Infrastructure as Code – Tool Comparison

Infrastructure as Code – Tool Comparison: Terraform vs. Deployment Manager vs. Ansible

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) is a software delivery method that emerged through advancements in cloud computing. IaC refers to treating your infrastructure as if it’s a piece of software. A simple implementation of IaC is writing code that can specify the infrastructure setup of an application or service in a declarative way. Once you have written the code, any authorized member of your organization can execute it, building a similar IT infrastructure every time. In an earlier article, we discussed the possibilities Google Cloud offers when it comes to IaC, in this article we will be comparing the various tools that support IaC: Terraform vs. Deployment Manager vs. Ansible. Let’s start by defining each one of them.

Terraform is an open-source IaC tool developed and offered by HashiCorp. It provides a consistent command-line workflow to manage hundreds of cloud services, whether from existing service providers or custom in-house solutions. It can handle building, changing, and versioning infrastructure safely and efficiently. 

Deployment Manager is an IaC tool developed by Google. It automates the creation and management of Google Cloud Platform services such as Google Cloud SQL, Google Compute Engine, Google Cloud storage, etc.

Ansible is an open-source IaC tool initially developed by Michael DeHaan, and later acquired by Red Hat. It automates server provisioning, configuration management, application deployment, intra-service orchestration, and many other IT needs. 

A Comparison Between Terraform, Deployment Manager, and Ansible

  1. Availability of the tools

All three tools are freely available for use. However, Terraform and Ansible offer more advanced enterprise versions or extensions at a cost. As long as you are a Google Cloud Platform customer, you can access and use the Deployment Manager Console at no additional cost by enabling it in the Google Cloud API marketplace

  1. Technologies used

Terraform is developed using the Go language and it accepts configuration files written in the HashiCorp Configuration Language (HCL) or JSON. Deployment Manager is developed in Python and Go, and it accepts configuration files written in YAML; it also accepts Python or Jinja2 templates for parameterizing the configurations. Ansible is written in Python and accepts configuration files written in YAML or INI format; it also accepts modules scripted in Perl, Python, or Ruby. 

  1. How you can use the tools

Terraform is best suited for configuring cloud infrastructures such as load balancers, virtual private cloud infrastructures, etc. Ansible on the other hand is best suited for configuring servers and deploying apps on top of the infrastructure. You can manage different servers with Ansible which focuses on traditional automation, then use Terraform to provision and manage infrastructures running inside those servers. Deployment Manager is Google Cloud specific, ensuring that various GCP solutions used by your application integrate smoothly. 

Terraform and Ansible can be used with any cloud provider to provision infrastructure and servers. Deployment Manager is designed to be used on Google Cloud, making it easier to integrate the various Google Cloud services in your apps. 

  1. Availability of external libraries and resources

Terraform offers a wide range of modules available on the Terraform module registry, enabling a user to use Terraform with the various cloud providers. Ansible modules are available through the Ansible Galaxy repository, although they are not as many as Terraform’s. Deployment Manager on Google Cloud will work out of the box without requiring any external libraries, integrating seamlessly with various Google Cloud products. Terraform and Ansible are ideal if you are deploying apps across cloud providers. Deployment Manager is most ideal if you are running your entire application on Google Cloud since you will avoid the hassle of integrating external modules.

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