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Terraform IaC Adoption for Platform Teams

Learn about the benefits of adopting Terraform IaC for platform teams, including efficient cloud provisioning, collaboration, and compliance. Explore practical strategies for adoption and real-world use cases.

Zan Faruqui
May 16, 2023

Most platform teams would agree that managing cloud infrastructure can be complex and time-consuming.

By adopting Terraform infrastructure as code (IaC), platform teams can streamline cloud provisioning and management through infrastructure automation.

In this post, you'll learn what Terraform IaC is, the benefits it offers for platform teams, and practical strategies for adoption to enable efficient infrastructure operations.

Introduction to Terraform IaC for Platform Teams

Managing cloud infrastructure can become complex as organizations scale their footprint across multiple environments and cloud providers. This leads to infrastructure sprawl and inconsistencies that make management difficult. Adopting Infrastructure as Code (IaC) practices with Terraform can help address these challenges.

Exploring the Need for Terraform in Cloud Infrastructure Management

  • Managing infrastructure manually is error-prone and time consuming at scale
  • Inconsistencies creep in across environments leading to issues down the line
  • Changes made directly in cloud consoles are not tracked or version controlled
  • Difficult to replicate environments or unwind changes
  • Increased risk from human error and lack of oversight

Terraform provides consistency and efficiency by enabling infrastructure to be described as code and applied across environments. Key benefits include:

  • Infrastructure as code - All config tracked in source control for history and collaboration
  • Execution plans - Preview changes before applying to avoid surprises
  • State management - Track resource details even as infrastructure evolves
  • Automation - Create, update, delete infrastructure automatically
  • Reuse - Modules encapsulate and reuse configurations

By adopting Terraform IaC, platform teams gain efficiency, reduce risk, and enable collaboration for cloud infrastructure efforts.

Terraform IaC: A Gateway to Efficient Cloud Provisioning

Terraform is a popular open source IaC tool that provides a consistent workflow for managing infrastructure across public cloud providers. Key aspects that make Terraform a gateway to efficient cloud provisioning include:

  • Cloud agnostic - Supports major providers like AWS, Azure, and GCP
  • Declarative style - Desired end state described versus procedural steps
  • State tracking - Details on provisioned resources available
  • Execution plans - Preview changes before applying
  • Version control - Store configs in source control
  • Testing frameworks - Integration with Terratest
  • Private module registry - Share and reuse modules across organizations

For platform teams overseeing cloud environments, Terraform improves efficiency by enabling collaboration around infrastructure as code. Changes are easily tracked, resources are consistently provisioned, and environments are easily replicated.

By adopting Terraform IaC methodology, teams streamline cloud provisioning and reduce risk around manual processes. This empowers developers with self-service access while maintaining oversight, compliance and cost optimization.

What is IaC with Terraform?

Terraform is an open-source Infrastructure as Code (IaC) tool that provides a consistent CLI workflow to manage hundreds of cloud services. Terraform codifies cloud APIs into declarative configuration files.

This allows infrastructure to be described as code and enables users to version, test, and share their infrastructure in a codified manner. Teams use Terraform to manage infrastructure safely and efficiently.

Key Benefits

Terraform provides several key benefits:

  • Infrastructure as Code - Infrastructure is codified, allowing changes to be made and versioned just like application code. This improves efficiency and reduces human error.

  • Execution Plans - Terraform has a planning stage where it generates an execution plan showing what infrastructure will be created or changed. This allows teams to preview changes before applying them.

  • Resource Graph - Terraform understands resource relationships, allowing it to determine creation order and parallelize operations for faster infrastructure builds.

  • Change Automation - Complex change sets across resources can be applied in an automated manner. Teams spend less time on manual tasks and reduce risk.

  • Multicloud - Terraform supports most major cloud providers, allowing a consistent workflow across AWS, Azure, GCP and more. This simplifies management for multicloud environments.

By codifying infrastructure and processes, Terraform provides teams a scalable approach to manage infrastructure efficiently and safely in dynamic cloud environments. Its growing provider ecosystem and large community make it a versatile IaC tool for organizations.

Is Terraform the best IaC tool?

Terraform is considered one of the best infrastructure as code (IaC) tools available today for several key reasons:

  • Provider ecosystem - Terraform has over 1000 providers across major cloud platforms like AWS, Azure, and GCP as well as Kubernetes, OpenStack, and more. This extensive provider ecosystem allows teams to manage nearly any infrastructure with a consistent workflow.

  • Declarative syntax - Terraform uses a declarative language called HCL (HashiCorp Configuration Language) to define desired infrastructure states. This makes infrastructure easy to visualize and collaborate on.

  • Plan and apply model - Terraform has a plan and apply model for change management. The plan stage lets teams preview changes before the apply stage provisions real infrastructure.

