Terraform vs. Ansible

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Oct 16, 2023

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In the world of DevOps, Infrastructure deployment strategies have been quite the talk. And for infrastructure deployment, Terraform and Ansible are the top choices that come to mind. They are both excellent DevOps tools that help in automation and orchestration.

 Terraform is an open-source, Infrastructure to Code platform that focuses on shift, lift and readability deployments. Ansible is an open-source configuration management tool that helps in automating system configurations.

 Overall, Terraform and Ansible are both great automation platforms with open-source roots. But this may make it difficult for the users to differentiate between the platform. Thus, this article will focus on in-depts of Terraform and Ansible to provide a clear view. So, read on!


What is Terraform?

 Terraform is an agentless and masterless orchestration tool. It helps DevOp Teams create and deploy infrastructural resources like load balancers, networks and virtual machines. It makes use of open source and infrastructure as code tools. Its declarative language makes Terraform easy to use.

 Terraform also has features like lifecycle management and mutable infrastructure. Along with this, it is capable of provisioning and configuring. One can integrate terraform with Heroku, Google Computer Engine, Microsoft Azure, etc.

 All these features make Terraform an elite platform used by Starbucks, Uber, Twitch and other big brands.

How does Terraform work?

 Terraform works in a declarative nature, i.e. It describes the end state without defining the steps to reach these. It also works at a high level of abstraction to create and define services and resources.


Terraform works with two main components:

  • Terraform Core: The terraform core takes input and helps figure out plans. It is further divided into two input sources to get desired output. The first one is Terraforms configurations set by the users. While the second one is a state that knows infrastructure.
  • Providers: The second component is providers like GCP, AWS, Azure, etc. It helps in creating infrastructure on various levels.

Advantages of Terraform

  • Assists smooth change in configuration due to stable infrastructure as code.
  • Supports various providers like AWS, Azure and Google Cloud.
  • Competent to perform orchestration and configuration management.
  • Supports both HCL and JSON-compatible syntax.
  • Helps in a smooth transition between providers
  • Doesn’t require additional server-side configuration management due to client-only architecture.

Disadvantages of Terraform

  • Inefficient error handling
  • Consistent state and infrastructure synchronization.
  • Users need to learn either JSON-compatible syntax or HCL.
  • Renaming resources and shifting them to deeper modules may be complicated.


What is Ansible?

Ansible is an open-source configuration management tool. Like Terraform, it is agentless, serverless and masterless and very easy to use.

 Ansible mainly helps in automatic orchestration, provisioning, configuration management, deployment and other IT processes. A unique thing about ansible is that it doesn’t depend on any security infrastructure or agent software. Thus, it is ideal for performing organizational IT programs.

Ansible also has some commercial extensions like Ansible Tower. Along with this, it assists modules for managing UNIX and Windows hosts. Ansible depends on PowerShell/SSH for conducting configuration programs.


How does Ansible work?

Ansible works in the Procedural language and ensures no misuse of resources. It doesn’t run on target notes and makes connections using SSH. Usually, Python modules must be installed on target using JSON.

Further, the modules can run on target with simple instructions. These modules execute the work and get removed. 

Ansible also has management nodes that help in controlling the entire execution. All the installations run in the management node. It also makes the SSH connections to execute the modules on the host and install the product.

Inventory files are another essential component that provides host lists where the module run.


Advantages of Ansible

  • Using Python enables easy extendibility and readability
  • Installation and configuration are simple
  • Users can run agentless client configurations
  • Highly Scalable
  • Provides access to the Ansible Galaxy portal for sharing Ansible content.


Disadvantages of Ansible

  • Cannot complete tasks completed by CLI.
  • Poor UI leads to synchronized problems in GUI and CLI
  • Lacks a notion of state
  • Limited support for Windows
  • Lacks Vibrant community support as compared to old competitors


Similarities between Terraform and Ansible

Both Terraform and Ansible have various similarities at a high level. Some of these are listed below:

  • Both are capable of setting and equipping new cloud infrastructure with necessary application components
  • Both can carry out remote commands on a freshly formed virtual machine
  • They are both agentless and do not require agent deployment
  • Both can build infrastructures by utilizing SSH and APIs of cloud providers for simple configuration programs.
  • They are both Masterless and do not require separate parts of the infrastructure to manage

Differences between Terraform and Ansible

Terraform and Ansible shares many similarities. But there are four differences between them. Each of these is listed below in detail:


1. Orchestration Vs Configuration management

Terraform and Ansible both work on two different concepts of DevOps: Orchestration and Configuration Management.

Ansible uses the configuration management tool to solve issues locally and replace the system entirely. While terraform uses orchestration to restore the state of the domain.

2. Declarative Vs Procedural

Terraform and Ansible works in two different styles called - procedural and declarative.Terraform works with a declarative approach and ensures the changes in the defined environment get rectified continuously. While Ansible is hybrid and follows both procedural and declarative styles.

3. Mutable Vs Immutable

In mutable applications, the foundation infrastructure acts as bade for later versions. It makes it convenient but also prone to failure. While for immutable applications, an entirely new infrastructure gets deployed.In case of terraform and ansible, terraform is mutable and ansible is immutable.

4. State Management

State management differs highly for Terraform and Ansible. While Ansible doesn’t have lifecycle management, Terraform does. It is a crucial part of Terraforms operations and helps monitor the lifecycle of resources.

Terraform Vs Ansible – Which one to pick?

Terraform and  Ansible are unique tools with different limitations and characteristics. They both differ widely in their features and uses. Thus, when picking between terraforming or ansible, one must have a thorough knowledge of each. This way one can easily choose the one that suits their needs and benefits them.


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Users need to know the tools before picking them. This way one can make the best use of the applications without wasting time. In case of Terraform and Ansible –

  • Terraform is used for provisioning infrastructures in various clouds. It supports over 200 providers and is good for managing cloud services.
  • Ansible is used to perform both configuration management and provisioning.

Both these tools can be used either as standalone or work together depending on the users and jobs needs. To know more about Terraform, Ansible and other DevOp tools, one can refer to StarAgile Consulting’s DevOps certification. Enrolling DevOps course will help you understand the difference between terraform and ansible and their significance in DevOps. 


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