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Terraform for Beginners

A Complete Guide

Terraform for Beginners
Terraform for Beginners

Infrastructure is one of the elements of any organization currently undergoing continuous transformation. It’s always challenging to change an IT infrastructure, significantly. Because of this, businesses are constantly looking for a solid tool to carry out infrastructure upgrades efficiently.

Terraform is a tool for infrastructure as a code (IaC) in this fashion. It offers online and on-premises resources in files that can be readily accessed and shared with other apps.

An open-source tool for provisioning infrastructure is called Terraform. Terraform enables efficient management of infrastructures throughout their life cycles with standardized workflows. Additionally, Terraform will manage all resources, including DNS entries, SaaS features, computing, networking, and storage.

What Is Infrastructure as Code (IaC)?

IaC refers to the management and provisioning of infrastructure using code rather than manual procedures.

IaC makes it simpler to change and distribute configurations by generating configuration files that contain the infrastructure’s specifications. Additionally, it guarantees that you always provision the same environment. IaC facilitates configuration management and enables you to prevent ad hoc, undocumented configuration changes by codifying & documenting your configuration standards.

IaC heavily relies on version control, and its configuration files must be controlled by it much like source code for other software. By deploying your infrastructure as code, you may also break it into modular components that can be automatedly joined in a variety of ways.

By using IaC to automate infrastructure provisioning, developers may avoid manually managing servers, storage, operating systems, and other infrastructure components every time they create or deploy an application. Coding your infrastructure provides a blueprint for provisioning, which can still be carried out manually or automatically using a tool like Red Hat® Ansible® Automation Platform.

Popular IaC Tools


Terraform is one of the leading IaC tools widely adopted by developers and IT professionals. Developed by HashiCorp, Terraform allows users to create, manage, and version infrastructure as code across multiple cloud providers and even on-premises environments. Its declarative syntax simplifies the process of defining and deploying resources like virtual machines, networks, storage, and more. Terraform's strengths lie in its robust ecosystem, extensive provider support, and ability to manage complex infrastructures with ease.


Ansible, an open-source automation platform, is another popular choice for IaC. Using a simple and human-readable YAML syntax, Ansible allows users to define and manage infrastructure configuration and deployment tasks. One of its key strengths is agentless architecture, which means it doesn't require any additional software on the target systems, making it easy to set up and use. Ansible excels in automating application deployment, configuration management, and continuous delivery pipelines.


Chef, a powerful IaC tool, focuses on configuration management and automation. It provides a domain-specific language (DSL) to define infrastructure and system configurations. Chef follows a "desired state" model, which ensures that the system's current state matches the desired configuration specified in the code. With Chef, users can easily manage infrastructure across multiple platforms, making it well-suited for complex and heterogeneous environments.


Puppet is another established IaC tool that emphasizes configuration management and automates repetitive tasks. Using a declarative language, Puppet allows users to define the desired state of infrastructure components. It excels at enforcing consistency across large-scale infrastructures and supports both on-premises and cloud-based deployments. Puppet's rich module ecosystem offers pre-built configurations, accelerating infrastructure management.


Vagrant is a user-friendly IaC tool that aims to simplify the setup and management of development environments. It integrates with various virtualization providers, such as VirtualBox, VMware, and Hyper-V, to create lightweight and portable virtual machines with a single configuration file. Developers can use a simple text file (Vagrantfile) to define the resources, networking, and software configurations for their development environment. Vagrant accelerates the development process by providing a consistent and isolated environment for all team members, regardless of their host operating system.


Packer is a flexible IaC tool created by HashiCorp that focuses on building machine images for various platforms. It enables programmers to specify machine settings in a JSON or HCL (HashiCorp Configuration Language) template and then utilize these templates to create similar machine images for various environments, including VirtualBox, VMware, AWS, and more. The ability of Packer to automate image creation simplifies the process of installing uniform and repeatable infrastructure across numerous platforms, minimizing configuration drift and guaranteeing dependable deployments.

What Is Terraform?

To automate numerous infrastructure activities, DevOps teams frequently use the IAC tool Terraform. One of the primary use cases for Terraform is the provisioning of cloud resources, for example. It is an open-source, cloud-independent provisioning tool made by HashiCorp in the Go programming language.

You can use Terraform to write code to describe your entire infrastructure. Terraform enables you to create and manage these resources in parallel across providers, regardless of whether your servers are from the same provider or various ones, like AWS or Azure. You may use Terraform as a single language and connective tissue to manage your complete IT stack.

How does Terraform work?

