NashTech Insights

How to combine Terraform and Ansible for Powerful Infrastructure Automation

Rahul Miglani
Rahul Miglani
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Introduction: Automation is a key element in modern infrastructure management, enabling organizations to achieve efficiency, consistency, and scalability. Terraform and Ansible are two powerful tools that, when used together, provide a robust solution for infrastructure automation. Terraform excels in provisioning and managing infrastructure resources, while Ansible specializes in configuration management and application deployment. In this blog post, we will explore how to combine Terraform and Ansible to leverage the strengths of both tools, along with an example Terraform code snippet.

Understanding Terraform and Ansible Integration: Terraform and Ansible are complementary tools that can be seamlessly integrated to automate the entire lifecycle of infrastructure, from provisioning resources to configuring them.

Terraform focuses on infrastructure provisioning and resource management. It allows you to define infrastructure as code using a declarative language and provisions resources across multiple cloud providers or on-premises infrastructure. Terraform’s state management ensures that your infrastructure remains consistent and in the desired state.

Ansible, on the other hand, excels in configuration management, application deployment, and orchestration. It uses a procedural language to define playbooks, which specify the desired state of systems and perform tasks to achieve that state. Ansible enables you to configure servers, install software, manage users, and execute complex automation workflows.

Combining Terraform and Ansible offers the following benefits:

Infrastructure Provisioning: Use Terraform to provision and manage the underlying infrastructure resources, such as virtual machines, storage, networks, and load balancers.

Configuration Management: Utilize Ansible to configure and manage the software and applications running on the provisioned infrastructure. Ansible playbooks define the desired state of the systems and perform configuration tasks accordingly.

Dynamic Inventory: Ansible can dynamically generate inventory based on Terraform’s state, enabling you to target specific resources or groups of resources for configuration management tasks.

Idempotent Operations: Both Terraform and Ansible support idempotent operations, ensuring that infrastructure provisioning and configuration tasks can be repeated without causing unintended side effects.

Example: Combining Terraform and Ansible: Let’s consider an example scenario where Terraform provisions an AWS EC2 instance, and Ansible configures the software stack on that instance. The following Terraform code snippet demonstrates the configuration:

resource "aws_instance" "example" {
  ami           = "ami-12345678"
  instance_type = "t2.micro"

output "public_ip" {
  value = aws_instance.example.public_ip

In this example, Terraform provisions an EC2 instance using the specified Amazon Machine Image (AMI) and instance type. The output block captures the public IP address of the provisioned instance.

Once the infrastructure is provisioned, Ansible can be used to configure the instance. Here’s an example Ansible playbook that installs Nginx on the provisioned EC2 instance:

- hosts: "{{ host }}"
  become: true
    - name: Install Nginx
        name: nginx
        state: present

In the Ansible playbook, we target the EC2 instance dynamically by using the public IP address obtained from Terraform’s output. The playbook installs Nginx on the target instance using the apt module.

By combining these Terraform and Ansible configurations, you can provision an EC2 instance with Terraform and then use Ansible to configure software on that instance.

Conclusion: Combining Terraform and Ansible allows you to leverage the strengths of both tools for powerful infrastructure automation. Terraform excels in provisioning and managing resources, while Ansible specializes in configuration management and application deployment. By integrating these tools,

you can achieve end-to-end automation, from infrastructure provisioning to software configuration, ensuring consistency and scalability in your infrastructure deployments.

To make the integration between Terraform and Ansible more seamless, you can leverage Terraform’s provisioners. Provisioners allow you to run Ansible playbooks as part of the Terraform provisioning process, eliminating the need for separate invocations. This approach ensures a cohesive and streamlined automation workflow.

Benefits of combining Terraform and Ansible include:

Infrastructure as Code: Terraform enables you to define infrastructure resources as code, providing version control, reproducibility, and scalability.

Configuration Management: Ansible allows you to configure and manage software on provisioned infrastructure, ensuring consistency across environments.

Dynamic Inventory: Ansible can dynamically generate inventory based on Terraform’s state, simplifying the targeting of specific resources for configuration management tasks.

Idempotent Operations: Both Terraform and Ansible support idempotent operations, allowing you to repeat infrastructure provisioning and configuration tasks without unintended side effects.

Collaboration: The combination of Terraform and Ansible facilitates collaboration between infrastructure and operations teams, streamlining the automation process.

Remember to follow best practices when combining Terraform and Ansible:

  1. Keep Terraform and Ansible configurations separate: Maintain a clear separation between the infrastructure provisioning code written in Terraform and the configuration management code written in Ansible. This ensures modularity and ease of maintenance.
  2. Leverage Terraform provisioners: Use Terraform provisioners to integrate Ansible playbooks into the provisioning process, allowing for a unified automation workflow.
  3. Use Terraform state appropriately: Ensure that Terraform state is properly managed and stored securely. Consider using remote backends for state storage, such as Amazon S3 or HashiCorp Terraform Cloud.
  4. Implement version control: Apply version control to both Terraform and Ansible configurations, enabling collaboration, auditability, and reproducibility.

In conclusion, combining Terraform and Ansible empowers you to automate infrastructure provisioning and configuration management effectively. By harnessing the strengths of these tools and following best practices, you can achieve reliable, scalable, and consistent infrastructure deployments.

Start leveraging the power of Terraform and Ansible together, and unlock the full potential of infrastructure automation in your organization.

Happy automating with Terraform and Ansible!

Rahul Miglani

Rahul Miglani

Rahul Miglani is Vice President at NashTech and Heads the DevOps Competency and also Heads the Cloud Engineering Practice. He is a DevOps evangelist with a keen focus to build deep relationships with senior technical individuals as well as pre-sales from customers all over the globe to enable them to be DevOps and cloud advocates and help them achieve their automation journey. He also acts as a technical liaison between customers, service engineering teams, and the DevOps community as a whole. Rahul works with customers with the goal of making them solid references on the Cloud container services platforms and also participates as a thought leader in the docker, Kubernetes, container, cloud, and DevOps community. His proficiency includes rich experience in highly optimized, highly available architectural decision-making with an inclination towards logging, monitoring, security, governance, and visualization.

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