Infrastructure as Code - HashiCorp Terraform

November 07, 2023

In the rapidly evolving world of cloud computing, the need for scalable, repeatable, and manageable infrastructure deployment is more acute than ever. As organizations migrate from traditional data centers to cloud environments, they confront the complexity of deploying and managing infrastructure at scale. Enter HashiCorp Terraform, the open-source infrastructure as code (IaC) tool that is transforming how we think about provisioning and maintaining our IT landscapes.

2023 11 07

What is Terraform?

Terraform is an IaC tool developed by HashiCorp, a company known for its forward-thinking suite of tools designed to support modern DevOps practices. It enables users to define both cloud and on-premises resources in human-readable configuration files that can be versioned, reused, and shared.

At its core, Terraform uses a declarative approach to infrastructure management. Instead of providing a set of instructions to get to a desired state, Terraform allows users to define the desired end state of the infrastructure, and the Terraform engine takes care of realizing that state. This method stands in contrast to imperative approaches, where the specific commands to achieve the end state must be scripted.

Key Features of Terraform

  • Infrastructure as Code: Terraform manages infrastructure with configuration files that describe the components needed. These files can be version controlled, providing a clear audit trail for changes.

  • Declarative Syntax: Terraform's simple and readable HCL (HashiCorp Configuration Language) or JSON syntax allows users to specify what the infrastructure should look like without needing to worry about the how.

  • Execution Plans: Terraform creates an execution plan which describes what it will do to reach the desired state, allowing users to review the proposed changes before they are applied.

  • Resource Graph: Terraform builds a graph of all your resources, and parallelizes the creation and modification of any non-dependent resources, thus optimizing infrastructure management.

  • Change Automation: This streamlines the modification and versioning of infrastructure, preventing drift and ensuring the reproducibility of environments.

  • Plugin-based Architecture: Terraform is extensible with providers that interface with different cloud services and custom in-house solutions, making it highly versatile.

  • Modules: Reusable components can be encapsulated in Terraform modules, which can be sourced from a public module registry, promoting best practices and code reuse.

Getting Started with Terraform

To get started with Terraform, one would typically follow these steps:

  1. Install Terraform: Download and install the Terraform binary from the HashiCorp website or use a package manager.

  2. Write Configuration: Define your infrastructure in a set of Terraform configuration files using HCL.

  3. Initialize the Terraform Working Directory: Run terraform init in your project's directory to initialize Terraform with the required plugins and modules.

  4. Plan Your Infrastructure: Execute terraform plan to see what Terraform will do before actually making any changes to your infrastructure.

  5. Apply Configuration: Use terraform apply to execute the plan and create the infrastructure.

  6. Iterate as Needed: As requirements change, modify the configuration files, and repeat the plan/apply cycle.

Use Cases for Terraform

  • Multi-Cloud Deployment: Terraform allows for consistent deployment to multiple cloud providers, avoiding vendor lock-in and enabling a multi-cloud strategy.

  • Self-Service Clusters: Organizations can set up templates that allow developers to spin up their own isolated infrastructure for testing and development.

  • Disposable Environments: With Terraform, it’s easy to create and destroy temporary environments for staging or experimentation, ensuring that resources are not wasted.

  • Software Defined Networking: It can define and provision complex networking topologies, simplifying network management.

  • Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD): Terraform can integrate with CI/CD pipelines to automate the deployment and update process.


HashiCorp Terraform is an indispensable tool for modern DevOps teams and cloud engineers. It simplifies the management of infrastructure, enables consistent deployment practices, and supports the complex needs of modern applications and workloads. By treating infrastructure as code, Terraform not only improves automation and collaboration but also helps prevent potential human errors that can lead to downtime or security vulnerabilities.

As cloud ecosystems continue to grow and diversify, Terraform's role as a linchpin in the IaC domain is likely to expand. Whether you are managing a multi-cloud environment, a large-scale on-premises data center, or a hybrid of both, Terraform can be the tool that brings order to chaos, turning your infrastructure management tasks into a more structured, reliable, and efficient process.

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Victor Leung, who blog about business, technology and personal development. Happy to connect on LinkedIn