“As-code” software development approaches have changed the way teams design, build, and deploy new solutions. The methodology sees all aspects of the system stored as versioned files in the source repository. Everything from project specifications to network routing rules is handled similarly to actual code.
Going “as code” for everything related to your project helps maintain consistency, track changes over time, and automate processes. An effective implementation should enable reliable software to be shipped more efficiently.
In this article, we’ll explore some specific ways that treating non-code as code improves the software development experience. We’ll also cover some of the things you should be aware of when you switch to the all-in-one, like-the-code approach.
1. It really covers everything
Going “all-as-code” through a gateway means that you commit to deploying all components of your system to a source control system. For example, you might produce the following assets during your project, each of which benefit from saving as code:
- Project specification – Saving your original specification document as code ensures that everyone can access it. You can make changes keeping all previous versions.
- Documents – As code, project documentation ensures that it is maintained and versioned in tandem with the source to which it belongs.
- Infrastructure – You can use technologies like Ansible and Terraform to programmatically define your system’s infrastructure, ensuring that resources like VMs and cloud computing instances are reproducible.
- Scaffolding – For building new projects, your templates can be saved as code so you can clone the repository to start another system.
The overall goal is to encapsulate everything related to your project as centrally stored and versioned files. This model results in a single source of truth for your project, giving everyone a common place to search for information, make changes, and share it with others. This is more efficient than searching for information in separate tools such as file shares, emails, and stand-alone document sites.
2. It’s all about automation
Keeping everything as code should have a noticeable impact on your processes. This manifests itself through the automation capabilities created by “as-code” methodologies.
When your application’s dependencies, environment, test programs, and deployment steps are all stored as code, they can be consumed by tools that automate the relevant lifecycle stages. This reduces the burden on human operators to remember error-prone manual sequences when they are ready to make changes to the process.
Automation is typically built on “as-code” workflows using continuous integration pipelines. Merging the repository change into your master branch will run the pipeline for you, applying the changes introduced by the new state.
CI pipelines are usually discussed in the context of code changes: a canonical example is a pipeline deployed to production every time you change code. However, pipelines are actually automated scripts that run when a trigger (usually a merge event) occurs. You can have a pipeline that produces a design document as an artifact every time your specification changes.
Keeping everything as code increases your ability to implement automation throughout your entire process. You can start streamlining business-level steps as well as traditional technical procedures.
3. Announce the current situation
“Code-like” workflows are best when you use declarative expression modes. This means that your files are written to describe the state you currently want, rather than the specific steps used to achieve it.
Declarative state management is supported by tools such as Kubernetes and Terraform. They consume the files in your repository and differentiate them from your existing environment. Changes are automatically applied to bring the live instance to parity with the current state of your repository.
Focusing on the end goal removes much of the complexity associated with workflow management. You’re freed from having to define precise migration steps for every change you make, and you eliminate repetitive tasks that quickly burden your teams.
A declarative state is not valid without a “as code” mentality. You should write files that declare your ideal state, then version them so that you can review and revert changes in the future. Moving everything as code equips you to use these new workflow management systems.
4. Increases durability
Keeping everything in one place, with one methodology, has clear benefits for consistency. Inappropriate processes often hinder software projects; teams quickly lose productivity when they frequently switch contexts between tools and workflows.
Good consistency is also beneficial for safety and redundancy. You have one surface to audit, protect and back up, the surface of your source control provider. Staff turnover is less disruptive when you have a complete versioned record of everything created in your organization.
“As-code” workflows help standardize processes and tools. This helps to respond to external changes such as key dependency updates. You can often script these migrations by replacing references in all the files in your various source repositories. This would not be possible if the data were not consistently dispersed between systems.
5. Represents a change of mind
Everything in code requires a mindset shift. This works best when everyone in your organization recognizes and understands the potential benefits. When the usage pattern is violated, you will experience a decrease in revenue.
Uneven adoption across teams can create gaps where data isn’t properly tracked, allowing things to slip through the cracks. It is important that you document your process and let everyone know how to use it.
Individual help should be offered to people working in non-technical teams. They probably won’t be familiar with the concept of source control and the use of important tools like Git. Focusing on the requirements of these users will help them become familiar, making them more likely to stick with the workflow and feel confident using it.
Accessing everything like code doesn’t happen overnight. Before creating specific tools and processes, you need to plan how you will implement the approach. Your application should be reviewed periodically so that you can discover new opportunities and reintegrate information that is out of your system.
“Code-like” development models are more than opaque buzzwords. Keeping everything as code opens up opportunities for automation and improves efficiency throughout the entire software lifecycle. It allows you to move from manual sequential steps to highly parallelized workflows where people focus on bespoke aspects of each project.
It’s an interesting insight into the software industry that while the product has matured significantly over the past few decades, much of the core workflow has remained the same. While widespread adoption of CI pipelines and containerization has brought changes to individual technical steps, the broader process often still depends on manual actions. As the project progresses from specification to design, development, and delivery, it is regularly introduced to new tools for data collection.
Everything in code suggests a unified model, with a common thread running through the entire process. Centrally stored versioned files keep everyone on the same page and facilitate strong integration with automated tools. Adopting a declarative expression mode eliminates manual procedures so you can focus on the final state of your application and spend more time working on new features.