A side-by-side comparison of immutable vs. mutable infrastructure

When discussing the idea of moving from a mutable to an immutable infrastructure, be prepared for a lengthy conversation. Not only is the decision a fundamental shift in your enterprise server management and maintenance philosophy, but also a personal decision for the IT team who are intimately familiar with each endpoint and often consider them their pets.

If that sounds silly, then you haven’t managed servers, switches, and other devices for an extended period of time. Each has its own unique characteristics and as you learn and understand these, you develop a familiarity and connection to them. The idea of deprovisioning infrastructure instead of updating is hard concept for many IT professionals to embrace.

As you are considering this type of infrastructure change, it is also important to discuss the benefits of a mutable infrastructure vs immutable infrastructure and the pros and cons of mutable servers vs immutable servers. Let’s start by defining what each of these are.

What is mutable infrastructure?

The word “mutable” means “liable to change,” which makes the term “mutable infrastructure” a very apt one. Mutable infrastructure is IT server infrastructure that is capable of being modified and updated in-place on a regular basis. Traditionally, server architectures have been mutable due to the greater short-term flexibility that the mutable approach provides. However, mutable infrastructure comes at the cost of predictability and consistency between different server deployments, as is possible with immutable infrastructure.

What is immutable infrastructure?

As you might have guessed, the word “immutable” is the antonym of “mutable,” meaning “unchanging or unable to change.” Immutable infrastructure is IT server infrastructure that, once deployed, cannot be modified. It’s often associated with the software engineering practices DevOps and continuous delivery. In the event that changes or updates need to be made, an entirely new instance with the proper modifications is deployed onto the server. New environments can be spawned in the cloud in a matter of minutes.

Below is a side by side comparison of immutable vs mutable infrastructure.

Mutable vs Immutable Infrastructure


Related: The Benefits of Immutable Infrastructure

If you have questions or need some advice about whether mutable or immutable infrastructure is right for you, let us know how we can help.

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