Terraform uses application programming interfaces (APIs) to construct and manage resources on cloud platforms and other services. Providers make it possible for Terraform to function with almost any service or platform that has an accessible API.

To handle a wide range of resources and services, HashiCorp and the Terraform community have already created thousands of providers. On the Terraform Registry, you may locate every publicly accessible provider, including Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Amazon Web Services (AWS), Kubernetes, Azure, Helm, Splunk, DataDog, GitHub, and many others.

The primary stages of the Terraform workflow are as follows:

Write: You specify resources, which might be spread out among various cloud service providers. As an example, you could set up a setup with security groups and a load balancer to deploy a software application on virtual computers in a Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) network.

Plan: Terraform builds an execution plan outlining the infrastructure it will build, update, or delete based on the current infrastructure & your configuration.

Apply: Following acceptance, Terraform executes the suggested operations correctly and with consideration for any resource dependencies. Terraform will recreate the virtual private cloud (VPC) before scaling the virtual machines, for instance, if you modify the parameters of a VPC and alter the number of virtual machines in that VPC.

What is Terraform used for?

For public cloud deployment on one of the major providers, Terraform serves a key role. The primary goal of Terraform has been and will continue to be, providing an IaC for services like AWS and Azure. Through a provider, a plugin that wraps already-existing APIs as well as languages like Azure Bicep, and the creation of Terraform syntax, Terraform makes it possible to leverage these public clouds.

Terraform’s second primary function is to make multi-cloud deployments easier. Contrary to some of its other IaC competitors, Terraform performs across all of the cloud providers simultaneously, which is one of its primary selling points. Engineers may use the same syntax without having to become familiar with a variety of tools and technologies due to the flexibility to deploy resources to various cloud service providers.

Deploying, maintaining, and coordinating resources with customized cloud providers is the third most popular usage of Terraform. If you’re not utilizing AWS or another popular cloud service, you may still wrap an existing API with Terraform and convert it to its declarative syntax by using a provider. Additionally, providers can be created for internal use cases in which you want to translate pre-existing tools or APIs into Terraform.

So, whether it’s a single cloud, multiple clouds, or a customized deployment, Terraform enables you to manage your complete IT environment via IaC.

Terraform Core Concepts

Configuration Files (HCL)

Terraform uses HashiCorp Configuration Language (HCL) as the default syntax for defining infrastructure configurations. HCL is easy to learn and understand, resembling JSON with additional features for readability. In a Terraform configuration file (usually named ""), users define resources, providers, variables, and outputs, providing a clear blueprint of the infrastructure to be provisioned.


Terraform leverages providers to interact with various infrastructure platforms and services. Providers act as plugins that enable Terraform to communicate with cloud providers like AWS, Azure, GCP, and others. Each provider offers a set of resources that can be managed through Terraform configurations. Users can specify providers and their respective configurations in the Terraform files.


Resources represent the building blocks of infrastructure that Terraform provisions and manages. These resources can be virtual machines, networks, storage, databases, or any other service offered by the cloud provider. Terraform resources are defined using the provider's resource types in the configuration file. When Terraform applies the configuration, it translates the resource definitions into real infrastructure.

State Management

Terraform maintains a state file that records the current state of the deployed infrastructure. The state file is essential for Terraform to determine the changes to be made during updates or subsequent runs. It serves as a source of truth, allowing Terraform to compare the desired state in the configuration file with the actual state of the resources, facilitating consistency and tracking changes.

Variables and Outputs

Terraform supports variables to parameterize configurations and make them reusable across environments. Variables allow users to customize their infrastructure configurations without modifying the underlying code. Outputs, on the other hand, enable users to extract useful information from the deployed infrastructure, such as IP addresses or resource identifiers, making it accessible for other parts of the system.

Data Source

In addition to managing resources, Terraform supports data sources to query and retrieve information from existing infrastructure. Data sources allow users to access information about resources that were not created by Terraform, such as details about an existing virtual machine, security group rules, or a network address range. By integrating data sources into their configurations, users can make informed decisions and ensure that their infrastructure is seamlessly integrated with pre-existing components.


A crucial component that guarantees a secure and predictable infrastructure deployment procedure is the "terraform plan". When Terraform is used, it runs a dry-run of the configuration, analyses any changes that are suggested, and creates an execution plan. The strategy outlines the steps Terraform will take to achieve the goal, including the creation, modification, or destruction of resources. This reduces the possibility of mistakes and unforeseen consequences by allowing users to examine the changes before they are implemented.


