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30 Mar
min read

5 Best Practices for Efficient Terraform Orchestration

Learn how to optimize your Terraform orchestration with these five best practices. Enhance your deployment process and increase productivity.

Jack Dwyer

Platform Engineering + DevOps

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Are you wondering 'What Is Terraform'? Have you ever considered the advantages of managing your Terraform infrastructure as if it were code? If so, you’re not alone. Terraform Orchestration allows you to define infrastructure as code, apply version control to that codebase, and keep track of the changes to your infrastructure over time. Orchestrating with Terraform for Infrastructure as Code enables you to manage complex systems in a repeatable manner, getting the maximum performance from your infrastructure and services. Read on to learn more about Terraform Orchestration.

What Is Terraform Orchestration and How Does It Work?

team discussing uses of Terraform Orchestration

Terraform is my go-to tool for managing and provisioning infrastructure as code. It allows us to define the infrastructure we need in an easy-to-understand language and then create a plan to apply these changes. At a high level, Terraform allows us to write configuration files in a language called HCL (HashiCorp Configuration Language). These files describe the components needed to run a single application or your entire datacenter.

Moving on to Terraform's primary use cases, it's a versatile tool that can satisfy a broad range of requirements

1. Multi-cloud deployment

Terraform configures and manages infrastructure across various cloud providers, such as AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud. This flexibility lets you leverage multiple IaaS providers simultaneously and avoids vendor lock-in.

2. Software-defined networking

Terraform can help configure complex software-defined networking components like firewalls and subnets. It enables you to create a robust and secure network for your applications.

3. Managing infrastructure for multi-tier applications

Using Terraform, you can define and build multiple resources for even the most complex applications. This includes resources like virtual machines, subnets, network interfaces, firewall rules, and database configurations.

Terraform Orchestration

Terraform orchestration involves managing complex and diverse infrastructure with simplicity and efficiency. It handles deploying, scaling, and configuring infrastructure resources.
With Terraform, you can define an entire multi-tier application's infrastructure, including its network architecture, server configurations, and associated services— all within a single Terraform configuration file.

The Need and Importance of Terraform Orchestration

1. Consistency and Repeatability

Terraform ensures that infrastructure deployment is consistent and repeatable across different environments. It drastically reduces the chances of human error and configuration drift.

2. Scalability and Flexibility

Terraform provides a simple way to manage scalable infrastructure. You can easily add, remove, or modify resources to adapt to changing business needs.

3. Collaboration and Version Control

By defining infrastructure as code, Terraform fosters better collaboration among team members. It seamlessly integrates with version control systems, tracking and managing changes effectively.

What Are The Core Concepts of Terraform Orchestration? 

person learning about Terraform Orchestration

Terraform embodies the principle of Infrastructure as Code, allowing developers and operations teams to define infrastructure configurations using declarative code. This approach eliminates manual setup and configuration, replacing it with version-controlled code that can be easily shared, reviewed, and audited.

Declarative Configuration Language

Terraform employs a declarative configuration language called HashiCorp Configuration Language (HCL). This language enables developers to define the desired state of infrastructure resources, specifying the desired configuration. Terraform interprets this declaration and handles the underlying operations to achieve the specified configuration.


Terraform interacts with various platform providers such as AWS, Azure, or other Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) platforms through providers. These providers enable Terraform to initiate and manage a plethora of infrastructure-level tasks, facilitating the creation of virtual spaces, launching instances, configuring networking, and more.


In Terraform, any set of configuration files in a folder is considered a module. Every Terraform configuration has at least one module, known as its root module. Modules allow for encapsulation and reuse of configurations, promoting best practices and reducing duplication.

State Management

Terraform keeps track of the current infrastructure setup through a state file, which serves as a real-time snapshot of the infrastructure. This state file aids Terraform in identifying the necessary steps to align the infrastructure with the desired configuration, ensuring consistency and reliability in infrastructure management.

