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7 Apr
min read

Simplifying Terraform Multiple Environments: A Step-by-Step Approach

Terraform allows for easy management of multiple environments. This guide breaks down the process, making it easy to implement and maintain.

Jack Dwyer

Platform Engineering + DevOps

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Overview of Terraform and Multiple Environments

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What is terraform? Terraform is a tool for building, changing, and versioning infrastructure safely and efficiently. Terraform can manage existing and popular infrastructure providers as well as custom in-house solutions. Infrastructure as code (IaC) tools like Terraform enable consistent, repeatable, and automated infrastructure deployments, reducing human error and improving efficiency. Terraform supports a wide range of cloud providers (AWS, Azure, GCP, etc.) and other infrastructure services, providing a common language to define and provision infrastructure.

The Need for Managing Multiple Environments

In software development, it's common to have different environments (dev, staging, prod) for testing, staging, and running production workloads. Managing infrastructure for multiple environments manually is time-consuming, error-prone, and difficult to keep consistent across environments. Challenges include maintaining separate infrastructure configurations, synchronizing changes across environments, and ensuring environment-specific settings are applied correctly.

Terraform’s Role in Streamlining Multi-Environment Management

Terraform allows you to define infrastructure as code, making it easier to manage multiple environments from a single codebase. With Terraform, you can use the same configuration files to provision and manage resources across different environments, ensuring consistency. Terraform's features like workspaces, modules, and variables help streamline the management of multiple environments.

Empowering Engineering Excellence

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.

Setting up Multiple Environments with Terraform

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Terraform configurations are at the core of defining your infrastructure. They're written in HashiCorp Configuration Language (HCL) or JSON and outline the desired state of your infrastructure resources. These configuration files bring a structured approach to defining your resources, such as virtual machines, networks, databases, and more. 

By defining these resources in your configuration file, Terraform can compare the desired state against the real-world state and then take the necessary actions to achieve the desired state. To ensure your configuration files are structured correctly, you can use Terraform's plan, apply, and destroy commands to help validate your configurations.

The Importance of Separating Environments Using Different Configuration Files or Directories

One of the most effective ways to handle multiple environments in Terraform is to keep your configurations separate for each environment. This can be done by using different configuration files or directories for each environment, such as dev, staging, and prod. 

Using separate configurations ensures that environment-specific settings and resources are isolated and easier to manage. These individual environments are kept separate from each other, making it easier to deploy changes to a specific environment without affecting others. This way, if something goes wrong in one of your environments, it won't cause issues in other environments.

Steps Involved in Setting Up Multiple Environments with Terraform

  • Ensure you have a separate directory or configuration file set up for each environment, such as dev, staging, and prod.
  • Define the resources and settings specific to each environment within the corresponding configuration files.
  • Manage the environment-specific variable values, like resource names and instance sizes, using variables or separate variable files.
  • Run Terraform init in each environment directory to download the required provider plugins.
  • Apply the Terraform configuration for each environment separately.
  • Optionally, use Terraform workspaces or remote storage to manage state files for each environment.

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Zeet can help you maximize the potential of your cloud, Kubernetes, and Terraform investments. Our CI/CD and deployment platform ensures that your engineering team can be strong individual contributors. 

Reach out to Zeet to discover how we can assist you in achieving seamless cloud deployments every time, empowering your team to become a top-performing engineering unit.

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Terraform Workspaces for Managing Multiple Environments

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Terraform Workspaces are a feature that allows for the creation of multiple instances of resources from a single configuration. Each Workspace has its own state file, which makes it possible to manage different environments such as development (dev), staging, and production (prod) within the same configuration file. 

Managing Workspaces

Terraform provides workspace commands to create, list, select, and delete workspaces. For instance, using `terraform workspace new staging` allows the creation of a new "staging" workspace.

Advantages and Limitations of Workspaces for Managing Environments

Some advantages of using workspaces for managing environments include having a single configuration that can manage multiple environments, avoiding duplication of configuration files, and having a straightforward method to isolate environments with separate state files. 

