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10 Apr
min read

Complete Step-by-Step Guide On How To Streamline Your Pipeline With Atlantis Terraform

Simplify your pipeline management with Atlantis Terraform. Follow this complete guide to streamline your processes and improve efficiency.

Jack Dwyer

Platform Engineering + DevOps

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Overview of Terraform and Its Role in DevOps

man describing role of Atlantis Terraform

What is Terraform? Terraform is a powerful tool for building, changing, and versioning infrastructure in a safe, efficient, and scalable way. It enables users to define infrastructure as code and manage the entire lifecycle of infrastructure resources across multiple cloud providers and on-premises environments. Terraform simplifies the provisioning process, ensuring consistency, repeatability, and automation. This approach is essential in modern cloud environments and is a cornerstone of DevOps practices.

Benefits of Using Terraform for Infrastructure Management

Terraform promotes infrastructure consistency and reduces configuration drift by defining the infrastructure state in configuration files. This declarative syntax allows teams to easily understand and maintain infrastructure settings across environments and providers. 

Collaboration is simplified through Terraform's support for version control systems like Git. Infrastructure changes can be reviewed, tracked, and reverted when necessary. Terraform's ability to manage infrastructure across multiple platforms from a single configuration file streamlines operations and avoids vendor lock-in.

Challenges Faced in Terraform Projects without Automation

Without automation, Terraform projects require manual effort to run commands like `plan`, `apply`, and `destroy`. This approach is error-prone, lacks consistency, and slows down the development process. 

Manual management of infrastructure also hinders collaboration. Engineers working on different components of the infrastructure need to ensure their changes are correctly applied and do not conflict with each other. The challenge of managing state files and ensuring state locking becomes more apparent when multiple teams are working on the same infrastructure.

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Atlantis Terraform: Revolutionizing Infrastructure Automation

revolutionised automation with Atlantis Terraform

Atlantis is an open-source tool designed to automate and enhance the use of Terraform. It automatically runs Terraform commands like plan and apply in response to pull requests, streamlining the infrastructure deployment process. 

Atlantis also supports state locking, ensuring only one person can make changes at a time. It integrates with popular version control systems like GitHub, GitLab, and Bitbucket.

How Atlantis integrates with Terraform for seamless automation

Atlantis listens for pull request events and automatically executes Terraform commands. It comments on pull requests with the output of Terraform plan, allowing for easy code review. Atlantis also automatically applies changes once the pull request is approved, ensuring a streamlined deployment process.

How Atlantis works

Atlantis offers a structured approach that ensures infrastructure changes are made in a controlled, transparent, and collaborative manner, integrating seamlessly with the existing pull request workflow used by development teams.

Key steps of how Atlantis works

1. Initialization

Install and configure Atlantis in your environment. It can be configured either on-premise or in a cloud environment.

2. Connecting to a VCS

Atlantis can integrate with popular version control systems and creates webhooks that listen to events related to pull requests, commits, and comments.

3. Detecting Pull Request

Atlantis detects when a developer creates or updates a pull request in the linked VCS.

4. Automatic Plan

Atlantis automatically runs Terraform plan for the Terraform configuration affected by the pull request.

5. Commenting Plan Output

The output of the Terraform plan command is posted as a comment in the pull request window for easy review.

6. Manual Approval

Team members review the plan within the pull request and provide approvals or feedback.

7. Applying Changes

Once changes are approved, a team member can issue a command in a comment to apply them.

8. Executing Apply

Atlantis runs Terraform apply to make the approved changes to the infrastructure.

9. Locking State

Atlantis locks the Terraform state during plan and apply phases to prevent conflicts.

10. Reporting Status

Atlantis reports the apply status back to the pull request.

11. Logging and Auditing

All actions taken by Atlantis are logged, providing an audit trail.

12. Custom Workflows

Atlantis allows the configuration of custom workflows to accommodate specific needs or policies of a development team.

Maximizing Cloud and DevOps Efficiency with Zeet

Zeet helps you to get more from your cloud, Kubernetes, and Terraform investments and helps your engineering team become strong individual contributors through our CI/CD & deployment platform. 

Contact Zeet to learn more about how Zeet helps you get seamless cloud deployments every time, and helps your team to become a top-performing engineering team.

Zeet Terraform and Helm Product Overview

Workflow Efficiency with Atlantis Terraform

The Atlantis default workflow is truly revolutionary for our Terraform workflow. It allows to automate infrastructure changes and keep track of all the modifications we make to your infrastructure. 

