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Hashicorp's Terraform: Top 3 Reasons To Use for Better DevOps

Picture this: Your business is using a combination of AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform. DevOps need a faster way to manage all your infrastructure configurations while making development, testing, and provisioning of infrastructure across the cloud easier.

Is there actually a solution to do this? 

Yes - and the answer lies in Infrastructure as Code (IaC) and Terraform.

Terraform is an open source Infrastructure as Code (IaC) tool from HashiCorp that helps developers use uncomplicated syntax to provision and re-provision infrastructure across cloud and local data centres, using reliable automation and repeatable code, efficiently and securely. It codifies infrastructure in configuration files that outline the topology of cloud resources (networking, storage, virtual machines) and deploys and versions these files to the cloud fast.

Terraform has quickly become popular with developers across the world to develop and change infrastructure (review code, version control, continuous integration, deployment of infrastructure) while managing existing service providers and internal solutions seamlessly in one place - and it’s particularly malleable to work with a multicloud setup.

By being able to codify infrastructure in a faster and easier way, IaC – and Terraform – can help your business ensure reliability, speed and optimisation with infrastructure provisioning, without complexity of traditional management tools.

We’ve already gone over the many crazy benefits of using infrastructure as code, but it’s safe to say many businesses, like those in the multicloud, multiplatform space, aren’t aware of how Terraform can make DevOps a whole lot easier.

Being able to consistently and safely define, build and deploy infrastructure changes using simplified coding - without worrying about changes or loss of infrastructure configs and having to re-do everything again the hard way - is invaluable - and it’s all automated instead of manual.

Currently, each of the major cloud platforms provide separate IaC tools: AWS uses CloudFormation, it’s built into Azure Cloud Shell and Google Cloud uses Deployment Manager. There are also technologies like Ansible or Puppet for automation and provisioning of software. But for those companies that use two or more cloud providers and may still run critical resources on-premises, a cloud-agnostic tool is preferable to managing all our infrastructure efficiently - especially if you want to automate infrastructure (instances, networking, etc) itself.

This article will cover the top 3 reasons why you should use Terraform for efficient DevOps.

 

Reason #1: Terraform is platform-agnostic and can deploy infrastructure to multiple clouds

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Managing multicloud infrastructure is best done with a coordinated approach that supports, not complicates DevOps use of continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) tools.  

Of course, this is easier said than done when you’re using multiple platforms. Considering that Gartner found 81% of public cloud users currently work with two or more providers, it’s a more likely scenario in today’s continuously evolving digital landscape.

Terraform is purpose-built by HashiCorp to be one-hundred percent platform agnostic and cloud agnostic. It supports other platforms and services whereas other solutions or IaC tools are usually only focused on a single cloud provider (CloudFormation, Deployment Manager, etc).

This platform-agonistic nature makes Terraform the best Infrastructure as Code solution to configure, test and deploy infrastructure across multiple cloud providers. It empowers DevOps teams to use one unified, consistent toolset to manage each of their infrastructure definitions.

And while it has its own language in the form of the Hashicorp Configuration Language (HCL) to learn, it’s very similar to YAML markdown. As our Principal Consultant James Auchterlonie summarised in our previous guide on Infrastructure as Code, Terraform’s language can be broken down into three components - Providers, Variables and Resources.

  • Providers are used to inform what environment types you need (AWS, Azure, GCP).
  • Variables are used to set a value once and use it throughout a file.
  • Resources are what will be deployed into your cloud environments.

Once a Terraform template file is deployed, a state file is created which provides a high-level description of the current infrastructure configuration - and you can provide a tfvar variable file for variable input into a template. 

HCL is completely platform-agnostic as expected, as your DevOps teams can define infrastructure in code, rebuild and change elements, and track all alterations to infrastructure across these varies environments very easily compared to typical single-provider IaC solutions.

Because Terraform is open-source, the massive community already using it across AWS, Azure and GCP platforms have shared and developed extensions, guides and plugins on how best to leverage its IaC capabilities across clouds, which means its features are growing exponentially. In short, it’s a tool to start learning and taking advantage sooner, rather than later, especially if your DevOps teams are seeking more agility and less headaches in managing your multicloud.

 

Reason #2: Easily validate and preview infrastructure changes before they are applied

 

It’s safe to say infrastructure topology is complex enough already without measuring and understanding the impact of potential changes. 

For a solution that manages infrastructure for multiple cloud providers, it’s essential for DevOps to have something that lets them test and know exactly what they’re in ahead of time for if they make a configuration change.

The Terraform Command Line Interface (CLI) thankfully fits the bill. It helps developers validate and preview any and all infrastructure changes before being put into place, safely and easily.

Being able to preview infrastructure changes isn’t always possible with other solutions, especially in a reliable and safe manner. Having this capability not only eliminates a lot of risk and back-and-forth, but allows your developers to validate changes more effectively as they have full transparency and an easier understanding of how the proposed changes will impact the environment. They can also catch unintended changes earlier, rather than too late.

 

Reason #3: Terraform automates infrastructure management

 

With so many powerful automation capabilities offered by cloud platforms becoming streamlined and easier for businesses to harness, it’s only more important than ever to leverage them in our management of infrastructure and services.

Terraform’s template-based configuration files empower your DevOps team to define, provision and configure resources in your cloud (s) and on-premises servers in a reliable, consistent and predictable manner. 

Instead of slower, manual processes that introduce the potential risk of human error, you can deploy and manage your infrastructure with reliable code that automates this process for you. You can use templates again and again to build and create identical environments, whether they’re test instances or production environments, without having to re-create settings the old fashioned way (the inefficient way).

With this powerful automation at your DevOps team’s fingertips, you can also lower expenses across the business, as the cost (and risk) to develop and test environments is significantly decreased by being able to automatically create them on-demand with preset configs.

 

Next steps: How to get started with Terraform 

It's clear Terraform is an ever-evolving, incredibly helpful IaC solution that can greatly help our DevOps with efficiency.

It's also a solution that requires the right framework, expertise and evaluation to ensure Terraform's many benefits are properly aligned with and can help your specific business objectives.

Need help getting started with Terraform? Xello can help you build, change and provision infrastructure across your business faster and easier with Infrastructure as Code, using Terraform to manage any cloud or service seamlessly.

Tags: Terraform, DevOps, Infrastructure as Code, Hashicorp