Taos Glossary

An explanation of industry terms that is a quick read, and knowledge base.

Terraform

What is Terraform?

Terraform is an infrastructure-as-code, open-source software tool that lets developers and IT teams build, change, and iterate resources safely and efficiently, whether in the cloud or on-premises. Terraform codifies cloud APIs into declarative configuration files and enables a consistent CLI workflow to manage hundreds of cloud services across an organization’s data infrastructure. Users can define and provide data center infrastructure using a configuration language known as HashiCorp Configuration Language (or alternatively JSON). 

How does Terraform work?

Terraform works by letting users create and manage organizational resources on various cloud platforms and similar services using application programming interfaces (APIs). These accessible APIs enable Terraform to integrate with practically any platform or service. 

The overall Terraform workflow consists of three primary stages: 

  1. Write: The user defines resources, which can be designated from across numerous cloud providers and services.  
  2. Plan: Terraform then establishes an execution plan that describes the infrastructure it will create, update or destroy based on the existing infrastructure and designated configurations. 
  3. Apply: Once this has been approved, Terraform performs the proposed operations in consideration of any resource dependencies. 

Why is Terraform Important?

Terraform provides a powerful way to package and reuse common code in the form of modules. These modules act like functions or methods in scripting or programming languages, creating a standard interface for resource development through input/output. Modules also increase readability and help teams organize infrastructure, simplifying projects by being easily shared and sourced.  

Terraform allows for the resource representation of everything from physical hardware to virtual machines to containers to email and DNS providers. This flexibility allows Terraform to be used to solve many different problems, whether those are affecting a single application or a complete datacenter. 

Benefits of Public Cloud

Major benefits of Terraform include the ability to: 

    • Manage any infrastructure – Users can discover providers for many of the platforms and services they already engage via the Terraform Registry—or simply write their own. Terraform works through an immutable approach to infrastructure, aiming to reduce the complexity of upgrading or modifying services. 
    • Monitor infrastructure – In every instance, Terraform will generate a plan but will prompt the system managers for approval before any infrastructure is modified. It also monitors infrastructure in a state file, which is used to determine any changes made to that infrastructure and ensure it aligns with established configuration. 
    • Automate development – Organizations do not need step-by-step guides to create resources using Terraform because the system itself handles the necessary logic chain. Terraform automatically builds resource graphs to identify dependencies and create or modify non-dependent resources in parallel, allowing for more efficient resource provisioning. 
    • Foster collaboration – Files can be committed to a Version Control System (VCS) and use Terraform Cloud to manage workflows across teams. Terraform Cloud runs in a reliable environment and provides secure access to shared state and secret data, role-based access controls, a private registry for sharing both modules and providers, and more. 

Common use Cases for Terraform

Terraform has a vast variety of applications within an organization’s data infrastructure, which can include: 

Multi-cloud deployment – Multi-cloud deployment can add complexity because of different provider interfaces, tools, and processes. Provisioning infrastructure across multiple clouds increases fault-tolerance, helping companies recover more swiftly from any cloud provider outages. Terraform lets the same workflow be used to simplify management and orchestration for large-scale, multi-cloud infrastructures. 

Application deployment, scaling, and monitoring – Terraform helps efficiently deploy, release, scale, and monitor infrastructure for multi-tier applications. The platform helps users manage resources across multiple tiers while automatically handling dependencies between tiers. 

Self-service clusters – At larger organizations, operation teams can struggle with repetitive infrastructure requests. Terraform can build a self-serve infrastructure model that lets product teams independently manage infrastructure, with modules that codify the standards for deploying and managing services within an organization. This allows teams to efficiently deploy services in compliance with organizational practices. 

Policy compliance – Terraform can help enforce policies regarding resources that teams can provision and use. Sentinel, as a policy-as-code framework feature within Terraform, can automatically enforce compliance and governance policies long before Terraform makes infrastructure changes.  

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