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April 18, 2024
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Infrastructure

Unlocking Efficiency & Building Flexible Infrastructure With Terraform Cloud


If you are interested in Terraform, the leading tool for Infrastructure as Code (IaC), then you need to know about Terraform Cloud, the official platform designed for teams to manage and collaborate on Terraform code. 


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In the words of NAND Research founding partner Steve McDowell, HashiCorp is more than just Terraform. The company is involved in various elements of app deployment, especially in the areas of service discovery, service mesh, security management, and app scheduling. However, the company is more prominently known for its infrastructure-as-Code (IaC) solutions, tools that are related to Terraform.

Terraform Cloud, in particular, merits a closer look. This platform extends the capabilities of Terraform by centralizing configuration management. It makes IaC management with Terraform even better as it offers a number of important functions to enable or support access delegation for infrastructure engineers, policy enforcement, and remote state management, among others.

The Terraform Cloud

Before going into the details of this HashiCorp service, it bears mentioning this important detail: the changes in Terraform cloud pricing. In June this year, HashiCorp updated their Terraform Cloud pricing. The primary change is about charging service costs based on the number of resources connected to Terraform, also known as the Resources Under Management (RUM) model. Previously, Terraform Cloud imposed charges according to the number of users. To learn more about this price update, visit this guide to Terraform cloud pricing.

This price update received mixed responses. Some welcomed it as it entailed savings for them. However, for others, the change meant greater service charges. Nevertheless, Terraform Cloud continues to be an attractive service as it augments Terraform with automation and additional management features. It allows organizations that are embracing Infrastructure-as-Code to achieve greater efficiency and scalability.

Streamlined collaboration

One of the ways Terraform Cloud enables greater efficiency is by providing the ability to collaborate systematically. It facilitates collaborative work by providing a centralized platform through which teams can work concurrently. It introduces the Workspaces feature that simplifies the process of isolating and managing various infrastructure components. It also provides fine-grained access controls for every workspace, preventing possible instances of unauthorized configuration modifications and securing the collaborative environment.

Additionally,  Terraform Cloud streamlines collaboration with its remote state management function, which makes local state file management unnecessary and ensures that all team members are using the most recent infrastructure state. Terraform Cloud also makes it easy for members to review, apply changes, or roll back changes.

Moreover, Terraform Cloud comes with notifications and triggers to promptly inform team members about the start of planned actions, completion of runs, and other important events. It also enables collaborative runs by allowing teams to initiate runs from Terraform Cloud and sharing information on run progress and results in real-time.

Centralized variable and parameter management

Terraform Cloud is designed to provide a centralized approach to dealing with variables and input parameters for configurations. This provides the advantage of rapid customization for different environments such as staging, development, and production. Configurations can be modified without changing the underlying code, ensuring adaptability across a variety of deployment scenarios. 

At the same time, this centralized parameterization and variable management yields consistency and uniform configuration. Instead of hardcoding values, teams can develop a standardized approach for infrastructure definitions that can then be modified for different environments. This significantly lessens the possibility of configuration drift.

Centralization also leads to simpler maintenance with variables set in one location and the updates automatically getting propagated to the intended configurations. Additionally, it promotes efficient scaling by allowing teams to adjust their infrastructure through a comprehensive set of parameters.

Version control integration

Terraform Cloud can integrate with a variety of version control systems. It can seamlessly work with Git, for example,  to ensure a smooth and automated workflow. This results in enhanced efficiency and flexibility in infrastructure-as-code management. 

Version control system integration ensures auditability, given the detailed monitoring of changes made to the infrastructure code. This makes it easy to identify who introduced the changes and when they were made, which provides clarity to the flow and purpose of the changes.

Additionally, the ability to integrate with version control systems provides the benefit of reversibility. In cases when errors or issues emerge, the solution will not require a full rework but a simple rollback or reversion to a previous state. Teams can easily go back to a specific commit that appears in the version history, which immediately undoes the changes deemed to be defective or erroneous. This is a convenient safety net against deployment issues. 

Automated runs and pipelines

Terraform Cloud allows teams to set automated runs, which are an effective mechanism in making sure that changes to infrastructure code trigger automatic updates. This considerably reduces the amount of manual work involved in the deployment process, resulting in streamlined deployment and the consistent application of changes across different environments.

The automated runs in Terraform Cloud may be configured to include a number of tests that are automatically executed during the deployment process. In conjunction with predefined standards and compliance requirements, having these tests ensures that infrastructure changes are free from issues, errors, or vulnerabilities. All changes will have to pass through applicable tests or security validation before they can be allowed.

Also, Terraform Cloud can integrate with continuous integration systems, which means that Terraform runs can be made part of the broader CI/CD pipeline. This seamless connection allows teams to conduct automated testing, validation, and the deployment of infrastructure changes in a predictable and organized manner.

In conclusion

Terraform Cloud provides Terraform a major boost by allowing teams to use the popular IaC tool together. It unlocks more efficiency out of Terraform with its collaborative features, empowering organizations to build scalable, consistent, and reliable infrastructure. It also affords flexibility in IaC management with its centralization of variable and parameter management. It also integrates with version control systems and enables automated runs and pipelines. Moreover, Terraform Cloud provides easy access to shared states and secrets as well as a private registry that systematizes the Terraform module sharing.

Terraform Cloud is a hosted service that can be used for free. However, the free version is quite limited, offering free management for a maximum of only 500 resources per month. To go beyond this limit, users will have to upgrade to the Standard or the higher plans (Plus and Enterprise). Given the efficiency and flexibility benefits mentioned above, it is worth considering the paid tiers of Terraform Cloud. Of note, the audit logging, continuous validation, and automated configuration drift detection features are only available in the Plus and Enterprise versions.

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More Information

Complete Guide to Terraform Cloud Pricing 

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