Manage infrastructure across multiple clouds

Infrastructure as Code by Terraform
Manage infrastructure across multiple clouds

Guest Contribution by Michael Scheffler*

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Managing IT infrastructure across multiple clouds, servers and environments can quickly become complex and burdensome. One of the best ways for organizations to operate and grow their infrastructure at scale is with Terraform’s Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC) solution.

IaC solutions are a link and a common language for building and managing IT stacks from resources from different providers in parallel and across the board.

(Image: Asha Sreenivas –

Terraform is an IaC tool primarily used by DevOps teams to automate various infrastructure tasks. For example, cloud resource provisioning is one of Terraform’s primary use cases. The cloud vendor-agnostic open source development tool was developed by HashiCorp on Go.

Terraform makes it possible to describe the entire infrastructure in the form of code. Even if the servers are from different providers, such as AWS or Azure, these resources can be configured and managed in parallel and across providers with Terraform. So Terraform is a kind of link and common language that can be used to manage the entire IT stack.

When is Terraform used?

One of the main features of Terraform is the Public Cloud Development to one of the major providers: Being able to provide IaC for services like AWS and Azure is and remains Terraform’s main focus. The solution enables the use of these public clouds through a provider and a plugin that includes existing APIs and languages ​​such as Azure Bicep and creates a geospatial format syntax.

The second use case for Terraform is Facilitate multi-cloud deployment. One of its main advantages is that it can be deployed across all cloud providers simultaneously, unlike some of its IaC competitors. The ability to provision resources to multiple cloud providers is critical because infrastructure leaders can use the same syntax without having to learn multiple tools and technologies.

The third most common use of terraform is to Resource procurement, management and orchestration with custom cloud providers. A provider is a way to take an existing API in Terraform and turn it into the equivalent Terraform syntax, even if you’re not using AWS or one of the other major cloud services. Providers can also be written for internal use cases when converting existing tools or APIs to Terraform.

In short, Terraform helps manage the entire IT ecosystem through IaC, be it a single cloud, multi-cloud or custom deployment.

Advantages of Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC)

IaC replaces the standard operating procedures and manual effort required to manage IT resources with lines of code. Instead of manually configuring cloud nodes or hardware, IaC automates the infrastructure management process through source code.

The biggest advantages of an IaC solution like Terraform:

  • speed and simplicity: IaC eliminates manual processes for faster development and management. IaC makes it possible to operate an entire architectural infrastructure by simply running a script.
  • team cooperation: Different team members can collaborate on IaC software just like they do on regular application code using tools like Github. Code can easily be linked to version tracking systems for future use and reference.
  • error reduction: IaC minimizes the possibility of errors or deviations in infrastructure deployment. The code fully standardizes the setup so that applications run smoothly and without errors without the need for constant monitoring by an administrator.
  • disaster recovery: With IaC, errors can be eliminated faster. A manual infrastructure must be restored manually. With IaC, on the other hand, one can usually just rerun scripts and refresh the same software.
  • Increased security: IaC relies on automation that eliminates many security risks associated with human error. When an IaC-based solution is properly deployed, the overall security of the architecture and associated data is greatly improved.

How does Terraform work?

With Terraform, the entire infrastructure can be defined and managed through configuration files and version control. This is achieved using the two main components of the Terraform architecture: the core and the provider.

Terraform Core uses two sources of input: The first consists of inputs that the user configures in Terraform, which define which resources should be created or provided. The second is feeding data into Terraform, showing the current infrastructure. Terraform uses this information to determine what action to take. It compares the user’s desired state with the current state and shapes the architecture in such a way that the gaps are closed. Terraform Core essentially calculates what needs to be created, updated or deleted to fully provision the infrastructure.

The second key element is providers for certain technologies. These are typically cloud providers such as AWS or Azure, but can be any other platform-as-a-service infrastructure or tool. For example, Kubernetes also falls into this category. Terraform has more than a hundred providers for various technologies that provide users with access to resources. For example, by using AWS, Terraform also has access to EC2 instances and other resources within the stack. In this way, infrastructures can be created at various levels, e.g. B. Stacking Kubernetes on Azure.

The Terraform workflow consists of the following three steps:

  • 1. I am writing: Here infrastructure resources are defined as code using Hashicorp Configuration Language (HCL).
  • 2. Control: Terraform then creates a plan to add or remove resources based on a comparison of the specified infrastructure and the current state of existing resources.
  • 3. Use: Finally, scheduled changes can be accepted to add or remove infrastructure resources. The infrastructure can then be fully provisioned with the help of Terraform.

Easing DevOps teams

Developing, managing and orchestrating multi-cloud environments is often a significant challenge for DevOps teams.

Michael Scheffler, Varonis Germany GmbH.
Michael Scheffler, Varonis Germany GmbH.

(Image: Varonis Systems)

However, infrastructure-as-code makes coordination between different service providers and technologies such as AWS and Azure virtual networks much easier and less time-consuming. Terraform is platform independent and works with almost any cloud or data service provider. Therefore, Terraform is ideal to relieve your own DevOps team and at the same time increase the security and stability of the infrastructure.

* Author Michael Scheffler is Country Manager DACH at Varonis Systems.


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