Terraform vs. Ansible

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) is a vast field. On one hand, there are tools for infrastructure provisioning, while on the other, there are tools for configuration management. Two of the most well-known names in the IaC sector are Ansible and Terraform. Let’s see how the dispute between Terraform and Ansible plays out.

What are the functions of Ansible and Terraform? What difference does it make? This blog will demonstrate how these technologies can work together to form a powerful toolkit.

As the DevOps industry focuses more on automation and orchestration, the Terraform vs. Ansible rivalry continues to heat up. These two tools aid in the automation of configurations and infrastructure deployment. 

Terraform allows you to deploy Infrastructure as Code, which improves readability and allows you to lift and move your deployments. 

Ansible is a configuration management solution that allows you to automate the configuration and management of your system.

Let’s have a look in detail at each of these. To start with we’ll go with Terraform.


What’s terraform?

Terraform is an open-source program for securely constructing, altering, and versioning infrastructure. It’s an Infrastructure as a Code tool that’s really simple to use. It aids in the development and scaling of cloud services as well as network management. 

Terraform is a HashiCorp product that may be used to build, manage, and improve infrastructure. It entails the use of open-source code to push APIs into configuration files. In the fight of Terraform vs. Terraform, Terraform appears to be a formidable contender. Due to several distinct advantages, Ansible is a viable option.

Its principal applications are in data centers and software-defined networking. It creates, alters, and destroys servers and other cloud services, rather than installing and managing software on existing hardware.

Terraform is used by Slack, Uber, Starbucks, and Twitch, among other well-known companies. Terraform can also work with Microsoft Azure, Heroku, and Google Compute Engine, among other things.


Terraform Characteristics

  • Terraform uses a declarative approach to deployments, making them quick and painless.
  • It’s a handy tool for displaying the final model in a graphical format.
  • External service providers, such as cloud networks and in-house solutions, are also managed using Terraform.
  • It’s one of the few tools that can help you construct infrastructure from the ground up, whether it’s public, private, or multi-cloud.
  • It makes it a strong choice for testing, verifying bug fixes, and formal acceptance because it helps manage parallel setups.
  • Consistency, reusability, and collaboration are all aided by modular programming.
  • To boost fault tolerance, Terraform can manage numerous clouds.


How does it work?

Terraform is made up of two primary functioning components.

  • Terraform Core
  • Providers

Terraform’s nature is declarative. It simply states the system’s final state without elaborating on how to get there. It describes what services and resources should be built and described at a high level of abstraction.

Terraform core requires two input sources in order to function. The first source of data is a Terraform configuration set up by its users. What needs to be supplied and developed is determined by the users. The second input source is a state that contains infrastructure information.

As a result, terraform core takes the input and generates numerous strategies for how to attain the desired outcome.

Providers, such as cloud providers like AWS, GCP, Azure, or other Infrastructure as a Service platforms, are the second major component. It aids in the development of infrastructure at various levels.

Consider the following scenario: users establish an AWS infrastructure, deploy Kubernetes on top of it, and then create services within the Kubernetes cluster. Terraform includes several providers for various technologies, and users can use terraform to access resources from these providers. This is terraform the fundamental working language for provisioning and covering the entire application setup, from infrastructure to fully created application.


What is Ansible?

When comparing Ansible vs Terraform, you’ll notice that Ansible is a straightforward automation tool. It’s a free tool with declarative language. Software provisioning, application deployment, and configuration management are all made easier using Ansible. Ansible’s main benefit is the reduction of complexity and the acceleration of DevOps initiatives.

Ansible can also better orchestrate complicated IT activities like rolling updates with no downtime and continuous deployments. Ansible’s main goals are to make things simpler and easier to use.


Ansible Features

  • Ansible is a configuration management tool that follows a step-by-step process.
  • Ansible works with bare metal, cloud networks, and virtualized devices like hypervisors as infrastructure platforms.
  • Ansible uses idempotent behavior, which means it always places nodes in the same state.
  • It configures the Infrastructure as a Code system across the infrastructure.
  • Because it is agentless, it allows for quick and straightforward deployment of multi-tier apps.
  • If the code is interrupted, it permits the code to be entered again without interfering with subsequent invocations. Click here to know more about Ansible.

How does Ansible work?

Ansible is a command-line tool that does not require the use of an agent and does not run on the target nodes. It uses SSH or other authentication mechanisms to establish connections. It uses JSON to install several Python modules on the target. 

These are simple instructions that are executed on the target. These modules are run and then uninstalled once their task is completed. This method assures that no resources are wasted on the objective. Python must be installed on the controlling as well as the target nodes.

The Ansible management node is a controlling node that oversees the playbook’s execution. This node is where the installations will be run. There is an inventory file that contains a list of hosts on which the modules must be run. 

The management node connects to the host system through SSH to run the modules and install the product. Modules are withdrawn from the system once they have been installed. This is Ansible’s straightforward operation.


Differences between Ansible and Terraform 

Orchestration vs. Configuration Management

At the same time, Terraform and Ansible have a lot of similarities and distinctions. When we look at two key DevOps concepts: orchestration and configuration management, we can see the difference.

Rather than rebuilding the system totally, configuration management technologies fix the problems locally. Ansible assists in the configuration of each action and instrument and guarantees that they operate without damage or error. Ansible also has hybrid capabilities that allow it to do both orchestration and infrastructure replacement.

Orchestration software ensures that an environment remains in the desired state at all times. Terraform is built to store the domain’s state. Terraform automatically recovers and computes the complete process in the system after reloading if there is a problem in the system. In instances when a constant and invariable state is required, it is the best fit. Terraform Apply aids in the effective resolution of all anomalies.


Declarative vs. Procedural

DevOps tools are divided into two categories: procedural and declarative. These two categories describe how tools work.

Terraform uses a declarative approach, which ensures that any modifications to your defined environment are corrected. This utility tries to reach the sysadmin-specified intended end state. Puppet uses a declarative approach as well. We may use terraform to describe the intended state and have it automatically figure out how to get from one to the next.

Ansible is a hybrid cross. It can be configured in both declarative and procedural styles. It implements procedural-style setups using ad-hoc commands. Please read Ansible’s documentation thoroughly to have a thorough understanding of its behavior. It’s critical to understand whether you’ll need to add or delete resources to achieve your goal, or whether you’ll need to specify the resources required explicitly.


Final Thoughts

Between Terraform and Ansible, knowing which tool is used for which job is critical. Terraform is most known for its ability to deploy infrastructure across several clouds. It is a wonderful tool for managing cloud services underneath the server and supports over 200 providers.

To become certified in Terraform and Ansible, you can take an online course with us!

Ansible, on the other hand, is designed to handle both provisioning and configuration management. As a result, we can conclude that both Terraform and Ansible may be used independently or in tandem, but that the proper tool should always be used based on the job requirements.

Both instruments have a lot in common and a lot in common with each other. So, which one is the most effective? From a practical standpoint, using Ansible for configuration management and Terraform for orchestration is recommended. Terraform’s major function is orchestration, and it is extremely user-friendly.

You’ll discover that all Terraform upgrades are suitable for orchestration. In addition, when compared to the “Ansible –dry-run” command, the “Terraform Plan” can assist in acquiring more helpful information. Ansible, on the other hand, is the best tool for configuration management. However, you should be aware of Ansible’s limits when it comes to orchestration chores.