How CCT Helped a DOD Prime Contractor to Transform a Legacy Government System into AWS with Infrastructure as Code (IaC)

I. Challenge

How to Transform a Legacy Government System? A once-in-a-generation change in organizational practices is being brought about by cloud computing. Instead of managing an unnecessary high overhead of infrastructure for sporadic demand surges, elastic, on-demand computing enables organizations to deliver compute resources as needed.

Organizations must shift their current applications and architectures from their traditional on-premises environment to the cloud in order to benefit from cloud computing, which includes enhanced agility, just-in-time resource provisioning, and expedited release of new features to the market.
Organizations that utilize this cloud migration method, sometimes known as “lift and shift,” miss out on what makes cloud computing so disruptive for the forward-thinking organizations that have wholly embraced it.
The most recent advancements in development processes, architectural patterns, and technologies are required for true cloud modernization to relocate data while also updating your portfolio of existing apps.

Often, this system modernization involves the use of infrastructure as code (IaC) to transform legacy systems into cloud-based solutions. It is the same challenge the Client, a DOD prime contractor, faced. The Client needed to reliably change a legacy government system into AWS using IaC. The Client had to navigate both technical and financial challenges to accomplish this.

a. Technical

A significant component of the efficient cloud transformation of legacy systems is infrastructure as code (IaC), the technology and practice of controlling and providing computers and networks (physical and virtual) via scripts.
Virtualization simulates the hardware while moving into a virtualized environment, such as a cloud or modern data center. We can replicate an exact setup that offers automated migration to the integration environment and reproducibility through immutable infrastructure using infrastructure as code (IaC), which is generally linked with Agile and DevOps.
The Client needed more understanding of the system design and preferred to concentrate on maintaining outdated systems. The technical basis for the system deployment had to be recovered if they were to reap the benefits of IaC at the same time.
It took more work to recover the technical foundation for system deployment. No IaC artifacts exist for legacy systems. In other instances, the only authoritative artifact is an implemented system instance, and the government has no data access to the contractor’s IaC artifacts.
The manual coding of deployment scripts and the specific expertise of infrastructure architecture, deployment tools, and internal application design present another barrier to widespread DoD adoption of IaC procedures.
Finally, infrastructure code must change to keep current even if no active sustainment continues because IaC tools are open source and constantly evolving.
CCT had to successfully help the Client overcome these technical challenges to transform its legacy government system into AWS using IaC.

b. Financial

A legacy system’s age is one of many factors to consider. A system may be regarded as a legacy because of a lack of support or because it cannot satisfy a company’s or organization’s needs. Due to its architecture, design, or base technology, such software is typically hard (or impossible) to maintain, upgrade, improve, or connect with the new systems. It is precisely the kind of legacy government system the Client had.
Ten of the government’s legacy systems cost around $337 million a year to run and maintain, per a report on the price of maintaining legacy systems in the U.S[1].
The Client’s legacy system required annual budget increases for maintenance of up to 15%. To prevent any significant breakdowns due to the antiquated technology, the Client’s legacy system required ongoing maintenance and resources, adding to the costs of maintaining the legacy system.
Data drive the operations of the Client. There was no central data processing mechanism in the legacy system. As a result, the Client frequently had to shell out a large sum of money to upgrade the databases of the legacy system.
Finally, legacy systems lack adequate security, which is crucial given that every modern organization uses users’ private information. These systems have a number of difficult-to-fix flaws that could cause a data breach or the complete loss of data.

It required ongoing security updates and maintenance inspections from the Client, costing the Client a good amount of money. These things made it financially unviable for the Client to operate with its legacy government system. Therefore, all of the functions of the legacy system had to be transformed into AWS using IaC. The challenge was to do it in a way that eliminated most of the legacy system costs for the Client to transform a legacy Government system.

II. CCT Approach to Transform a Legacy Government System

CCT used GitOps Methodology with our Terraform to transform the Client’s government legacy system into AWS using infrastructure as a code (IaC).

A good GitOps practice is when several teams use a Git repository as the only source of truth for all infrastructure and app deployment code. Terraform’s automation capabilities allow the CCT team to work together and deploy code to numerous cloud services.

a. Research

Since the Client was looking to transform the legacy system into AWS, it is essential to mention the current state of AWS infrastructure. The current state of AWS infrastructure is a single source of infrastructure truth.
It means that IaC is used for AWS to put infrastructure resources in one place, defined as code. It’s about leveraging well-known ideas like version control to assure repeatability and consistency for your resources rather than using UIs to snap together your infrastructure.
However, it works better with more resources you control using the same application. Just because you gather all your help in one location doesn’t imply you have to use them all at once. It’s true that, at first, importing resources from a legacy system could be difficult if you already have deployments. But once you get to the top, many new options are just waiting to be explored.
Through the IaC, systems can be quickly deployed, controlled, and automatically delivered. For IaC, a variety of tools are available, including Puppet, Chef, CloudFormation (only for AWS), Ansible, and Terraform.
As mentioned above, CCT GitOps Methodology with our Terraform to transform the Client’s government legacy system into AWS.
HashiCorp’s Terraform is an open-source provisioning tool created in the Go programming language. Infrastructure may be built, modified, and versioned effectively and safely. Instead of managing the setup of already-existing servers, provisioning tools are in charge of creating new servers and their related services. In its role as a provisioner, Terraform concentrates on the more abstract aspects of setting up the servers and associated services.
Low-level aspects like compute instances, storage, connectivity, and high-level elements like DNS entries, SaaS services, etc., are all included in the infrastructure that Terraform can manage. It hands over configuration management (CM) to better-suited technologies like Chef.
It establishes the framework for infrastructure automation utilizing IaC, both on-premises and in the cloud. The cloud operating model, previously only known to the IT staff internally, is now compliant with the system thanks to its governance rules.
If you utilize Terraform, you might consider it to be distinct from the idea of GitOps and “Infrastructure as Code.” We have heard arguments about “Infrastructure as Code vs. GitOps” rather frequently. The Terraform Controller brings these two worlds together and enables CCT to benefit from GitOps for current Terraform resources, including drift detection, a singular source of truth, and a solitary pane of glass.
The Terraform Controller, a Flux controller, can manage your Terraform resources. Terraform may be controlled by the Flux controller even though Flux is a Kubernetes application. It provides several capabilities, such as the capacity to perform human approvals or automatically approve Terraform plans and the ability to configure the Terraform outputs as a Kubernetes secret. Additionally, Terraform Cloud and Terraform Enterprise are connected with it.

