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13 Apr
min read

Spacelift vs Terraform Cloud: Which IaC Solution Is Right for You?

Choosing between Spacelift vs Terraform Cloud? Explore the differences between the two tools in this helpful comparison.

Jack Dwyer

Platform Engineering + DevOps

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Overview of the Infrastructure as Code (IaC) Landscape

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) is a crucial concept in modern software development and operations. By using code to automate the setup, management, and configuration of infrastructure, IaC enables organizations to treat infrastructure as software. This approach brings several benefits, including increased efficiency, reliability, consistency, and scalability. The primary goal of IaC is to eliminate manual processes, reduce human errors, accelerate deployment speed, and enhance infrastructure manageability.

Introduction to Terraform Cloud and Spacelift as IaC Solutions

Woman looking at monitor for comparing Spacelift vs Terraform Cloud

Terraform Cloud and Spacelift are popular Infrastructure as Code (IaC) solutions that help teams automate and manage their infrastructure seamlessly. What is Terraform by the way? Terraform is an open-source IaC tool that allows users to define data center infrastructure using a declarative configuration language. 

It supports multiple cloud providers, is cloud-agnostic, and offers easy-to-maintain human-readable scripts written in HashiCorp Configuration Language (HCL). Terraform's modularity allows users to create reusable modules for managing different parts of the infrastructure.

On the other hand, Spacelift is a Terraform Cloud alternative with a predictable pricing model. Spacelift offers advanced features like custom multi-IaC workflows, scheduling tasks, infrastructure deletion, drift detection, remediation, self-service infrastructure, and more. With Spacelift, users can enjoy cost advantages and build sophisticated IaC workflows while maintaining simplicity and ease of use.

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A Deeper Look at Spacelift

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Let's delve into why Spacelift is a superior alternative to Terraform Clous.

Predictable pricing model

Terraform Cloud pricing means only the premium tiers provide full value. The free and standard tiers offer just a taste. And the RUM pricing model means you have no control over your monthly bills. Spacelift pricing is based on concurrency, so it’s always predictable.

Streamlined migration process

Migrating to a new product can be daunting, but Spacelift provides automation to make it easy. The Spacelift Migration Kit speeds up the process by mapping the existing configuration and state to Spacelift resources.

Beyond Terraform

Spacelift doesn’t limit you to Terraform. Manage your entire infrastructure with one platform, and use your choice of other infra-as-code tools for the job at hand.

Sophisticated policy tooling

Policies across the whole platform – create an unlimited number of policies in all tiers, and attach them to as many stacks as you want.

Sophisticated dependencies inside your workflow

Create dependencies between stacks and pass outputs from one to another, using Spacelift’s Stack Dependencies. You can run a stack after another one finishes, and because they are directed acyclic graphs (DAG), it’s easy to have nested dependencies.

Custom Inputs

Unlike other Terraform Cloud alternatives, Spacelift allows you to integrate as many tools as you want in your workflow. You can even define policies for these tools.

GitOps Native

Other Terraform Cloud alternatives offer limited integration with Git providers, but Spacelift is truly GitOps Native. Thanks to push policies, it fully supports arbitrary Git flows, including massive monorepos. It will also use your Git provider APIs (e.g., GitHub’s Checks and Deployments APIs) for ultimate visibility.

A Deeper Look at Terraform Cloud

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Terraform Cloud is a free-to-use SaaS application that provides the best workflow for writing and building infrastructure as code with Terraform. It provides:

Key Features of Terraform Cloud

Remote State Management

One of the standout features of Terraform Cloud is its robust remote state management. This allows teams to store and access their Terraform state files securely, promoting collaboration and reducing the risk of data loss during the infrastructure provisioning process.

Collaboration and Access Control

Terraform Cloud enables seamless collaboration among team members by providing a centralized repository for infrastructure code. With fine-grained access controls, organizations can ensure that only authorized personnel can modify critical infrastructure components.

