You might have heard about Terraform and wondered what it has to do with the cloud. The first thing you may think of is terraforming (deliberately shaping) planets to be habitable by humans. However, I’m not a planetary expert, so this article is not about that! Today, I’d like to share exciting information about a product from HashiCorp called Terraform, which enables Infrastructure as Code (or IaC).
Utilizing Terraform allows you to modernize your infrastructure, improve your productivity, increase release velocity, and foster collaboration within your teams. Here is a rundown on the basics of Terraform and how it can benefit your team.
What is Infrastructure as Code?
Infrastructure as Code is defined by Andreas and Michael Witting as “the process of managing and provisioning computer data centers through machine-readable definition files, rather than physical hardware configuration or interactive configuration tools.” In practice, this takes what was historically a very manual process and turns it into writing code.
The benefits of IaC compared to manually deploying or maintaining infrastructure include improved productivity, compliance across enterprise-scale solutions, and increased release velocity.
What is Terraform?
While most cloud providers have their own methods of implementing IaC, using them means they’re locked into that cloud platform. Terraform is an open-source tool that automates infrastructure provisioning. The Terraform Registry supports providers that allow it to work with popular cloud platforms to quickly implement infrastructure features, making Terraform a perfect solution for multi-cloud architecture.
Terraform providers are plugins Terraform uses to manage resources in the cloud. Officially, Terraform supports and or verifies the contents of 211 providers, and hundreds more are available and supported by the community. The providers are the interface to the various cloud providers.
Each Terraform file can use several, allowing an operations team to have one code base that supports multi-cloud infrastructure across many cloud providers. As a result, a team can quickly build out its multi-cloud architecture with many supported platforms. In the rare case that there isn’t a provider for what your team needs to do, they have the flexibility to write their own.
In addition to being an open-source system, one of the main benefits of utilizing Terraform is that you will always know the state of your infrastructure. Terraform is declarative, meaning you describe the end state of the infrastructure, and Terraform determines the best way to build it. This process can create a visual representation of the configuration using the graph command, greatly helping with the team’s overall infrastructure knowledge.
Since the infrastructure is now defined in code, it also delivers all the benefits of code management. The configuration can be stored in a central repository to enable all team members to contribute equally. Peer review while maintaining the capability to deploy when needed is an option when using a branching strategy, such as GitHub Flow. This process allows for the establishment of CI\CD, including linters and various security products, to ensure the deployed files are well-formatted and secure.
Overall, Terraform supports many different cloud providers, increases team productivity, improves release velocity, and allows for infrastructure to be managed as code. There is a right fit for every project with a free option and HashiCorp-supported options available. In addition, a wealth of HashiCorp-supported and community-supported providers and modules support rapid development with proven code. If you would like to learn more about Terraform and see if it is the right fit for your organization, contact us to discuss options.