Some limitations must be considered such as the fact that all environments share the same root module configuration which can make it difficult to have completely separate configurations for each environment. As workspaces and modules increase, the system can become complex.

Related Reading

Infrastructure As Code Best Practices
Terraform Getting Started
Terraform Best Practices

Separating Directories for Each Environment

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When using separate directories for each environment in Terraform, set up a root module directory for each environment. Within each environment directory, subdirectories for different components like networking/ and compute/ can be used. Each environment can have its variables and provider configurations.

Benefits of Separate Directories for Each Environment

With separate directories for each environment, you get complete isolation of environments and separate configurations. This setup is easier to manage environment-specific settings and resources. This approach is more flexible for complex setups with different modules or components per environment.

Drawbacks of Separate Directories for Each Environment

One of the drawbacks of using separate directories for each environment is that it may result in duplication of configuration files across environments. This can lead to potential maintenance overhead when changing shared components. Another limitation is the lack of a built-in mechanism for sharing data between environments.

Get Seamless Cloud Deployments 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 can help you get seamless cloud deployments every time, and help your team become a top-performing engineering team.

Using Variables and Outputs for Each Environment

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Variables are an essential element in Terraform configurations as they help you to parameterize specific parts of your configurations, enabling you to customize resources and settings for various environments. By utilizing variables in Terraform, you can define and use them efficiently across different environments, thereby streamlining your infrastructure management process. 

Master the Art of Defining and Using Variables for Different Environments

In Terraform, you can define variables at the root module level, in variable definition files, or set them through CLI options or environment variables. For instance, you can have separate files for various environments with environment-specific values. 

By adopting this approach, you can seamlessly access variables in your .tf files using the ${} syntax, ensuring that your configurations remain adaptable and straightforward to manage across different environments.

Uncover the Power of Terraform Outputs for Sharing Data Between Environments

Terraform outputs serve as a valuable feature that enables you to expose specific values from your configurations, facilitating the sharing of data between different environments. This comes in handy for sharing vital information like resource IDs, IP addresses, and more across various environments. 

To leverage outputs effectively, define them in an file, and then reference them using the terraform output command, allowing you to share critical data seamlessly across your infrastructure.

Sharing Data Between Modules in Terraform Multiple Environments

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Modules are reusable packages of Terraform configurations that allow you to build re-usable components and avoid code duplication. Using modules, you can create a library of reusable infrastructure components, such as virtual networks, servers, and databases. 

These modules can be called from within other configurations, known as root modules or child modules, enabling efficient management of infrastructure resources. By utilizing modules in Terraform, you can leverage pre-existing configurations to enable faster deployment of infrastructure, resulting in a more consistent and manageable environment in multiple scenarios.

Sharing Data Between Modules in Different Environments

Sharing data between modules in different environments is a crucial aspect of configuring a modular infrastructure. Child modules can access outputs from parent modules and other sibling modules, allowing the passage of data from shared modules to environment-specific modules. 

For instance, you could pass the Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) ID from a shared networking module to the application module in each environment. This connectivity promotes the reuse of Terraform configurations across different environments and enhances efficiency by reducing redundancy and promoting consistency.

Managing Dependencies Between Modules: Examples and Best Practices

Properly managing dependencies between modules is vital for ensuring the integrity and reliability of your infrastructure configurations. One approach to managing dependencies is to use module sources diligently to avoid cyclical dependencies. Leveraging output values and module composition can help you manage dependencies effectively. 

By testing modules independently before integrating them into environments, you can identify issues early in the development process, making it easier to rectify them before they escalate. By following these best practices, you can optimize the efficiency and reliability of your Terraform configurations and enhance the agility of your infrastructure deployments.

Zeet's Comprehensive Engineering Solutions

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 help you get seamless cloud deployments every time, and helps your team to become a top-performing engineering team.

