Lessons from Research to Practice on Writing Better Quality Puppet Scripts

Akond Rahman and Tushar Sharma in 29th IEEE International Conference on Software Analysis, Evolution and Reengineering (SANER), 2022 Pre-print

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) scripts, such as Puppet scripts, provide practitioners the opportunity to provision computing infrastructure automatically at scale. Poorly written IaC scripts impact various facets of quality (such as security and maintainability) and, in turn, may lead to serious consequences. Many of the ill-effects can be avoided or rectified easily by following recommendations derived from research and best practices gleaned from experience. While researchers have investigated methods to improve quality aspects of Puppet scripts, such research needs to be summarized and synthesized for industry practitioners. In this article, we summarize recent research in the IaC domain by discussing key quality issues, specifically security and maintainability smells, that may arise in an IaC script. We also mine open-source repositories from three organizations (Mozilla, Openstack, and Wikimedia) and report our observations on the identified smells. Furthermore, we also synthesize recommendations from the literature for software practitioners that could improve the quality of IaC scripts. Software development teams dealing with large computing infrastructure can get benefited from the actionable recommended practices. In addition, researchers in the domain may use this study to find opportunities to improve the state-of-the-art.