  • State management - Terraform remote state allows teams to store state in a backend like S3 or Terraform Cloud. This facilitates collaboration and helps prevent state file corruption.

  • Maturity - Released in 2014, Terraform has many years of production use and is backed by HashiCorp. The tool is mature, stable, and trusted by organizations worldwide.

While there are other good IaC options, Terraform stands out for its provider breadth, approachability, safety, and production-readiness. Its declarative style, planning workflow, and remote state management help platform teams implement robust IaC practices efficiently. For most organizations, Terraform strikes the right balance of power and usability.

What is the difference between IaC and DevOps?

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) and DevOps are complementary practices that enable organizations to efficiently manage and deploy cloud infrastructure and applications. Here are some key differences:

IaC Focuses on Infrastructure Provisioning

  • IaC provides a consistent way to provision infrastructure needed to run applications.
  • It allows you to define and configure infrastructure resources like networks, virtual machines, etc. as code (e.g. Terraform, CloudFormation).
  • This infrastructure can then be version controlled and deployed automatically.

DevOps Focuses on Application Deployment

  • DevOps facilitates faster and continuous application development and deployment.
  • It bridges gaps between developers and operations teams to improve collaboration.
  • Practices like CI/CD pipelines, infrastructure monitoring, log analysis fall under DevOps.

IaC Enables DevOps Automation

  • With IaC, infrastructure can be codified, shared and reused easily by developers.
  • By integrating IaC into CI/CD pipelines, DevOps teams can test and automatically deploy apps to production-like environments.

So in summary, IaC handles provisioning cloud infrastructure while DevOps facilitates deploying apps onto that infrastructure efficiently. Together they enable fully automated application delivery workflows.

Is Ansible an IaC tool?

Ansible and Terraform are two major Infrastructure as Code (IaC) tools that help enterprises create configurations and scale them easily. Both tools act as advanced-level platforms in deploying complex applications.

Key Differences Between Ansible and Terraform

There are some key differences between Ansible and Terraform:

  • Purpose: Ansible is mainly used for configuration management whereas Terraform focuses on infrastructure provisioning. Ansible ensures systems are configured correctly while Terraform provisions the infrastructure.

  • Approach: Ansible uses an imperative approach, executing tasks in a defined order. Terraform uses a declarative approach, specifying the desired end state.

  • Flexibility: Ansible works over SSH and can be used across operating systems. Terraform relies on providers and is focused on infrastructure.

  • Integration: Ansible integrates with various tools through Ansible Tower. Terraform has limited integration capabilities currently.

  • Learning Curve: Ansible has a gentler learning curve compared to HashiCorp Configuration Language (HCL) used in Terraform.

In summary, Ansible and Terraform can complement each other in infrastructure management. Ansible ensures correct configuration while Terraform provisions and scales the infrastructure. Using them together provides flexibility and automation across infrastructure environments.

Integrating Ansible and Terraform

Platform teams can benefit from integrating Ansible and Terraform in their infrastructure as code (IaC) approach:

  • Use Terraform to provision infrastructure on AWS, GCP, Azure or other platforms.
  • Leverage Ansible to further configure the infrastructure post provisioning.
  • Create Ansible playbooks that ensure workloads, applications and services are correctly deployed on the dynamic infrastructure.
  • Take advantage of Ansible's simplicity and agentless architecture.
  • Manage infrastructure lifecycles holistically, from provisioning to configuration and beyond.

An integrated approach with Terraform and Ansible allows platform teams to streamline cloud operations, enhance efficiency through automation, and improve scalability. The infrastructure can be easily replicated across environments due to the IaC capabilities.

Overall, combining these technologies based on their strengths and weaknesses allows organizations to optimize infrastructure management.


Fundamentals of Terraform IaC

Terraform is an open source infrastructure as code (IaC) tool that provides a consistent CLI workflow to manage hundreds of cloud services. Terraform codifies cloud APIs into declarative configuration files.

Understanding Terraform and Infrastructure as Code (IaC)

Terraform allows teams to define infrastructure in human-readable configuration files that can be shared amongst team members. These configuration files serve as the single source of truth for the infrastructure.

Some key benefits of Terraform IaC:

  • Infrastructure Documentation - The configuration files document the infrastructure and architecture. Changes to infrastructure go through code reviews.
  • Automation - Manual changes can be reduced significantly. Infrastructure can be applied consistently through automation.
  • Version Control - Infrastructure changes are made through new configuration file versions tracked in source control.
  • Validation - Terraform validates configuration file syntax before applying changes. This prevents unexpected changes.

Terraform supports many cloud providers like AWS, Azure, GCP, Kubernetes, OpenStack and more.