Best Practices for Managing Terraform State in Multiple Environments

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Terraform state files are a critical component of managing infrastructure in Terraform. Essentially, a state file is a representation of the actual infrastructure that exists in the cloud or on-premises data center. It's like a dynamic map that bridges the gap between your infrastructure code and your real-world resources. Each state file contains metadata about resource dependencies, output values, and more, which Terraform uses to understand and perform changes to the infrastructure.

The state file is vital for Terraform because it acts as the source of truth regarding your infrastructure's current state. When you modify the infrastructure code and run Terraform to apply those changes, Terraform reads the state file to determine what has changed and what the new state of the infrastructure should look like. Without a state file, Terraform wouldn't know what your infrastructure currently looks like or what changes to make, essentially rendering it unable to understand the desired state of your infrastructure.

Efficiently Storing and Managing Terraform State Files for Multiple Environments

The best practice when working with multiple environments (such as dev, staging, and prod) is to store each environment's state file separately. This isolation ensures that changes made in one environment don't affect others. 

Ensuring State File Security

Keeping the state files secure is crucial. You can store them locally on your machine or consider using remote storage solutions like S3, Azure Blob, or even Terraform Cloud. Using remote storage makes the state files accessible by your team and provides additional security, collaboration, and backup options. Access controls are also essential to manage who can access and modify the state files.

Streamlining Environment Configuration

For each environment, you can create a tfvars file to set environment-specific backend configuration variables like the AWS or Azure container name. This approach enables you to use the same configuration files across environments while customizing the backend storage parameters for each. 

Remote State Storage and State Locking for Enhanced Management

Remote state storage is a powerful feature that allows you to store your tfstate files in a remote backend, such as S3 or Azure Blob. This feature enhances collaboration, makes it easier to back up state files, and prevents issues like conflicts when multiple team members are working on the infrastructure. 

Fostering Data Integrity

State locking is another essential element to ensure data integrity and prevent conflicts. Locking prevents multiple processes or team members from modifying the same state file simultaneously, which could lead to data corruption or loss. Tools like Terraform Cloud or Terraform Enterprise provide built-in capabilities for managing remote state and state locking transparently.

By embracing these best practices and leveraging features like remote state storage and state locking, managing Terraform state files across multiple environments becomes more secure, efficient, and collaborative.

Using Terraform Cloud or Terraform Enterprise for Managing Multiple Environments

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Terraform Cloud and Terraform Enterprise are two managed services that take the complexity out of managing Terraform workflows. Terraform Cloud is a Software as a Service (SaaS) platform that makes managing Terraform workflows simple and efficient. On the other hand, Terraform Enterprise is a self-hosted distribution aimed at large enterprises who want to host Terraform on their own infrastructure. 

Managing Multiple Environments More Effectively

Terraform Cloud and Terraform Enterprise can help you manage multiple environments effectively. They come with remote state management and state locking out-of-the-box, making it a breeze to run Terraform across different environments from a single configuration. They enable you to enforce policies, access controls, and approval workflows, ensuring that your environments stay secure and compliant.

Features to Help you Manage Multiple Environments More Effectively

These services have a host of features to make managing multiple environments simpler. For instance, remote state storage is backed by HashiCorp's secure storage, providing an added layer of security for your infrastructure. 

They come with a built-in version control system (VCS) integration for collaborative workflows, allowing multiple team members to work together seamlessly. Role-based access controls (RBAC) and single sign-on (SSO) support granular access controls across environments, ensuring that only authorized personnel can make changes to your environments.

Elevating Engineering Efficiency

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 help you get seamless cloud deployments every time, and helps your team to become a top-performing engineering team.

Related Reading

Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) for Terraform Multiple Environments

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Setting up a CI/CD pipeline for Terraform configurations is crucial to automate infrastructure deployments and enforce consistent practices across different environments. By leveraging Continuous Integration (CI) tools such as GitHub Actions, CircleCI, or Jenkins, teams can easily integrate Terraform workflows into their pipeline. 

Defining workflows that plan and apply changes to various environments, while integrating the pipeline with a Version Control System (VCS) for robust configuration management and code reviews, ensures that deployments are synchronized and validated before being deployed.

