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Terraform vs Ansible
Updated on 19th Nov, 22 1094 Views

As the DevOps industry is gaining momentum, the tools, Ansible and Terraform, have also witnessed an increase in their popularity. Both the tools help in deploying the code and infrastructure: While Ansible acts as a configuration management solution, Terraform is a service orchestration tool.

In this blog, we will focus on the following topics:

Understanding Terraform

Developed and offered by HashiCorp, Terraform is an open-source Infrastructure as Code that allows users to manage cloud services through a language named HashiCorp Configuration Language (HCL). Currently, Terraform supports 200 providers, including public cloud, private cloud, and SaaS providers.

As a beginner, you might find the below tutorial on Terraform to be useful:

In Terraform, the final state is defined directly. The only drawback is that as Terraform is declarative in nature, the final result is accessible only to providers. Therefore, if users need to access the end state, then they must install and configure the deployed applications using the scripts and tools.

Along with initial deployment, Terraform also performs orchestration. This functionality is possible because of its:

  • Execution plans: Users can specify the steps to be performed, along with the order of execution.
  • Resource graphs: Users can visualize the plan, which is much more than the performance of Ansible.

Terraform code is efficient enough in spinning up the environments; hence, it quickly describes the resources that make up a stack.

When we make a comparison as Ansible vs Terraform, we get to know that Terraform works great in automating provisioning processes and also aids in the process of moving to cloud management resources.

The main difference between Terraform and Ansible is that Terraform is declarative in defining the process by which results can be achieved. While using Terraform, code always represents the present status of the infrastructure.

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  • Terraform consists of a command-line interface that can provide infrastructure in simple code.
  • It can efficiently perform building, versioning, and altering the infrastructure.
  • It is excellent in managing cloud services.
  • Terraform offers flexibility in managing service providers and in-house solutions.
  • It can also manage low-level instances, such as storage and networking, along with high-level instances, like SaaS and DNS.
  • It consists of built-in parallel mechanisms.
  • Terraform supports several providers. Therefore, a user can handle multi-cloud environments using the same language.

Features of Terraform

  • Deploy IaC: Terraform quickly deploys Infrastructure as Code, due to which environment installation and development is faster with Terraform.
  • Modular approach: This approach uplifts consistency and collaboration. Using this feature, functionality can be easily shared and reused across all deployments.
  • The graph command: Terraform graph command executes the modeling of relationships.

Terraform is quick to build from scratch as compared to other tools. It can be used to build anything, be it creating a cloud network, scaling objects, or providing pretty much every cloud feature.

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Understanding Ansible

Ansible has been run by Red Hat Inc. since 2012. It is a configuration management tool with a core open-source project. However, a few commercial extensions, like Ansible Tower, are also available. Ansible’s architecture is agentless and serverless, and it supports modules for managing Windows and UNIX-like hosts. It depends on SSH/PowerShell sessions for conducting the configuration tasks.

Ansible executes an imperious DevOps paradigm. As a result, its users are solely considered responsible for executing all the ad-hoc commands and steps that go into achieving the desired goal. The essential tasks here include:

  • Writing instructions on the way to install applications
  • Design the templates of configuration files

Because of its imperative nature, Ansible is perfectly suitable for traditional configuration management. It is used for various purposes, such as automation and potential migration. However, Ansible is inefficient in orchestrating services and in scaling large environments of interconnected applications.

Ansible is a popular automation tool used for deploying codes and servers. Due to its configuration methodology, Ansible can help track the changes made and bring servers and services within the desired state.

Go through this Ansible Tutorial to learn more about Ansible.

Features of Ansible

  • Agentless: This is the biggest advantage of Ansible. Being agentless diminishes the efforts involved in installing and managing an agent.
  • Re-entrant: This is a notable feature added in Ansible, which lessens the effort that goes into script re-entrant. You just need to re-run Ansible, and your problem gets fixed!
  • Infrastructure as Code: It acts as a single tool for all DevOps tasks as it defines the infrastructure in the Ansible playbook and commits to source control.

Ansible is a lightweight tool preferable for quick deployment abilities. Moreover, it is user-friendly, to begin with. You can perform the complete management of your servers with just a little configuration.

When you make a comparison as Terraform vs Ansible, Ansible excels in the process of configuring systems as it follows the step-by-step process in achieving the end result.

Ansible consists of numerous popular sub-modules, such as AWS, Salesforce, and Azure, to be able to support integrations. This configuration management tool is perceived as a hybrid tool as it can execute a procedural-style configuration.

AWS and Azure are also very famous cloud providers. Learn about the difference between them in the AWS vs Azure blog.

Difference Between Ansible and Terraform

In this section, let’s put more focus on Ansible vs Terraform, and check the difference between the two. Though both are designed for discrete purposes, Ansible and Terraform have definitely laid a path for lifecycle management frameworks.

Difference Between Terraform and Ansible

Career Transition

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Terraform vs Ansible for Provisioning

The initial step involved in the automation of the operational life cycle is ‘automation of provisioning.’ Both Ansible and Terraform act as the best choice in provisioning the systems.

However, both are used for the provisioning process differently. Let’s have a close look at what all they do.

Terraform for Provisioning

Terraform’s current declarative model lacks certain features due to which complexity arises while using it in some ways.

When Terraform is made as part of a plan, it acts impotent in executing provisioners’ actions. Therefore, more details, such as granting access to the servers of users, installing software, and issuing login credentials, need to be coordinated to make provisioners function successfully.

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Ansible for Provisioning

Ansible can seamlessly provision cloud platforms, servers, hosts, and hypervisors. It is considered to be the best tool for processing pipelines.

After executing bootstrapping, Ansible enables teams to connect nodes either to a load balancer, storage, operational tasks, or security, and Azure supports the integration. Moreover, Ansible provisioning helps users employ the universal automation language consistently across orchestration, application deployment, and configuration management.

Final Note

Terraform and Ansible have their fair share of similarities, along with some dissimilarities. Both tools help in deploying code and infrastructure in repeatable environments that possess complex requirements. However, if you take a practical approach, it is advisable to use Terraform for the purpose of orchestration and Ansible for configuration management.

As day by day data centers are increasing in their complexity, each of these tools finds its space in the development process. Nevertheless, you should be aware of the limitations of both before employing them in your workforce.

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