The Difference Between Terraform and Ansible

The Difference Between Terraform and Ansible
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Written by Shuvhojit DebNovember 20, 2021
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Shuvhojit Deb

Full Stack Developer

Let's find the difference between Terraform and Ansible and see which one is better.

What is Terraform?

HashiCorp Terraform is an open-source infrastructure as code (IaC) software tool that allows DevOps engineers to programmatically provision the physical resources an application requires to run.

Infrastructure as code is an IT practice that manages an application's underlying IT infrastructure through programming. This approach to resource allocation allows developers to logically manage, monitor, and provision resources -- as opposed to requiring that an operations team manually configure each required resource. Terraform is a tool for building, changing, and versioning infrastructure safely and efficiently. Terraform can help with multi-cloud by having one workflow for all clouds. The infrastructure Terraform manages can be hosted on public clouds like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform, or on-prem in private clouds such as VMWare vSphere, OpenStack, or CloudStack.

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Features of Terraform

Now we will discuss the features of Terraform.

  • Terraform follows a declarative approach which makes deployments quick and easy.
  • It is a comfortable tool to display the resulting model in a graphical form.
  • Terraform also manages external service providers such as cloud networks and in-house solutions.
  • It is one of the rare tools to offer building infrastructure from scratch, whether public, private or multi-cloud.
  • It helps manage parallel environments, making it a good choice for testing, validating bug fixes, and formal acceptance.
  • Modular code helps in achieving consistency, reusability, and collaboration.
  • Terraform can manage multiple clouds to increase fault tolerance.

What is Ansible?

Ansible is a software tool that provides simple but powerful automation for cross-platform computer support. It is primarily intended for IT professionals, who use it for application deployment, updates on workstations and servers, cloud provisioning, configuration management, intra-service orchestration, and nearly anything a systems administrator does on a weekly or daily basis. Ansible doesn't depend on agent software and has no additional security infrastructure, so it's easy to deploy.

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Features of Ansible

Now we will discuss the features of Ansible.

  • Ansible is used for configuration management and follows a procedural approach.
  • Ansible deals with infrastructure platforms such as bare metal, cloud networks, and virtualized devices like hypervisors.
  • Ansible follows idempotent behavior that makes it to place node in the same state every time.
  • It uses Infrastructure as a Code system configuration across the infrastructure.
  • It offers rapid and easy deployment of multi-tier apps with being agentless.
  • If the code is interrupted, it allows entering the code again without any conflicts with other invocations.

Difference between Terraform and Ansible Provisioning

Terraform

  1. Terraform is a provisioning tool.
  2. It follows a declarative Infrastructure as a Code approach.
  3. It is the best fit for orchestrating cloud services and setup cloud infrastructure from scratch.
  4. Terraform does not support bare metal provisioning by default.
  5. It does not provide better support in terms of packaging and templating.
  6. It highly depends on lifecycle or state management.

Ansible

  1. Ansible is a configuration management tool.
  2. It follows a procedural approach.
  3. It is mainly used for configuring servers with the right software and updating already configured resources.
  4. Ansible supports the provisioning of bare metal servers.
  5. It provides full support for packaging and templating.
  6. It does not have lifecycle management at all.

Summary

We’ve seen how Terraform and Ansible are command-line-oriented tools that are complementary in capability rather than adversarial. Lifecycle management of infrastructure lends itself to a Terraform declarative approach, whereas the imperative approach of Ansible is better suited to configuration management because of its customizability. Neither tool is active; both are “run and done”. As such, they don’t address high scale or high availability requirements.

Cloudify occupies a different niche than these tools; much more focused on enterprise use cases that value high scale and high availability. Rather than a passive approach to state management which potentially requires scanning hundreds or thousands of nodes for health checks, Cloudify integrates with monitoring applications like Nagios and Prometheus to respond in a focused manner to provide real-time day 2 operations like healing and scaling.

Conclusion

It is essential to know which tool is used for which job among Terraform vs. Ansible. Terraform is mainly known for provisioning infrastructure across various clouds. It supports more than 200 providers and is a great tool to manage cloud services below the server. In comparison, Ansible is optimized to perform both provisioning and configuration management. Therefore, we can say that both Terraform and Ansible can work hand in hand as standalone tools or work together but always pick up the right tool as per the job requirement.

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Ansible vs Terraform
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Shuvhojit Deb
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