Automating Infrastructure Deployments

Automating infrastructure deployments is essential in ensuring the consistency and manageability of multiple environments. For instance, following a workflow from development (dev) to staging and then production (prod) environments with appropriate approvals and checks can help maintain control over the deployment process. 

Running Terraform plan on Pull Requests (PRs) allows teams to validate changes before merging, reducing the risk of errors slipping into production. Implementing testing frameworks such as Terratest or Kitchen-Terraform can validate configurations and guarantee robust deployments.

Importance of CI/CD in Terraform Environments

CI/CD pipelines in the context of Terraform and multiple environments are essential to automate testing and validation of Terraform configurations across various stages. This automation guarantees consistency and compliance across all environments and facilitates safe, repeatable deployments. 

By setting up CI/CD pipelines for Terraform, teams can ensure that infrastructure changes are thoroughly tested and deployed consistently, reducing human errors and ensuring that all environments stay synchronized.

Related Reading

Security Considerations for Terraform in Multiple Environments

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Auditing Terraform Configurations for Security Vulnerabilities

Regularly auditing Terraform configurations is crucial to identify and remediate security vulnerabilities and misconfigurations before deployment. Utilize automated tooling to detect violations and ensure that your infrastructure is secure from the start.

Managing Access Credentials Securely

Handle access credentials securely to prevent unauthorized access and data breaches. Use methods such as environment variables or separate files that are not checked into source control. By safeguarding these credentials, you can reduce the risk of unauthorized access to your resources.

Using Default Configurations for Security

When working with Terraform, it is important to use default configurations that prioritize security over performance. Avoid optimizing for performance at the expense of security, as this can lead to vulnerabilities in your environment.

Declaring Variables for Enhanced Security

Utilize variables to keep secrets like passwords and API keys outside the code. By declaring variables, you can make Terraform modules reusable and maintain a secure environment with sensitive information protected from unauthorized access.

Leveraging Terraform Security Scanners

Employ Terraform security scanners to identify and remediate potential security vulnerabilities. By using these tools, you can proactively address security issues and enhance the overall security posture of your infrastructure.

Implementing Centralized Security Policy and Governance

Centralizing security policy and governance within Terraform code enhances visibility and enforces least privilege access. By implementing these practices, you can streamline security management and ensure consistent security measures across all environments.

Requiring Multi-Factor Authentication

Enforcing multi-factor authentication for collaborators enhances the security posture of your infrastructure. By requiring additional authentication factors, you can strengthen access controls and mitigate the risk of unauthorized access.

Keeping Terraform and Modules Updated

Regularly updating Terraform and all associated modules is essential to apply the latest security patches. By staying current with updates, you can ensure that your infrastructure is protected against known vulnerabilities.

Avoiding Storing Secrets in State Files

Utilize secret management solutions like AWS Secrets Manager, Azure Key Vault, or Google Cloud Secret Manager to manage secrets securely. By avoiding storing secrets in state files, you can prevent unauthorized access to sensitive information.

Securing the Data Store

Secure the data store when remotely storing state data to prevent unauthorized access. Implement encryption and restrictive access permissions to safeguard your data and protect it from unauthorized users.

Using Safe Terraform Modules

Utilize safe Terraform modules and avoid using untrusted or vulnerable third-party components. By selecting reputable modules, you can reduce the risk of security vulnerabilities in your infrastructure.

Executing Terraform Programmatically

Executing Terraform programmatically helps minimize human error and enforce security policies. By automating execution, you can maintain a consistent and secure environment throughout the deployment process.

Effective Permissions Management

Manage permissions effectively to prevent unauthorized changes to infrastructure resources. By implementing strict access controls, you can reduce the risk of unauthorized modifications to critical resources.

Assessing Supply Chain Security

Assess the trustworthiness and security of the modules used and ensure they are regularly updated. By evaluating the security of your supply chain, you can minimize risks associated with third-party components and maintain a secure infrastructure.

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