What is Terraform Automation, Orchestration, Devops Use and Alternatives?

Terraform IaC – Questions and Answers  

In this page we try to answer very common questions about Terraform, for example: Is it an automation or orchestration tool? What are alternatives to Terraform? Do DevOps use Terraform? and more.

Is Terraform an Orchestration Tool?

Terraform by HashiCorp is an open-source Infrastructure as Code (IaC) tool that was developed as an infrastructure orchestrator. Orchestration addresses the needs to automate the lifecycle of environments. With infrastructure being codified, modifications of infrastructure are automated and Terraform is used to establish infrastructure across multi-cloud and on-prem data. It is also known for its use of a simple syntax, qualifying it as a prominent automation tool.

Terraform is a cloud-agnostic platform that uses single configuration across multiple cloud providers which simplifies orchestration. Terraform’s ability to automatically compute and restore systems to protect an environment’s ‘desired state’  when something is dysfunctional confirms it to be an orchestration tool. Other orchestration tools include AWS, Cloudify and Kubernetes. 

Yet, when it comes to supporting components further up in the application stack, Terraform’s abilities are limited. Cloudify complements orchestration tools such as Terraform by adding application level orchestration, enabling orchestration throughout the entire lifecycle.

Is Terraform a DevOps Tool?

Terraform uses Infrastructure as Code which is an incredibly important element in a DevOps world. Its declarative approach to configuration enables DevOps to use HCL to describe the wanted “end-state” cloud or on-premises infrastructure. As an open-source software tool that supports all major cloud providers and allows for DevOps engineers to provision infrastructure amongst them, Terraform has demonstrated its practicality as a tool in the DevOps field.

Other DevOps tools include:

  • Kubernetes
  • Gitlab
  • Docker
  • Jenkins
  • Cloudify

Can we use Terraform for On-Premises Infrastructure

Terraform can be used for on-premises infrastructure. Whilst Terraform is known for being cloud-agnostic and supporting public clouds such as AWS, Azure, GCP, it can also be used for on-prem infrastructure including VMware vSphere and OpenStack. Terraform operators are able to move effortlessly between on-premise and cloud providers since they are not dependent on the provider itself. 

What is an Alternative to Terraform?

Prominent alternatives to Terraform include Ansible, Kubernetes, Packer and Pulumi. 

Nonetheless, it is difficult to define them as explicit alternatives since they serve different purposes. Whereas Ansible is a configuration management tool for example, Terraform is an orchestrator. This makes it better suited for systems that need a constant and invariable state as opposed to environments that change. 

Rather than acting as a substitute, Cloudify complements Terraform by integrating with existing Terraform modules and scripts. Cloudify can be used for both configuring blueprints that are TOSCA-compliant or managing blueprints and deployments. Moreover, Cloudify’s UI makes it easy to click and see actual configs and their dependency chains, unlike other orchestrators where you go through multiple files.

What is Terraform Enterprise?

Terraform Enterprise is a commercial version of Terraform, which is a popular infrastructure-as-code tool. Terraform allows users to define and manage infrastructure resources, such as virtual machines, networking, and storage, using declarative configuration files. Terraform Enterprise adds additional features and capabilities to Terraform, such as collaboration, governance, and enterprise-grade support.

What is the difference between Terraform Cloud and Terraform Enterprise? 

Terraform Cloud and Terraform Enterprise are both commercial versions of Terraform, but there are some key differences between the two. Terraform Cloud is a cloud-based version of Terraform that is offered as a subscription service. It includes features such as collaboration, versioning, and a built-in registry of Terraform modules. Terraform Enterprise, on the other hand, is a self-hosted version of Terraform that is designed for use in enterprise environments. It includes additional features such as governance, policy as code, and audit logging. Additionally, Terraform Enterprise offers enterprise-grade support, while Terraform Cloud does not.

What are the advantages of Terraform Enterprise?  

Terraform Enterprise offers several advantages over the open-source version of Terraform. 

Some of the key advantages include;

  1. Collaboration: Terraform Enterprise includes features that make it easier for teams to work together on infrastructure projects. This includes the ability to set up workspaces, manage access control, and collaborate on infrastructure changes.
  2. Governance: Terraform Enterprise includes tools for enforcing policies and standards on infrastructure changes. This includes the ability to define policies using HashiCorp Configuration Language (HCL), as well as tools for auditing and enforcing compliance.
  3. Enterprise-grade support: Terraform Enterprise includes enterprise-grade support from HashiCorp, the company behind Terraform. This means that users have access to dedicated support engineers and can get help with complex issues and deployments.
  4. Advanced features: Terraform Enterprise includes advanced features that are not available in the open-source version of Terraform. These features include the ability to manage multiple environments from a single interface, as well as the ability to run Terraform in a highly available configuration.

Overall, Terraform Enterprise offers a range of advantages for teams and organizations that are looking to use Terraform at scale, or in complex, regulated environments.

Is Terraform Enterprise free? 

No, Terraform Enterprise is not free. It is a commercial product that is offered by HashiCorp, the company behind Terraform. Terraform Enterprise is available as a subscription service, with pricing based on the number of users and the level of support required. You can contact HashiCorp for more information about pricing and licensing for Terraform Enterprise.

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