Components of Terraform: Providers, Modules, and State File

Some key components of Terraform:

  • Providers - Plugins that allow Terraform to interact with cloud APIs like AWS, Azure and GCP.
  • State File - Tracks metadata for resources under Terraform management. This allows Terraform to determine creation, modification or deletion of resources.
  • Modules - Reusable configuration packages managed as a group. This allows configuration reuse and consistency.

Comparing Terraform to Other IaC Tools

Compared to other Infrastructure as Code (IaC) tools like CloudFormation and Ansible, some benefits Terraform provides:

  • Multi-cloud support - Terraform supports most major cloud providers with a consistent workflow. Other tools often focus on a single cloud.
  • Immutability - Terraform handles changes by replacing resources, leading to immutable infrastructure. Other tools focus on in-place updates.
  • Execution Plan - Terraform shows a preview of changes before infrastructure is updated. This allows review before applying changes.

Strategies for Terraform IaC Adoption by Platform Teams

This section details best practices for platform teams to effectively adopt Terraform IaC within their cloud management processes.

Facilitating Developer Collaboration with Terraform Modules

Terraform modules allow teams to build reusable, composable infrastructure components that abstract away unnecessary details and enable collaboration. By providing a library of approved Terraform modules, platform teams can:

  • Standardize infrastructure patterns and best practices across the organization
  • Encapsulate complexity so developers can focus on business logic
  • Govern infrastructure as code while empowering developers
  • Accelerate onboarding by eliminating repetitive setup tasks

To scale module adoption:

  • Document module capabilities, inputs, outputs and examples
  • Validate contributions with checklist reviews and automated policy checks
  • Version modules for upgrade control and backward compatibility
  • Monitor module usage to guide improvements aligned to developer needs

With well-structured modules, developers can quickly build infrastructure while platform teams maintain guardrails.

Integrating Terraform with Continuous Integration and Deployment

By integrating Terraform into CI/CD pipelines, infrastructure changes can be validated and applied in a consistent, compliant way. Best practices include:

  • Run terraform fmt, validate and plan in CI to prevent malformed, noncompliant or disruptive changes from deploying
  • Execute deployments via CD using terraform apply, with approvals for production
  • Use remote state storage like Terraform Cloud to enable collaboration and prevent state corruption
  • Implement policy as code checks on Terraform configuration for security and compliance
  • Provide testing frameworks for developers to build automated module acceptance tests

Following these patterns, platform teams can enable developer velocity through Terraform while retaining appropriate control and visibility.

Best Practices for Terraform State Management

Terraform remote state is a powerful feature for collaboration, but mismanagement can lead to issues like state corruption and configuration drift. Recommendations include:

  • Use Terraform Cloud or AWS S3 with state locking to prevent concurrent modifications
  • Implement a single source of truth for state storage and access controls
  • Create immutable infrastructure patterns to avoid frequent changes to existing resources
  • Regularly backup state to prevent data loss, and store backups separately from primary state
  • Monitor state to detect runaway resources and unintended changes

With robust state management and disaster recovery practices, platform teams can provide reliable foundations for developers building infrastructure.

Terraform IaC in Action: Real-World Use Cases

Terraform is a powerful infrastructure as code (IaC) tool that enables developers to programmatically provision and manage infrastructure across various providers. As organizations continue their cloud journeys, Terraform usage is accelerating for automating infrastructure workflows.

Here are some common real-world use cases where Terraform delivers immense value:

Provisioning Kubernetes Clusters with Terraform

Kubernetes has become the de-facto standard for container orchestration. With Terraform, developers can declaratively define and provision Kubernetes clusters across on-premises and cloud environments like AWS, Azure, and GCP.

Key benefits include:

  • Infrastructure Reuse - Terraform modules allow reuse of Kubernetes manifests across environments. No need to reinvent the wheel.
  • Cost Optimization - Right-size clusters and enable auto-scaling rules based on demand.
  • Multi-Cloud Portability - Provision Kubernetes on any cloud with the same Terraform scripts.
  • Compliance as Code - Validate clusters against security policies and regulatory standards.

Overall, Terraform simplifies Kubernetes infrastructure automation across teams and clouds.

Ensuring Compliance with Terraform IaC

Maintaining compliance in dynamic cloud environments can be challenging. With Terraform, infrastructure can be validated against security policies and compliance requirements before provisioning.

For example:

  • Restrict AWS regions to only approved locations
  • Enforce tags on resources
  • Limit user permissions to least privilege
  • Detect drift from approved state

This "compliance as code" approach shifts security left and enables preventative governance. Teams save time and reduce risk.

Streamlining Multicloud Deployments with Terraform

Organizations often leverage multiple cloud providers (AWS, Azure, GCP) and on-prem environments. Terraform provides a consistent workflow to provision infrastructure across these heterogeneous platforms.

