There are many tools that can help implement DevOps culture in an organization. One of them, much appreciated at Iguana Solutions is Terraform. Few IaC tools are as flexible, powerful, and useful as Terraform. It is for this reason that we have dedicated this article to explain the benefits that this tool can provide to your organization in both the short and long term.
What is Terraform
In simple terms, Terraform is an open-source provisioning orchestration tool created by HashiCorp for building, managing, and versioning Infrastructure As Code (IaC) in a declarative way.
But wait, what is IaC, and what does it mean “declarative”?
It is known as Infrastructure as Code (IaC) to the process that involves the provisioning of cloud environments using code that contains the desired configuration. In the case of Terraform, the language used to define the infrastructure is known as HashiCorp Configuration Language (HCL), although the infrastructure can also be defined using JSON files. One of the most notable advantages of Terraform’s HCL is its declarative approach which focuses on what the eventual target configuration should be, leaving the platform in charge of dealing with software dependencies and other related configuration issues.
How Terraform Can Improve DevOps Adoption
Implementing DevOps is an arduous and complex process. This makes any tool that facilitates the process welcome. In this section, we will analyze the aspects that make Terraform an ideal tool to accelerate the DevOps adoption process.
1. Terraform is platform agnostic
Terraform offers the huge advantage of being a platform-agnostic provisioning tool, although it would be more appropriate to say it is a “cloud-agnostic” provisioning tool. You may be wondering, how does this benefit DevOps adoption? Actually, it is very simple. The definitions developed in Terraform can be reused regardless of the hardware or operating system that your infrastructure uses. In other words, thanks to its multi-cloud nature, Terraform is capable of working with different cloud providers, even simultaneously, irrespective of your infrastructure topology.
This benefit alone is possibly one of Terraform’s main selling points. Imagine the time this tool saves your DevOps team by avoiding having to refactor all provisioning files. In large clusters, a job of this magnitude can definitely consume considerable resources.
- Terraform is a cloud-agnostic tool
- With little effort, you can reuse Terraform’s definitions on any cloud provider
- Terraform gives your DevOps team the flexibility to work in a multi-cloud environment
2. Boost infrastructure provisioning efficiency
It is the final results that define the viability of a tool. In that sense, the benefits offered by the DevOps working methodology are not in dispute. The question is whether using Terraform really makes the DevOps adoption process easier.
At Iguana Solutions, we have vast experience helping companies to adopt DevOps and for this reason, we can attest that Terraform definitely helps to speed up the adoption process. This has a lot to do with the way Terraform increases the efficiency of infrastructure provisioning. While other tools depend on an agent on each server in order to function, Terraform offers the advantage of being a client-only architecture. Instead of using agents on each node, Terraform leverages the cloud service provider’s API to provision the infrastructure. For many, this method is seen as a huge advantage, as the tool now only needs to communicate with the Cloud Provider APIs directly and not with a specific agent that could be limited to work on a certain OS or a specific version of an OS. Furthermore, it also allows Terraform to deploy and configure cloud managed services that don’t rely on infrastructure on which an end-user could have access to deploy an agent, such as load balancers, DNS services, storage services etc.
Moreover, as mentioned at the beginning of the article, Terraform is an IaC tool that uses a declarative code style. This dramatically increases provisioning efficiency as development and operations teams only need to describe the final state they want for each server. Once the description of the desired state is passed to Terraform, the tool automatically takes care of reaching the goal set. This approach allows the code to be simpler, cleaner, and easier to understand. This brings us to another of Terraform’s strengths, which is its immutable infrastructure approach.
Each new state and even each update of the infrastructure parameters creates a snapshot. This enables Terraform to improve provisioning efficiency as operators can update or modify resources with greater confidence. If an unexpected error occurs all they have to do is go back to the previous configuration using a simple command. Using the immutable infrastructure approach means that updates can be implemented more quickly and safely.
- Terraform uses the cloud service provider’s API to provision the infrastructure. Meaning it does not require a separate configuration server or installing extra agents
- Thanks to Terraform’s declarative code style, DevOps teams only need to describe the desired state of the resource. The tool automatically takes care of the rest.
- Terraform employs the immutable infrastructure paradigm, which helps to minimize downtimes
3. Allows better integration of Devs and Ops teams
Terraform’s IaC nature enables developers to become more involved in defining the infrastructure resources and configuration that they need for a particular project. In turn, developer requirements make it necessary for Ops teams to be involved in the development process from its initial stages. This early collaboration is made possible because, Infrastructure As Code tools in general and Terraform in particular, give both teams a huge degree of visibility regarding the status and configuration of all servers. This level of visibility makes all processes more transparent, reduces communication problems between departments, speeds up solving issues, and considerably increases the efficiency of the teams involved.
- Terraform enables a fruitful collaboration between development and operations teams from the early stages of the project
- The visibility that Terraform provides to both teams reduces potential communication problems, resulting in greater efficiency
- Integration between development and operations teams facilitates implementing DevOps best practices from the beginning of the project
4. Terraform is fully compatible with DevOps’s core principles
There would be no point in choosing a tool to help improve DevOps adoption if that tool was not faithful to the fundamental principles of the DevOps methodology. In that regard, it can be said that Terraform fully complies with each and every one of DevOps’ ideals.
- Visibility. Being a tool that uses IaC principles, Terraform allows complete visibility and transparency to all team members.
- Collaboration. The use of Terraform promotes teamwork, communication, and collaboration between the development and operations departments, even from the early stages of the project.
- Automation. One of the basic principles of DevOps is the automation of processes. In the case of Terraform, the tool allows to automate the infrastructure provisioning process and even reuse the code already approved in any cloud provider.
- Continuous Improvement. Terraform enables secure infrastructure changes, resulting in greater flexibility to make changes and updates as needed.
- Accountability. Being a tool based on the principles of IaC, Terraform allows versioning the changes to the infrastructure which provides the possibility of reviewing each step of the process in a transparent way.
At Iguana Solutions we love Terraform so much that our amazing team has developed the official OpenNebula provider which is now available on the OpenNebula github and listed on the official Terraform providers list!
Need help or expertise for your next project involving Terraform? Contact us!