It works as follows: 

  • A DevOps engineer makes some changes to a Terraform repository from a feature/hotfix branch. 
  • After that, he opens a PR against the main branch. This action will trigger an atlantis plan behind the scenes. 
  • This will run a Terraform plan against the code. 
  • Atlantis will then comment on the PR with the output of Terraform plan so engineers can review the infrastructure changes.
  • After this step, the plan will be peer-reviewed. 
  • Engineers will check the plan, discuss potential issues or improvements, and finally approve or discard the run. 
  • If the run is discarded, the process stops at this point. If the review ends with an approval, you can run Atlantis apply via a PR comment. 
  • Atlantis will run Terraform apply behind the scenes and comment the output on the PR. If everything is successful, you can merge the pull request and delete the feature/hotfix branch.

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Key Features and Benefits of Using Atlantis Terraform

dev working alone in office - Atlantis Terraform

State Locking: Ensuring Data Integrity

State locking is a crucial feature of Terraform that ensures data integrity and consistency by allowing only one person to make infrastructure changes at a time. This feature helps prevent conflicts and corruption in state files, ensuring that changes are made in a controlled and secure manner. Atlantis leverages this capability to enhance collaboration among team members by allowing them to work on infrastructure changes without worrying about overwriting each other's work.

Automated Planning: Mapping Out Infrastructure Changes

The "Terraform plan" command is a powerful tool that shows the changes Terraform will make to your infrastructure before applying them. Atlantis takes this a step further by running the "plan" command on every pull request automatically. This feature allows team members to visualize and understand the planned infrastructure changes, making it easier to review and approve modifications efficiently.

Applying Changes: Streamlining Deployment

Once the changes have been reviewed and approved, the "Terraform apply" command is used to implement the modifications. Atlantis offers the functionality to automatically apply the changes once a pull request is approved. This streamlines the deployment process, eliminating the need for manual intervention and ensuring that changes are deployed promptly and accurately.

Benefits of Adopting Atlantis Terraform

Reduced Errors

Automation reduces the chances of manual errors when running Terraform commands, leading to more reliable and consistent infrastructure changes.

Improved Collaboration

Atlantis facilitates code reviews directly on pull requests, enhancing transparency and enabling team members to understand and discuss planned infrastructure changes easily.

Faster Deployment

With Atlantis automatically applying approved changes, deployment processes are accelerated, enabling teams to deploy changes swiftly and efficiently.

Get Seamless Cloud Deployments with Zeet

Zeet helps you get more from your cloud, Kubernetes, and Terraform investments by providing a comprehensive CI/CD and deployment platform. 

Contact Zeet to learn more about how Zeet can help you achieve seamless cloud deployments every time and empower your team to become a top-performing engineering team.

Setting Up Atlantis Terraform: A Step-by-Step Guide

Pre-requisites for integration

To set up Atlantis Terraform, there are certain prerequisites that need to be in place. 

  • You must have a Terraform project with configuration files defining your infrastructure.
  • You'll need a version control repository, such as GitHub, to store your Terraform configurations. 
  • Decide where Atlantis will run - you can either use its Docker image or deploy it to Kubernetes.

Configuring Atlantis to Connect to Your Version Control Provider

The first step in setting up Atlantis Terraform is configuring it to connect to your chosen version control provider. This could be GitHub or any other provider you prefer. Setting this connection allows Atlantis to track changes in your Terraform infrastructure as you make updates.

Installing Terraform and Granting Atlantis Access

You'll need to install Terraform and give Atlantis access to run it. This enables Atlantis to execute infrastructure changes based on the Terraform configurations you've defined. Atlantis requires this access to manage your infrastructure effectively.

Configuring a Terraform Backend for Storing State Files

You should configure a Terraform backend like S3 or Consul to store state files. This step is crucial to ensure that Terraform can manage the state of your infrastructure effectively. Storing state files securely in a backend is essential for tracking changes and maintaining consistency.

Setting up Atlantis for Authentication

You'll need to set up Atlantis for authentication so it can comment on pull requests. This is essential for maintaining security and ensuring that only authorized users can interact with Atlantis and make changes to your infrastructure. Proper authentication ensures that only authenticated users can trigger changes via Atlantis.

By following these steps, you can effectively set up Atlantis Terraform to manage your infrastructure and streamline your deployment processes seamlessly.