Execution Plan and Providers

Terraform formulates an execution plan by contrasting the desired configuration with the current state. This plan outlines the actions required to attain the desired state, specifying the resources to be created, updated, or deleted. Terraform then interacts with technology providers through plugins like AWS or Kubernetes to execute this plan.

Maximizing Efficiency with Zeet's CI/CD & Deployment Platform

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

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5 Best Practices for Terraform Orchestration

sticky notes for best practices of Terraform Orchestration

1. Structure and Style Best Practices

  • To optimize the use of Terraform in managing infrastructure as code efficiently, adherence to best practices in structuring and styling Terraform code is crucial.
  • Maintaining a consistent file structure and naming convention not only streamlines maintenance efforts but also boosts readability. 
  • Leveraging variables appropriately, avoiding hard coding, and utilizing the lookup function for parsing outputs enhance flexibility and maintainability. 
  • It's essential to implement a tagging schema for resources to aid in security incidents and troubleshooting while adhering to the DRY (Don't Repeat Yourself) principle by using modules to avoid redundancy. 
  • Templates can be utilized for tasks like AWS EC2 user data to maintain clean and maintainable code, and versions should be specified for providers and modules to avoid unexpected changes during updates.

2. State File Best Practices

  • Store state files remotely to mitigate the risk of local state loss and use one state file per environment (development, testing, production) for better control and management.
  • Setting up state locking helps prevent concurrent contention issues and ensures consistency. 
  • Leveraging backends that support state locking is essential to prevent concurrent state modifications that could lead to corruption. 
  • Even in remote state, ensuring regular backups are taken is crucial to prevent data loss in case of corruption. 
  • Restricting access to the state files using IAM roles or equivalent ensures that only authorized personnel can modify or access state information.

3. Development Best Practices

  • Enhance productivity by configuring your Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for streamlined development. 
  • Testing Terraform code rigorously, including unit, contract, integration, and end-to-end tests, is vital to ensuring code reliability and functionality. 
  • Integration of tools like Terraform FMT and TFLint helps maintain coding standards and catch errors. 
  • Setting up CI pipelines to automatically test and validate Terraform code on push to the repository ensures that only valid configurations are deployed.

4. Deployment Best Practices

  • Automate deployments using a CI/CD pipeline to ensure consistent and reliable deployments from identical environments. 
  • Employ automated security scanning tools to identify and rectify misconfigurations before they reach production, enhancing security and adherence to best practices. 
  • Aim for immutable infrastructure patterns, separate infrastructure into logical components, use Terraform plan to review changes before applying, and integrate monitoring tools to track infrastructure health and performance, with alerts for issues detected post-deployment.

5. Security Best Practices

  • Avoid passing credentials to Terraform manually and instead run Terraform code from within the cloud provider in an automated pipeline. 
  • Implement security best practices by leveraging role-based access patterns like IAM Roles on AWS to enhance security and access control. 
  • Ensure that IAM roles and policies assigned to Terraform are scoped to the minimum necessary permissions. 
  • Using Terraform's integration with secrets management tools and encryption for at-rest and in-transit data associated with Terraform is crucial for heightened security.
  • Integrating security-focused static code analysis tools to automatically identify potential security issues in Terraform code is also essential.

Empowering Engineering Teams with Zeet's DevOps Platform

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.

Addressing Terraform Orchestration Limitations

a guide book on limitations of Terraform Orchestration

When using Terraform for orchestration, one limitation to consider is its focus on provisioning infrastructure rather than managing workflows. This limitation can be mitigated by integrating external tools such as CI/CD pipelines like Jenkins, GitLab CI, or GitHub Actions. Leveraging third-party orchestration tools like Airflow or Rundeck can help manage complex workflows that Terraform may not natively support.

Complex State Management in Large Projects Solutions

As projects scale, managing Terraform state can become complex. To address this challenge, remote state backends like AWS S3 with state locking via DynamoDB can be used for secure and collaborative state file management. State segmentation by breaking down Terraform configurations into smaller, manageable modules with their state files can also help reduce complexity.

