Introduction to Terraform

Welcome to the intro guide to Terraform! This guide is the best place to start with Terraform. We cover what Terraform is, what problems it can solve, how it compares to existing software, and contains a quick start for using Terraform.

If you are already familiar with the basics of Terraform, the documentation provides a better reference guide for all available features as well as internals.

What is Terraform?

Terraform is a tool for building, changing, and versioning infrastructure safely and efficiently. Terraform can manage existing and popular service providers as well as custom in-house solutions.

Configuration files describe to Terraform the components needed to run a single application or your entire datacenter. Terraform generates an execution plan describing what it will do to reach the desired state, and then executes it to build the described infrastructure. As the configuration changes, Terraform is able to determine what changed and create incremental execution plans which can be applied.

The infrastructure Terraform can manage includes low-level components such as compute instances, storage, and networking, as well as high-level components such as DNS entries, SaaS features, etc…

Examples work best to showcase Terraform. Please see the use cases.

The key features of Terraform are:

Infrastructure as Code

Infrastructure is described using a high-level configuration syntax. This allows a blueprint of your datacenter to be versioned and treated as you would any other code. Additionally, infrastructure can be shared and re-used.

Execution Plans

Terraform has a “planning” step where it generates an execution plan. The execution plan shows what Terraform will do when you call apply. This lets you avoid any surprises when Terraform manipulates infrastructure.

Resource Graph

Terraform builds a graph of all your resources, and parallelizes the creation and modification of any non-dependent resources. Because of this, Terraform builds infrastructure as efficiently as possible, and operators get insight into dependencies in their infrastructure.

Change Automation

Complex changesets can be applied to your infrastructure with minimal human interaction. With the previously mentioned execution plan and resource graph, you know exactly what Terraform will change and in what order, avoiding many possible human errors.

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