Benefits include:

  • Standardization - Common Terraform language and tooling vs. native tools.
  • Portability - Move workloads across clouds with minimal changes.
  • Cost Governance - Optimize spend across cloud accounts.
  • Reduced Lock-in - Avoid vendor lock-in, migrate as needed.

With Terraform, multicloud management is simplified.

Terraform IaC Examples and Tutorials

Terraform is an open source infrastructure as code (IaC) tool that allows you to define, provision, and manage infrastructure in a safe, consistent, and repeatable manner. As a platform team looking to adopt IaC practices, Terraform is an excellent place to start.

Let's walk through some hands-on examples of using Terraform for infrastructure management.

Terraform IaC AWS: A Practical Example

To demonstrate Terraform in action, we'll build a simple AWS architecture consisting of a VPC, public/private subnets across two availability zones, an internet gateway, route table, and security groups.

First, we configure the AWS provider in

provider "aws" {
  region = "us-east-1"

Next, we create the VPC resources in

# Create VPC
resource "aws_vpc" "example" {
  cidr_block = ""

# Create public subnets
resource "aws_subnet" "public" {
  vpc_id     =
  cidr_block = ""
  availability_zone = "us-east-1a"

  tags = {
    Name = "Public Subnet 1"

# Create private subnets
resource "aws_subnet" "private" {
  vpc_id     =
  cidr_block = ""
  availability_zone = "us-east-1b"

  tags = {
    Name = "Private Subnet 1" 

We handle routing, gateways, and security groups similarly. When ready, we provision resources with terraform apply. This demonstrates how Terraform allows declarative infrastructure management for AWS.

Building Your First Terraform Configuration

Let's walk through building a Terraform configuration from scratch. We'll use the Azure provider as an example.

First, configure the provider block with subscription ID:

provider "azurerm" {
  subscription_id = "xxxxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxxxxxxxxxx"

Next, define the resource to create, like a resource group:

resource "azurerm_resource_group" "example" {
  name     = "resourceGroup1"
  location = "West US 2"

We can add outputs to print created resource attributes:

output "resource_group_id" {
  value = 

This covers the basics - a provider, resource definition, and output. We execute with:

terraform init
terraform apply

This initializes the provider and provisions the resource group. The output prints the id.

Advanced Terraform Techniques: Modules and Backends

As infrastructure grows, we can use modules to package and reuse configurations. Modules allow abstraction and encapsulation for simplified management.

We can also use backends to store state remotely instead of locally. Backends improve collaboration by enabling state sharing between team members.

For example, we may use a Azure storage backend:

terraform {
  backend "azurerm" {
    storage_account_name = "myaccount"
    container_name       = "tfstate"
    key                  = "prod.terraform.tfstate"

This allows persistent storage of state in a Azure blob container instead of on a local machine.

Terraform Cloud for Collaborative Infrastructure Management

Terraform Cloud provides a SaaS backend to enable teams to collaborate on infrastructure in a centralized platform. Features include:

  • Remote state storage
  • Access controls for state
  • Private module registry
  • API-driven runs and workflows
  • Notifications and logging

With Terraform Cloud, teams can standardize practices around Terraform to scale infrastructure management.

Conclusion: Embracing Terraform IaC for Streamlined Cloud Operations

In closing, adopting Terraform IaC enables platform teams to improve cloud infrastructure efficiency, collaboration and compliance while reducing risk.

Recap of Terraform IaC Benefits for Platform Teams

Terraform IaC provides several key benefits for platform teams managing cloud infrastructure:

  • Improved efficiency - With Terraform IaC, infrastructure can be provisioned and managed as code. This eliminates manual processes and enables automation for faster, more reliable deployments.

  • Enhanced collaboration - Terraform code can be stored in a shared repository like GitHub for easier sharing and collaboration among team members.

  • Strengthened compliance - Infrastructure as code enables consistent, auditable deployments that adhere to organizational policies and industry regulations.

  • Reduced risk - Manual processes introduce risk of human error. Codifying infrastructure mitigates this risk through repeatable, testable infrastructure deployments.

By adopting Terraform IaC, platform teams can streamline cloud operations while ensuring security, compliance, and cost optimization.

Next Steps for Terraform IaC Mastery

To get started with Terraform:

  • Install Terraform on your local machine
  • Choose a cloud provider like AWS as your infrastructure platform
  • Experiment with Terraform by defining infrastructure resources in code
  • Validate and apply the configuration to provision resources

As you gain confidence, progress to managing full infrastructure stacks across development, test, and production environments. Consider integrating Terraform with CI/CD pipelines for automated deployments upon code changes.

With infrastructure as code mastery, platform teams gain agility, efficiency and resilience in cloud operations. Terraform adoption is a crucial step towards unlocking these benefits.

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