Difficulty in Managing Multi-environment Configurations Solutions

Managing configurations across multiple environments can pose challenges. To overcome this, utilizing environment-specific configuration files by separating .tfvars files for each environment or dynamic workspaces within Terraform can assist in managing different state files for various environments within the same configuration.

Lack of Built-in Testing Capabilities Solutions

Terraform lacks built-in testing capabilities, but this limitation can be remedied by implementing testing frameworks such as Terratest or Kitchen-Terraform for automated testing of Terraform code. Adopting a Test-Driven Development (TDD) approach by writing tests for infrastructure before Terraform code can also ensure requirements are met.

Security and Compliance Solutions

While Terraform can securely manage infrastructure, it does not enforce security or compliance policies. To address this, using static code analysis tools like Checkov or tfsec for analyzing potential security issues and enforcing compliance. Policy as Code approaches like HashiCorp Sentinel or Open Policy Agent help in ensuring policies and governance across Terraform deployments.

Managing Dependencies and Order of Creation Solutions

Terraform's struggle with implicit dependencies between resources can result in creation order issues. Explicit dependency management through the depends_on attribute to define dependencies between resources and modularization by breaking down Terraform configurations into modules can help manage dependencies effectively.

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10 Tools and Utilities for Enhancing Terraform Orchestration

developers about to use tools for Terraform Orchestration

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

2. Terraform Cloud

Terraform Cloud is a cloud-based solution that assists in the management and deployment of Terraform configurations. This tool streamlines the development lifecycle by managing and deploying configurations efficiently. It provides built-in cost estimates ensuring cost-effective deployment.

3. Terragrunt

Terragrunt is a tool that orchestrates the deployment and management of Terraform modules, simplifying the development lifecycle. Through Terragrunt, developers can effectively manage modules, dependencies, and configurations, making the development process more seamless.

4. TFLint

TFLint is an open-source linting tool for Terraform that aims to unveil code quality issues. By using TFLint, developers can identify errors, issues, and potential bugs in their Terraform code, ensuring a high level of code quality.

5. Terrascan

Terrascan is a static code analyzer designed to focus on security and compliance. This tool helps to identify misconfigurations and policy violations in the infrastructure, making it easier for developers to maintain the security and compliance of their Terraform code.

6. Checkov

Checkov is an open-source security scanner that scrutinizes infrastructure-as-code files for security vulnerabilities and policy violations. By using Checkov, developers can ensure that their infrastructure adheres to security standards and policies, improving the overall security of the infrastructure.

7. Terraform Compliance

Terraform Compliance is a commercial tool that allows developers to validate Terraform configurations against predefined policies. By using Terraform Compliance, developers can add an extra layer of assurance and governance to their infrastructure, ensuring that it meets various compliance and regulatory requirements.

8. Terratest

Terratest is an open-source testing framework for Terraform that provides a comprehensive suite for writing unit tests, integration tests, and end-to-end tests. By using Terratest, developers can validate their Terraform code, ensuring that it functions as expected and meets all requirements.

9. Terraform Graph

Terraform Graph is a visualization tool that generates a graphical representation of dependencies between resources in a Terraform configuration. This tool provides insights crucial for debugging and understanding complex infrastructures, making it easier for developers to visualize and analyze their infrastructure.

10. Infracost

Infracost is an open-source tool that provides accurate cost estimates for Terraform deployments. Infracost supports a wide array of cloud providers and on-premises infrastructure, making it easier for developers to estimate and manage the costs associated with their Terraform deployments.

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Become A Top Performing Engineering Team With Zeet's CI/CD & Deployment Platform for Kubernetes and Terraform

Zeet helps businesses leverage their cloud, Kubernetes, and Terraform investments to the fullest by offering a comprehensive CI/CD and deployment platform. With Zeet, you can achieve seamless cloud deployments every time, making the most out of your engineering team's efforts. 

By using Zeet, your team can become top-performing individual contributors while ensuring seamless deployments at all times. Contact Zeet to learn more about how you can elevate your cloud, Kubernetes, and Terraform experience and help your engineering team become more proficient in their roles.

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