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Tackling drift with IaC and automation

Consider a scenario in which a team manages a fleet of virtual machines (VMs) in a cloud environment for an e-commerce platform. They utilize Infrastructure as Code (IaC) to define and deploy the VM configurations. However, over time, manual modifications are made to the VM instances, leading to drift.

In software engineering, the term drift refers to the misalignment between deployed infrastructure and its intended state. Drift can pose serious challenges to software engineering teams, including slower release cycles and decreased developer productivity.

While IaC is a useful tool for ensuring infrastructure consistency and mitigating drift, it cannot solely address the complexities of the issue. It is crucial to automatically detect deviations from the desired infrastructure state, by creating integrations with configuration management and version control systems. This ensures that infrastructure remains aligned with the intended state, reducing manual intervention and increasing efficiency.

Automated change monitoring tools enable real-time tracking and alerting, enabling swift action when drift occurs. Regular audits validate infrastructure conformity, highlighting areas of improvement and reducing drift risks.

By embracing Infrastructure as Code, automatic drift detection, documentation and processes, automated monitoring, and regular audits, engineering teams can effectively mitigate drift challenges. Those practices ensure infrastructure alignment with the intended state, allowing teams to focus on delivering high-quality software while minimizing technical debt.

Let's go back to our e-commerce platform engineering team. To tackle drift, the team could implement an automated drift detection system that continuously monitors the VM configurations. Whenever a deviation is detected, the system would trigger IaC scripts to automatically update the affected VMs to match the desired state defined in the IaC templates. This would ensure consistency across the VM fleet and minimizes configuration drift.