Terraform is an open source “Infrastructure as Code” tool, created by HashiCorp.
A declarative coding tool, Terraform enables developers to use a high-level configuration language called HCL (HashiCorp Configuration Language) to describe the desired “end-state” cloud or on-premises infrastructure for running an application. It then generates a plan for reaching that end-state and executes the plan to provision the infrastructure.
Because Terraform uses a simple syntax, can provision infrastructure across multiple cloud and on-premises data centers, and can safely and efficiently re-provision infrastructure in response to configuration changes, it is currently one of the most popular infrastructure automation tools available. If your organization plans to deploy a hybrid cloud or multicloud environment, you’ll likely want or need to get to know Terraform.
To better understand the advantages of Terraform, it helps to first understand the benefits of Infrastructure as Code (IaC). IaC allows developers to codify infrastructure in a way that makes provisioning automated, faster, and repeatable. It’s a key component of Agile and DevOps practices such as version control, continuous integration, and continuous deployment.
Infrastructure as code can help with the following:
See “What is Infrastructure as Code?” for a closer look:
There are a few key reasons developers choose to use Terraform over other Infrastructure as Code tools:
Terraform modules are small, reusable Terraform configurations for multiple infrastructure resources that are used together. Terraform modules are useful because they allow complex resources to be automated with re-usable, configurable constructs. Writing even a very simple Terraform file results in a module. A module can call other modules—called child modules—which can make assembling configuration faster and more concise. Modules can also be called multiple times, either within the same configuration or in separate configurations.
Terraform providers are plugins that implement resource types. Providers contain all the code needed to authenticate and connect to a service—typically from a public cloud provider—on behalf of the user. You can find providers for the cloud platforms and services you use, add them to your configuration, and then use their resources to provision infrastructure. Providers are available for nearly every major cloud provider, SaaS offering, and more, developed and/or supported by the Terraform community or individual organizations. Refer to the Terraform documentation (link resides outside ibm.com) for a detailed list.
Sometimes, there confusion between Terraform and Kubernetes and what they actually do. The truth is that they are not alternatives and actually work effectively together.
Kubernetes is an open source container orchestration system that lets developers schedule deployments onto nodes in a compute cluster and actively manages containerized workloads to ensure that their state matches the users’ intentions.
Terraform, on the other hand, is an Infrastructure as Code tool with a much broader reach, letting developers automate complete infrastructure that spans multiple public clouds and private clouds.
Terraform can automate and manage Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), or even Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) level capabilities and build all these resources across all those providers in parallel. You can use Terraform to automate the provisioning of Kubernetes—particularly managed Kubernetes clusters on cloud platforms— and to automate the deployment of applications into a cluster.
Terraform and Ansible are both Infrastructure as Code tools, but there are a couple significant differences between the two:
Infrastructure as Code (IaC) automates the provisioning of infrastructure, enabling your organization to develop, deploy, and scale cloud applications with greater speed, less risk, and reduced cost.
Kubernetes is an open source container orchestration platform that automates deployment, management, and scaling of applications. Learn how Kubernetes enables cost-effective cloud-native development.