Here the plan's suggested changes are put into effect, and the infrastructure is set up according to the configuration files. When users run "Terraform apply," Terraform compares the deployed resources' current state to the configuration's defined ideal state. After that, it starts taking the necessary steps to restore the infrastructure to the desired condition. The apply procedure is intended to be idempotent, which means that once the desired state is attained, it can be safely repeated without resulting in further modifications.

Why Terraform?

As previously mentioned, Terraform is one of the effective IaC technologies that is employed extensively throughout organizations. The following will go over the reasons for the same:

Scalability and Modularity

As businesses expand, their infrastructure needs evolve and require the use of scalable and flexible solutions. Users can divide complex infrastructure configurations into smaller, more manageable units known as modules because of Terraform's modular design. These modules can be utilized across many projects, teams, or settings, facilitating the provisioning of infrastructure and fostering uniformity across the company.


Because Terraform is inherently flexible, customers can modify infrastructure configurations to meet their unique requirements. Terraform can adapt to a variety of use scenarios, whether it's building complicated multi-tier systems or straightforward single-instance settings. Terraform empowers teams to design and manage infrastructure precisely as needed without being restricted by predefined templates due to its wide provider support and customizable modules.

Tracking and Auditing

Terraform-enabled infrastructure changes are versioned and auditable. Every update to the infrastructure codebase is tracked, giving a transparent history of changes and making it simple to revert to earlier versions if necessary. The capacity to track helps ensure openness, responsibility, and adherence to rules and laws for the industry.


Terraform is excellent at automating the provisioning of infrastructure. Teams can utilize automation to quickly deploy and expand resources with minimal manual intervention by codifying infrastructure configurations. Automation lowers the possibility of human error, guarantees consistent setups, and frees up developers' time to work on high-value jobs, increasing productivity overall.

Standardizing Configurations

Maintaining a dependable and manageable infrastructure depends on standardization. Terraform facilitates consistent configurations across environments by promoting the development of reusable modules and ensuring the application of best practices. As a result of this standardization, configuration drift's potential for causing problems is reduced by the differences between development, testing, and production settings.


By allowing teams to simultaneously work on the same codebase, Terraform fosters team collaboration. Git and other version control systems can be used to manage code changes and enable team development. Reviewing and debating potential infrastructure modifications among team members can result in better judgements and a more efficient development process.

Terraform Modules

Resources can be managed and organized using Terraform modules, which are reusable parts of Terraform code. They offer a mechanism to package particular functionality and distribute it among various infrastructure components, making it simple to standardize infrastructure management procedures. To generate many instances of the same infrastructure, a module can be called multiple times with varied input variables and can contain variables, resources, and output. The management of extensive and complicated infrastructure can be considerably streamlined as a result.

The use of modules in configuration offers various advantages, including improved code readability, maintainability, and reuse. It is simpler to comprehend, test, and adjust infrastructure when it is divided into smaller, more manageable sections. Additionally, modules make it simpler to reuse the same infrastructure code across different applications and enable better organization. Additionally, it makes it simpler for several teams and organizations to share the same infrastructure code.

Terraform has numerous widely used modules that can be used, including ones for managing load balancers, subnets, security groups, and virtual private clouds (VPCs). Many cloud service providers also have a unique set of modules for managing resources unique to their platform. For instance, the GCP supplier includes a module for managing cloud SQL instances, whereas the AWS provider has a module for managing S3 buckets. You only need to provide any required input variables and the module’s source to utilize a module. You can utilize modules from GitHub or the official Terraform Registry, among other places.


In summary, this Terraform course gave beginners an overview of Terraform, including how to get started with it, how it is used in infrastructure management, and how significant it is to current DevOps practices. In this article, we discussed Terraform’s fundamentals. 

You can examine the official Terraform documentation, which offers thorough information on all elements of Terraform, to further expand your understanding of it. In addition, if you’re interested in learning more, I have a thorough Terraform 101 course. Terraform 101 – Certified Terraform Associate is the name of the course. You will get the abilities you need for ongoing real-world scenarios in addition to the knowledge you need to pass the most recent Terraform Associate exam.

As we’ve seen, Terraform is a great tool for automating infrastructure management, and it works with various providers. I urge you to begin utilizing Terraform in your infrastructure projects as well as experiment with all the opportunities it presents. You can use Terraform to manage your infrastructure more effectively, consistently, and reliably while also making use of the many advantages of infrastructure as code. Learning Terraform is simple; all you need to do is commit to doing it every day to see how quickly you pick it up.