The growth of cloud architectures offers excellent benefits to business owners. They can choose not to maintain a data center and scale their operations almost instantly. But configuration for this shift away from traditional IT operations to the cloud presents new challenges.
An infrastructure configuration is often done manually. Each time a company wishes to configure a new infrastructure, it is created on the target platform. When users perform configuration changes, those changes are not reflected on other servers or machines automatically. Multiple changes become difficult to track and manage.
Solutions have emerged to help reduce or eliminate this issue. Terraform and CloudFormation are two popular solutions for DevOps and cloud configuration management.
They belong to a class of software called Infrastructure as Code (IaC). The idea is to change configurations at the source and then let the solution run the code to implement the proper infrastructure setup. IAC is a cornerstone of DevOps, it can help improve productivity, quality of work and boost agility. CloudFormation vs Terraform which is better?
CloudFormation is an AWS service and was only available on AWS before 2019. AWS has since implemented its solution for multiple platforms. Terraform is open source and can be used on multiple platforms.
Terraform uses an internal language called HashiCorp Configuration Language (HCL), so named for the company (HashiCorp) that created the solution. Administrators code their configurations in this language and run them on the desired cloud platform.
Although Terraform supports several cloud providers, there is no one-size-fits-all when configuring for multi-cloud architectures. Administrators will need to write different code segments for each platform.
Terraform vs CloudFormation Comparison
- CloudFormation is part of the AWS infrastructure.
- CloudFormation is native to AWS. This solution has a slight advantage over using Terraform for AWS users, as changes will be instant.
- CloudFormation is not open source, but it is free to use for AWS users.
- Cloud users are at the mercy of AWS providers to implement changes.
- CloudFormation has implemented support for other cloud providers. However, these options are not widely used currently.
- CloudFormation gives users a choice of popular languages, such as YAML and JSON.
- AWS services may integrate more easily with CloudFormation since it is native to the platform.
- Terraform is open source, which means users can benefit from community-supported features.
- Terraform has a custom language (HCL) that requires support staff and administrators to learn a new language. However, the learning curve for HCL is minimal.
- Terraform’s support for modules is stronger than module support in CloudFormation. With CloudFormation, modularity is limited on the platform and is not intuitive for most users.
- Both platforms support multiple cloud providers. However, Terraform implemented this from the start. AWS users are likely unaware that CloudFormation supports multiple platforms because most services offered by AWS are supported only on the platform. AWS implemented this feature to stay competitive.
State management is a critical tool for any configuration management. Both solutions offer a form of state management but implement them differently.
Terraform stores state using JSON files. This is stored remotely or on the configuration server. It is unclear how AWS stores the state for CloudFormation or if it is even possible to obtain this state information. However, it is clear that they do implement state management as configuration management would not be possible without it.
Modularization helps cloud users customize their solutions. Although modules can be implemented using both solutions, Terraform is the clear winner in this category. Terraform is open source, and developers are eager to create modules that can enhance the solution’s functionality.
Modularization can be a crucial determining factor for users accepting one platform over another. Take the computer language Python, for instance. It, too, is open-source, and developers can create packages for any solution. WordPress is another example of a solution that received broad support from its users and has become one of the most popular blog platforms available. Like these well-supported open-source solutions, Terraform is already gaining in popularity, as is witnessed by the growth of its modules.
Terraform and CloudFormation offer paid support. For CloudFormation, the options for support are part of the current paid support plan on AWS.
In CloudFormation, support for security is handled via standard AWS security mechanisms. In Terraform, the policies can be implemented via code. Security is likely to be a bit more seamless in AWS as it is already part of the platform. However, code-based policies in Terraform are likely to be more robust and can be automated.
As mentioned, Terraform has a proprietary language called HCL. It is easy to learn and is compatible with JSON. CloudFormation offers a choice of YAML and JSON, both of which are widely supported. There is a limit to the number of bytes templates in CloudFormation can contain.
CloudFormation vs Terraform – Which one to Choose?
Configuring cloud infrastructures is more complicated than business owners would like. The solutions that have emerged to streamline this configuration are helpful but require knowledge of the infrastructures for proper configuration. The good news is that Eplexity has cloud experts ready to help with configuration.
Using a configuration tool is a good idea. However, which one do you choose? At Eplexity, we will evaluate your current cloud configurations and implement the best plan for your situation. You won’t have to worry about learning a new language or determining which configuration solution is the right choice. We will make the recommendations, and we can code the implementation, too.
Taking full advantage of the features of the cloud, like scalability, requires properly configured infrastructures, and we are here to make that happen for you.