Version Control Integration: Integrating with popular version control systems like Git, and Terraform Cloud allows organizations to track changes to their infrastructure code over time. This version control integration ensures transparency, traceability, and the ability to roll back changes when needed.

Terraform Cloud Benefits

Collaboration and Access Control

Infrastructure automation will almost always require teams to collaborate. Terraform Cloud enables teams to work together with role-based access controls and policy enforcement.

Remote State Management

Terraform Cloud provides remote state management, which securely stores and manages the state of your infrastructure, enabling collaboration and preventing conflicts. The Terraform state files are encrypted at rest and you can enable certain teams and individuals to read these state files. Terraform state files may contain sensitive information and therefore need to be properly secured.

Version Control Integration

You can integrate with version control systems, allowing teams to manage infrastructure code alongside application code and track changes over time. Your version control system becomes your source of truth. 

Maximizing Cloud, Kubernetes, and Terraform Investments 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.

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A Detailed Comparison of Spacelift vs Terraform Cloud

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Spacelift supports a Multi-IaC Workflow, which means it can integrate with Terraform, Terragrunt, OpenTofu, Custom Terraform, Kubernetes, Ansible, Cloud Formation, and Pulumi. On the other hand, Terraform Cloud only works with Terraform. This means that Spacelift offers more flexibility and integration possibilities for your infrastructure as code workflows, allowing you to choose the tools that work best for your specific requirements. 

Spacelift vs Terraform Cloud: Pricing Model

Spacelift adopts a concurrency-based pricing model, whereas Terraform Cloud utilizes a resource-based (RUM) model. The difference between these models can significantly impact your costs based on how you want to structure your infrastructure, usage patterns, and scaling needs. Understanding these pricing models is key to making an informed decision on which platform aligns with your budget and infrastructure management practices. 

Spacelift vs Terraform Cloud: Nested Workflows Support

Spacelift offers support for nested workflows and passing outputs with stack dependencies. In contrast, Terraform Cloud does not support nested workflows. Nested workflows can help streamline complex infrastructure deployment processes, allowing for greater granularity and control over your infrastructure as code strategy. This feature can save time, effort, and potential errors by creating a more structured and layered approach to your infrastructure.

Spacelift vs Terraform Cloud: Policy Control

In terms of policy control, Spacelift provides you with the capability to control almost any aspect of the platform through policies. On the other hand, Terraform Cloud offers only the equivalent of plan and approval policies. 

The ability to control specific aspects of your infrastructure creation and management processes can be critical to ensuring compliance, security, and operational efficiency. Understanding the policy control capabilities of each platform can help you make an informed decision based on your requirements.

Spacelift vs Terraform Cloud: Integrations

Spacelift offers unlimited integrations with other tools and services, while Terraform Cloud is limited to run tasks. The availability of integrations can significantly impact your ability to create a cohesive and efficient infrastructure as code workflow. Having access to a wide range of integrations can help you streamline your processes, automate tasks, and improve the overall efficiency of your infrastructure management practices. 

Spacelift vs Terraform Cloud: Inventory Management

Spacelift provides a full inventory management solution, including visualization, lifecycle tracking, search, and filtering. In contrast, Terraform Cloud offers a resource view only per workspace. Inventory management features can play a crucial role in maintaining visibility, control, and organization over your infrastructure components. Understanding the inventory management capabilities of each platform can help you decide based on your specific monitoring and tracking needs. 

Spacelift vs Terraform Cloud: Role-based Access Control

Spacelift offers dynamic per space role-based access control, while Terraform Cloud provides static per workspace access control. Role-based access control can be essential for enforcing security policies, managing user permissions, and ensuring a secure and compliant infrastructure environment. Understanding the role-based access control features of each platform can help you make an informed decision based on your security and access control requirements. 

