Configuration as Code (CAC)

Configuration as Code(CAC)

By Hunter Maxwell | 2 min read

Configuration as Code

Application development has come a long way in the past few years. With the development of cloud-native technologies and increased concern of security and operational costs, many new technologies and architectures have evolved. One such architecture is the Configuration as Code.


Application development is a very complex process involving several Application Programming Interfaces. Popularly known as APIs, they make the job of a developer simpler than it ever was. However, there are some configuration settings we need in our application to get these APIs working. Not just this, configuration settings are needed for a bunch of other tasks.


In essence, as the complexity of an application increases, the configuration needed also increases. Sometimes, when the applications are too complex, it becomes a hectic task to keep track of all the config files and documents. The only way we can avoid this is by using Configuration as Code (CAC).


The definition of the configuration of code is pretty obvious. It is the migration of configuration settings among the environments. Remember, a modern application may have more than two environments in many cases.

Why Use Configuration as Code?

Configuration as Code (CAC) helps you migrate the configuration easier. It is extremely difficult to migrate all the configuration settings from one environment to the other. This becomes too strenuous and time-consuming when the migrations have to be done between terminal sessions.


Many companies copy-paste the tangled ball that is environment variables and then modify them as per the requirement. However, doing that won't be very productive in this modern IT space.


Imagine changing your configuration variables just like your code. You can deploy the configuration variables along with the code in the deployment pipeline. Any changes done to the configuration files will be treated as a change made to a code.


This has been the dream of many software engineers until the introduction of Configuration as Code (CAC). When you have to modify the configuration files, you'll do it like any other file and then test it on different environments. If you think that's a repetitive task, you can add it to the automated list as well.


Configuration as Code (CAC) turns the configuration into code, just like the name suggests. This gives us many advantages.

1. Scalability

Scalability is one of the primary reasons configuration as a code is gaining more and more popularity. Configuration as Code (CAC) allows us to add, modify, or delete any configuration settings directly. If this is integrated into a continuous integration and delivery pipeline, you could automate many strenuous tasks and save yourself and your team a ton of resources.

2. Advanced Analysis

Until now, configuration files were never analyzed like code. This opens up several windows allowing us to perform vulnerability analyses, security analyses, and other standard analyses.


With these advanced analyses, we can hold the configuration files to the same standard as the other coding files in our company. This strategy promotes overall standardization and leads to consistency in the code.

3. Traceability

One of the primary reasons version control systems exist is to trace an issue. Let us say the application is unable to start after the new release. If there is no version controlling, it will be quite challenging to figure out where the issue is.


Treating Configuration as Code (CAC) gives us the same advantage. If the configuration files are changed, and the application is not functioning as intended, we can easily trace the issue even if it's a configuration error.

4. Efficiency

Treating Configuration as Code (CAC) increases the efficiency of both the admins and the developer teams. With this architecture, we can have everything in a single place as a single entity. This makes it much simpler when we're testing the applications. If there are any issues with the app, we'll know them immediately because all the components work together and are tested together, including the configuration files. Gone are the days when developers wasted time figuring out if it's a configuration issue or a code issue.


Rules and Implementation of Configuration as Code

Even though this is an exciting concept, it doesn't have a formal set of guidelines yet. However, there are some rules you must know before starting to code.


One of the most critical rules is that configuration of code does not mean that you have to add the configuration files directly to a folder. This would potentially give out a lot of vulnerabilities in the application if you know where to look.


Adding configuration files as general files in the deployment process is dangerous and may lead to some serious damage to the application and possibly the entire company.


Some people also think that we can add configuration files to the containers instead of the applications directly. However, this approach sets the stage for other inefficiencies. For starters, you will have to restart the containers whenever there is a change to the configurations. 


Another major issue would be environmental migrations. A lot of companies take advantage of the multi-cloud architecture. So if there's a need to change your containers or the environment for some reason, you'll have to fix the entire build pipelines again.


Instead, in the configuration as a code, the configurations will have a separate pipeline. This allows us to rerun the pipeline when there are new changes without restarting the whole application. The configurations are then migrated among the environments as a build artifact.


Unlike the previous case, in this one, we can roll back to the previous state if the current configurations fail. This increases the fault tolerance of our application. One thing you must follow when implementing Configuration as Code (CAC) is that you have to ensure that they are committed and tagged differently for easy identification.


Configuration as Code is one of the best models if you have a complex application with several environments and configuration variables to manage. Using Configuration as Code, you can increase the speed at which the apps roll out by cutting down on time to find errors or security issues in the configuration files.