b. Methodology and Implementation to Transform a Legacy Government System

CCT helped the Client overcome the challenges using IaC by performing the following actions.

DevSecOps Management of the Terraform Code

Integrating security checks and best practices straight into continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) pipelines is one of the most efficient ways an organization can help prevent violations of cloud security from taking place; this practice is frequently connected to “DevSecOps” or “shifting left.” CCT used Terraform to automate the integration of the Client’s delivery pipelines with cloud security best practices.
After building AWS infrastructure using Terraform, CCT checked to see if any of the resources violated policy restrictions. CCT was able to quicken and streamline the deployment procedure using Terraform.
Terraform, an open-source software solution for infrastructure as code, allowed CCT to provision the resources a workload required to run automatically.
Setting. Spec.approvePlan=auto activated the GitOps automation mode. Terraform resources were scheduled and deployed for the Client automatically in this manner.

Repeatable Deployments

Using GitLab and Terraform by CCT made it easy to perform repeatable deployments for the Client. Terraform employs configuration files that are “easy for humans to comprehend” and a high-level declarative style language entitled HashiCorp Configuration Language (HCL) to define infrastructure independent of the cloud.
CCT had access to both private and public templates. A maintained repository called “Templates” contains pre-built modules for infrastructure parts required by version control systems.
After being stored under a VCS, configuration templates—pre-made modules for infrastructure components—are written, reviewed, managed, and reused. CCT had access to both distinctive private templates kept in a central registry and public templates donated by the community.
The Terraform binary provides the bare minimum capability, and any additional features are downloaded as needed. The “terraform init” stage examines the code, determines the provider, and downloads every plugin (code) required by the provider, AWS, in our case.
These things allowed CCT to perform quick and repeatable deployments on AWS for the Client.

Quick Tear Down of AWS Infrastructure When Use Case Expired

The Client may require terminating resources once they have been generated. Terminating resources is easy because Terraform keeps track of all of them. The only thing CCT is needed is to run “terraform destruct.” Once more, after you grant Terraform permission, it will assess the adjustments and implement them. It makes it easy to quickly tear down AWS infrastructure when the use case is expired.

Terraform Code Was Managed With a Full Software Development Life Cycle

Through configuration files and version control; Terraform allows CCT to specify the Client’s entire infrastructure. When a request is made to deploy and run a server, database, or load balancer, Terraform examines the source code and translates it into an application programming interface (API) query to the resource provider. Terraform is a free program. So CCT may continuously add new plugins or put together modified versions of already existing plugins to expand the tool’s usefulness.
Terraform Core can read and add resource plan implementations, resource illustrations, state control functionalities, and configuration files. Core is composed of compiled binaries written in the Go programming language. Each built binary performs as a command-line interface (CLI) for dealing with plugins that is RPC-based.
Terraform Plugins are required to define resources for specific services. Initializing the libraries utilized to make API calls and confirming infrastructure providers are included. Terraform Plugins were developed as Go executable binaries used as a specialized service or provisioner.

III. Outcomes to Transform a Legacy Government System

Terraform, an open-source tool, assisted CCT in effectively, automatically, and reusably managing the client’s infrastructure. It allows multi-cloud infrastructure configuration and has an easy modular syntax. To build, modify, maintain, and deliver infrastructure more quickly and with fewer manual interventions, CCT adopted Terraform in its DevOps methodology.
The following outcomes resulted from using GitLabs and Terraform by CCT to help the Client overcome their technical and financial challenges in transforming a legacy government system into AWS.

a. Promoting Collaboration with Agency

Teams can work together on infrastructure using Terraform’s central registry version control or terraform registry.

b. Flexibility to Create Custom Modules as Required

Complex resources can be exploited and reused thanks to terraform modules. The programmer wishes to bundle various infrastructure resources, and each module functions as a container for those resources. Input and output parameters are both present in modules. Input variables from a calling module accept values. Data is returned to the calling module through output variables. Configurations can be completed more quickly because modules can call one another.
The “terraform plan” also serves as a test run for our adjustments. It handles the construction of dependent and independent resources while simultaneously constructing the topology for all necessary resources and services.
Utilizing a resource graph to determine the necessary alterations, it effectively analyzes the resources and the state in which it was previously operating. It allowed CCT to verify and examine infrastructure resources before provisioning, which would have been risky otherwise.

c. Keeps Track Of Everything Built Into the Cloud

By default, Terraform is masterless, which means it doesn’t require a Master node to manage all configurations and distribute updates. By doing this, we avoid building additional infrastructure and paying additional maintenance fees for a second Master node. Terraform uses the cloud providers’ API directly, which reduces the need for additional infrastructure and other overheads.

Terminating resources is also straightforward because Terraform keeps track of all the resources. Run ‘terraform destruct’ is all that is required. Once more, after receiving approval from CCT, Terraform will assess the adjustments and put them into action. Contact us for further details on how to Transform a Legacy Government System.