Spacelift vs Terraform Cloud: Policy-as-Code Integration

Spacelift provides a native OPA integration that enables policy-based control for every step of your pipeline, while Terraform Cloud offers Sentinel, a proprietary policy language. Policy-as-code integration can be a critical capability when implementing governance, compliance, and security policies as code. Understanding the policy-as-code integration features of each platform is essential to ensure you can enforce policies consistently throughout your infrastructure pipelines.

Spacelift vs Terraform Cloud: Module Registry

Spacelift offers a private module registry with automated continuous integration and compliance features, whereas Terraform Cloud provides a package manager for public and private modules. Module registries play a crucial role in managing, sharing, and reusing infrastructure components, such as configurations, modules, or policies. Understanding the module registry features of each platform can help you decide based on your requirements for module management, sharing, and reuse.

Pros and Cons of Spacelift vs Terraform Cloud

Collaboration and Team Management with Spacelift

Spacelift offers robust collaboration features, making it easier for teams to work together on infrastructure management. It provides role-based access control, audit trails, and approval workflows.

Security and Compliance with Spacelift

Spacelift prioritizes security and compliance, offering features like secure remote runners, secrets management, and integration with various security and compliance tools.

Automation and Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) with Spacelift

Spacelift integrates seamlessly with popular CI/CD tools, enabling automated infrastructure provisioning and deployment processes.

Drift Detection and Remediation with Spacelift

Spacelift can detect and remediate configuration drift, ensuring that your infrastructure remains consistent with your defined state.

Multi-Cloud and Multi-Provider Support with Spacelift

Spacelift supports multiple cloud providers and infrastructure providers, allowing you to manage your entire infrastructure from a single platform.

Complexity of Spacelift

Spacelift can be more complex to set up and configure compared to some other IaC solutions, especially for smaller teams or projects.

Learning Curve of Spacelift

Spacelift's feature-rich interface and advanced functionality may require more time and effort to learn and master, especially for teams new to IaC practices.

Cost of Spacelift

Spacelift's pricing model can be more expensive than some alternatives, especially for larger organizations or projects with extensive infrastructure requirements.

Remote State Management with Terraform Cloud

Terraform Cloud provides a centralized and secure location for storing and managing Terraform state files, simplifying collaboration and reducing the risk of state file conflicts.

Version Control Integration with Terraform Cloud

Terraform Cloud integrates with popular version control systems like GitHub, GitLab, and Bitbucket, allowing you to manage your Terraform configuration alongside your application code.

Automated Workflows with Terraform Cloud

Terraform Cloud supports automated workflows, enabling you to trigger Terraform runs based on various events, such as code commits or manual approvals.

Sentinel Policy as Code with Terraform Cloud

Terraform Cloud includes Sentinel, a policy as code framework that allows you to define and enforce organizational policies and best practices.

Ease of Use of Terraform Cloud

Terraform Cloud has a user-friendly interface and a relatively low learning curve, making it accessible for teams new to IaC practices.

Limited Customization of Terraform Cloud

Compared to self-hosted solutions like Spacelift, Terraform Cloud may offer fewer customization options and integration capabilities with third-party tools and services.

Vendor Lock-in with Terraform Cloud

By using Terraform Cloud, you become dependent on HashiCorp's platform and may face potential challenges if you need to migrate to a different solution in the future.

Cost for Large Organizations with Terraform Cloud

While Terraform Cloud can be cost-effective for smaller teams, its pricing model may become expensive for larger organizations with extensive infrastructure requirements.

Limited Support for Non-Terraform Workflows with Terraform Cloud

Terraform Cloud is primarily focused on Terraform workflows and may not provide robust support for other IaC tools or workflows.

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By leveraging cutting-edge technology and innovative solutions, Zeet empowers your team to achieve more efficient cloud deployments and enhance their engineering skills. With Zeet's support, your team can optimize their use of the cloud, Kubernetes, and Terraform to boost productivity and effectiveness. 

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