clear benefits to developers and organizations. These include:

  • Increased Scalability: Scaling cloud infrastructure with IaC is much easier than using ad hoc commands. All the necessary configurations are stored centrally, allowing them to be easily duplicated, modified, and version controlled.
  • Easier Asset Creation: With IaC, you can create reusable templates, ensuring all new resources and containers are appropriately configured and follow the same set of rules.
  • Increased Predictability: IaC’s automation eliminates a significant amount of human error by making infrastructure deployment consistent, even across multiple cloud environments or providers.
  • Increased Security: Since IaC provides stated outcomes in advance, checking for misconfigurations and potential weaknesses can be automated, too.

 

Securing Your Cloud Native Infrastructure with IaC and Prisma Cloud

IaC is the key to securing your cloud configuration because it works with preset outcomes and predictable results. With IaC, developers can easily apply simple rules and desired outcomes to a logic engine that then scans the code to ensure those outcomes are achieved at any stage of development.

Developers can use tools like Bridgecrew’s open-source IaC scanning tool Chekov to further simplify the process of managing cloud infrastructure. Chekov scans your IaC templates and assets for misconfigurations, leveraging hundreds of built-in IaC best practices and policies. Developers can even add their own custom rules to Chekov to ensure the logic engine doesn’t miss anything.

Prisma Cloud’s all-in-one cloud native security solution also uses Chekov to analyze cloud infrastructure. With Prisma Cloud, you can check your assets and templates at any point in the development life cycle, automatically fix misconfigurations, and duplicate assets as needed. Even better, you’ll be able to monitor the security and consistency of your cloud infrastructure as it grows; whether you’re scanning three resources or 3,000, the underlying process of checking outcomes against desired results doesn’t change.

Gartner estimates that 85% of businesses worldwide will have pivoted to cloud-first computing by 2025, making the need for cloud native security and embedded DevSecOps practices more imperative than ever. By using IaC and Chekov to continually analyze your cloud infrastructure for misconfigurations and security risks, you’ll be able to incorporate core DevSecOps principles at any stage of an asset’s lifecycle and quickly duplicate assets and resources without worrying about potential security flaws.