Infrastructure as Code: When to Use Terraform and When Not To Use


5 min read

Infrastructure as Code: When to Use Terraform and When Not To Use

Many companies are using Infrastructure as Code (IaC) nowadays, and IaC has become a 'must know' for DevOps engineers. This is because IaC tools allow developers to define and manage their infrastructure in a clear way using code, instead of doing everything manually. By using IaC, the process of building the infrastructure has become more organized, automated, and consistent.

But, very often the use of IaC is simply because it is trending in the software development industry, without evaluating its actual need. The reason behind this, is more about following the crowd or a trend rather than addressing project needs. Below I will try to outline when IaC should be used and when it might be unnecessary.

While reading about this, I found a quote from a DevOps engineer:

"While Terraform is a powerful tool, we found that it was overkill for our simple infrastructure. The overhead of using Terraform outweighed the benefits, and we found that we could manage our infrastructure more efficiently manually."

But I found another one that said something completely different:

"Terraform has been a game-changer for our infrastructure management. It has allowed us to automate the provisioning and configuration of our infrastructure, which has saved us a lot of time and effort. We have also found that Terraform has helped us to improve the consistency of our multilayer infrastructure."

We should not forget that one of the most popular IaC tools is Terraform. Terraform is an open-source (No longer Open-Source as this was changed lately from HashiCorp) tool that can be used to provision and manage infrastructure on different cloud platforms, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP).


So, as we can see form the examples above using IaC, is helpful in many situations, including:

  • Increased agility: IaC tools can automate the provisioning and configuration of infrastructure, which can speed up development and deployment cycles.

  • Improved consistency: IaC tools can enforce consistent configurations across different environments, which can reduce errors and improve reliability.

  • Reduced cost: IaC tools can help to optimize resource utilization and reduce cloud costs.

But also, we see that sometimes using IaC will not benefit us in any way.

When Not to Use Terraform

Terraform is not a good choice for the following situations:


  • You need to make immediate changes to your infrastructure. Terraform is not designed for real-time changes, so it is not a good choice for situations where you need to make quick changes to your infrastructure.

  • You have a small and simple infrastructure. If you have a small and simple infrastructure, you may not need the power and flexibility of Terraform. It is time consuming and it is not worthy as you can provision and manage the infrastructure manually and you will do it way faster than using Terraform.

  • You are not familiar with IaC. If you are not familiar with IaC, you may find Terraform to be too complex. There are other IaC tools that are more beginner friendly.

If your infrastructure is small or you are not familiar with Terraform, there are other tools that you can use instead of using Terraform.

So many times I've seen different companies requiring DevOps Engineers with Terraform knowledge, but when they get hired, they find out that using Terraform is unnecessary for their simple infrastructure. Managing a single VM running Docker with just two containers does not require Terraforms complexity. It is way quicker and easier to handle this setup manually, because using Terraform in this case is just a waste of time.

Alternatives to Terraform

There are a number of other IaC tools available that might be beneficial for your setup, so I would suggest looking them up, including:

  • Ansible: Ansible is a popular IaC tool that is known for its ease of use and its ability to automate a wide variety of tasks.

  • Chef: Chef is another popular IaC tool that is known for its scalability and its ability to manage large and complex infrastructures.

  • Puppet: Puppet is an enterprise-grade IaC tool that is known for its security and its compliance with industry standards.

In what situations Terraform must be used?

When to Use Terraform

Terraform is a good choice for automating the provisioning and management of infrastructure in the following situations:


  • You have a large and complex infrastructure. Terraform is well suited for managing complex infrastructure environments, as it can handle a wide variety of resources and configurations.

  • You need to enforce consistency across environments. Terraform can help to ensure that your infrastructure is configured consistently across different environments, such as development, staging, and production.

  • You want to reduce manual configuration. Terraform can automate many of the tasks that are typically performed manually, such as provisioning cloud resources and configuring network settings.

We already know that Terraform is a powerful tool that can be used to automate the provisioning and management of infrastructure. However, it is not the right tool for every situation. When deciding whether or not to use Terraform, you should consider the size and complexity of your infrastructure, your need for consistency, and your familiarity with IaC.

Thank you for reading my blog โ€ฆ:)

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