A Primer on Terraform Concepts

Terraform is an open-source tool for building, changing, and versioning infrastructure safely and efficiently. It allows you to describe your infrastructure as code and manage it in a version-controlled way, just like you would with application code.

Here are the basic steps of how Terraform works:

  1. Write your infrastructure code: You write infrastructure code in the Terraform configuration language (HCL) to describe the resources you want to create. You can define resources like servers, load balancers, databases, and more, as well as their configurations and relationships.

  2. Initialize your Terraform project: Before you can use Terraform, you need to initialize your project with the terraform init command. This installs any necessary plugins and sets up your Terraform environment.

  3. Plan your changes: Once you have written your infrastructure code and initialized your project, you can use the terraform plan command to see what changes Terraform will make to your infrastructure to bring it in line with your code. This step is important because it allows you to preview changes before they are made and avoid potential issues.

  4. Apply your changes: After reviewing your plan and making any necessary adjustments, you can use the terraform apply command to apply your changes and create or modify your infrastructure resources.

  5. Review and manage your infrastructure: Terraform maintains a state file that contains information about your infrastructure resources and their relationships. You can review this state file to see the current state of your infrastructure and use Terraform commands to manage it, such as terraform show, terraform refresh, terraform destroy, and more.

Overall, Terraform provides a powerful way to manage your infrastructure as code , giving you greater control, scalability, and efficiency in managing your infrastructure resources.

The Benefit of using Terraform

Using Terraform can help you achieve greater efficiency, consistency, and reliability in managing your infrastructure, while reducing the risk of errors and downtime.

There are several benefits to using Terraform:

Infrastructure as code

Terraform allows you to define your infrastructure as code, which means you can manage it using the same version control and collaboration tools you use for your application code. This makes it easier to track changes, collaborate with others, and maintain consistency across your infrastructure.


Terraform is platform-agnostic, which means it can be used to manage infrastructure across multiple cloud providers, on-premises data centers, and even edge devices. This makes it easier to adopt a multi-cloud or hybrid-cloud strategy, and avoid vendor lock-in.


Terraform is idempotent, which means you can safely apply your infrastructure code multiple times without worrying about unintended changes or side effects. Terraform will only make changes to your infrastructure when necessary, based on the differences between your code and the current state of your infrastructure.


Terraform allows you to automate the creation, modification, and deletion of your infrastructure resources. This means you can spend less time manually provisioning and configuring resources, and more time focusing on higher-level tasks like improving your application or business logic.


Terraform supports collaboration, so multiple developers can work on the same infrastructure codebase simultaneously. It also allows for code review, version control, and testing to ensure changes are thoroughly vetted before being applied to production.

The Common Components of Terraform

By using these components together, you can create and manage your infrastructure resources in a structured, repeatable way, making it easier to maintain and scale your infrastructure over time.

The common components of Terraform include:


Providers are plugins that allow Terraform to interact with different infrastructure platforms, such as AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, and many others. Providers are responsible for translating Terraform configuration code into API requests that create and manage infrastructure resources.


Resources are the building blocks of Terraform configurations. They represent infrastructure components such as virtual machines, databases, load balancers, and more. Resources are defined in Terraform configuration files and can be provisioned, modified, and destroyed using Terraform.


Modules are self-contained Terraform configurations that encapsulate a set of resources and can be reused across different infrastructure configurations. Modules can be written by you or can be downloaded from the Terraform Registry, which is a public repository of reusable Terraform modules .


Terraform maintains a state file that tracks the current state of your infrastructure resources, including their attributes, dependencies, and relationships. This allows Terraform to determine what changes need to be made to your infrastructure when you apply new configuration code.


Variables allow you to parameterize your Terraform configuration files, making them more flexible and reusable. Variables can be defined in a separate file or passed in as command-line arguments.

Output values

Output values allow you to extract data from your Terraform configuration, such as IP addresses, URLs, or other metadata. Output values can be displayed on the command line or passed on to other scripts or tools.

Terraform Comments

Terraform comments allow you to both document your infrastructure as code as well as to keep elaborate notes and rationales directly in your codebase for others to review at a later point.

When you should not use Terraform

While Terraform is a powerful tool for managing infrastructure as code , there are certain situations where it may not be the best fit.

Moreover, Terraform is a powerful and flexible tool for managing infrastructure as code , it may not be the best fit for all situations. It’s important to carefully consider your infrastructure needs and constraints before choosing a tool or approach.

Here are some cases where you may want to consider an alternative to Terraform:

Small-scale infrastructure

If you only have a few resources to manage or a simple infrastructure setup, using Terraform may be overkill. In this case, it may be more efficient to manage resources manually or using simpler configuration management tools.

Temporary or disposable infrastructure

If you only need to provision infrastructure temporarily, such as for a short-lived project or a one-time experiment, using Terraform may not be necessary. In these cases, it may be easier to provision resources manually or using cloud provider consoles.

Highly dynamic infrastructure

If your infrastructure is highly dynamic, meaning it changes frequently and unpredictably, Terraform may not be the best choice. In this case, it may be more effective to use tools that are more responsive to changes, such as serverless architectures or container orchestration systems.

Legacy infrastructure

If you are managing legacy infrastructure that is not well-suited to being managed as code, such as physical servers or outdated systems, Terraform may not be the best fit. In these cases, it may be more effective to use traditional configuration management tools or manual processes.