Common Atlantis Limitations and How to Overcome Them

dev noticing limitations of Atlantis Terraform

One of the common challenges experienced in the Atlantis Terraform workflow is the lack of support for managing monolithic Terraform configurations. To work around this limitation, it is recommended to break up the monolithic configurations into smaller, manageable modules. Using community projects like Terragrunt can help simplify the management of these configurations.

One per Pull Request 

Another challenge faced by users is the limitation that only one Terraform plan/apply can be run per pull request. One way to address this challenge is by creating a script or using CI tools to automate the execution of multiple Terraform plans/applies across various branches or environments. This can streamline the workflow and improve efficiency.

Unsupported Parallelizing Workflows

Atlantis does not support parallelizing workflows across multiple repositories automatically. To address this limitation, contributors can consider enhancing the Atlantis project by adding the missing features that would allow for parallelization across multiple repositories. This could involve contributing to the open-source project or working with the community to implement these features.

Leveraging community projects, automating workflows with scripts or CI tools, and contributing to enhancing Atlantis are some of the ways to work around the common challenges experienced in the Atlantis Terraform workflow.

Unlocking Seamless Cloud Deployments with Zeet

Contact us today to learn more about how Zeet helps you get seamless cloud deployments every time, and how it can empower your engineering team to become top-performing contributors. Zeet offers tools and platforms to help you achieve more from your cloud, Kubernetes, and Terraform investments.

Best Practices for Managing Infrastructure with Atlantis Terraform

woman managing infrastructure of Atlantis Terraform

Securing the Atlantis Server

Securing the Atlantis server is crucial to ensure that your infrastructure is safe. It is essential to use HTTPS, have a secure webhook secret, and ensure that the server is not publicly accessible without proper authentication and authorization. This makes sure that your data is protected and secure from any unauthorized access.

Version Control and Workspace Management

Version control is crucial in managing your infrastructure efficiently. Using Atlantis Terraform allows you to take advantage of git for version control and workspaces for managing multiple instances of your infrastructure without duplicating your code. This ensures better isolation between your environments and reduces the chances for conflicts, making your infrastructure more manageable.

Improving Overall Collaboration

Collaboration is key in any project, and Atlantis Terraform enhances collaboration drastically. By relying on the Pull Request workflow, everyone involved can see what is happening with the deployment, thus improving collaboration and transparency. This allows for better-informed decisions and a smoother deployment process.

Managing State Securely

Managing state securely is vital in maintaining the integrity of your infrastructure. Although Atlantis Terraform does not provide a built-in mechanism for state management, it supports any remote state that Terraform supports. Ensure that you use remote-state with versioning enabled, encrypt state files at rest, and control access to the state. This ensures that your infrastructure's state is secure and well-managed.

Implementing Change Management

Change management is essential in ensuring that your infrastructure remains stable and secure. By leveraging Atlantis Terraform, a change management process can be easily structured for reviewing and approving infrastructure changes. This is critical for the integrity and stability of your deployments, ensuring that changes are thoroughly reviewed before implementation.

Automating Testing and Validation

Automating testing and validation is crucial in ensuring that your infrastructure is robust and secure. Combined with another CI/CD pipeline, Atlantis Terraform can embed Terraform fmt, Terraform validate, and security vulnerability scanning tools inside your workflow. This helps in catching errors early in the deployment process, making your infrastructure more reliable.

Implementing RBAC

Implementing Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) is crucial in controlling who can execute commands in Atlantis Terraform. This helps avoid unauthorized changes to your infrastructure and reduces the potential for errors. RBAC ensures that only authorized personnel can make changes to your infrastructure, enhancing its security and stability.

Monitoring and Enabling Logging for Atlantis

Monitoring and enabling logging are essential in identifying and addressing any performance issues with Atlantis Terraform promptly. By implementing monitoring and enabling logging, you can easily detect any performance issues and solve them promptly. This ensures that your infrastructure remains stable and performs optimally.

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Get Control of Your Releases With Zeet's CI/CD & Deployment Platform for Kubernetes and Terraform

Zeet is a powerful platform designed to help you maximize the benefits of your cloud, Kubernetes, and Terraform investments. By leveraging Zeet, your engineering team can become more efficient and productive, transforming into top-performing individuals who deliver exceptional results. 

Zeet's CI/CD and deployment platform streamlines the deployment process, making it easier for your team to implement changes across your infrastructure. With Zeet, you can achieve seamless cloud deployments every time, ensuring that your applications run smoothly and efficiently. 

Experience the difference that Zeet can make in your organization and elevate your engineering team to new heights of success.

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