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AWS OpsWorks vs Terraform: What are the differences?
Developers describe AWS OpsWorks as "Model and manage your entire application from load balancers to databases using Chef". Start from templates for common technologies like Ruby, Node.JS, PHP, and Java, or build your own using Chef recipes to install software packages and perform any task that you can script. AWS OpsWorks can scale your application using automatic load-based or time-based scaling and maintain the health of your application by detecting failed instances and replacing them. You have full control of deployments and automation of each component . On the other hand, Terraform is detailed as "Describe your complete infrastructure as code and build resources across providers". With Terraform, you describe your complete infrastructure as code, even as it spans multiple service providers. Your servers may come from AWS, your DNS may come from CloudFlare, and your database may come from Heroku. Terraform will build all these resources across all these providers in parallel.
AWS OpsWorks can be classified as a tool in the "Server Configuration and Automation" category, while Terraform is grouped under "Infrastructure Build Tools".
Some of the features offered by AWS OpsWorks are:
- AWS OpsWorks lets you model the different components of your application as layers in a stack, and maps your logical architecture to a physical architecture. You can see all resources associated with your application, and their status, in one place.
- AWS OpsWorks provides an event-driven configuration system with rich deployment tools that allow you to efficiently manage your applications over their lifetime, including support for customizable deployments, rollback, partial deployments, patch management, automatic instance scaling, and auto healing.
- AWS OpsWorks lets you define template configurations for your entire environment in a format that you can maintain and version just like your application source code.
On the other hand, Terraform provides the following key features:
- Infrastructure as Code: Infrastructure is described using a high-level configuration syntax. This allows a blueprint of your datacenter to be versioned and treated as you would any other code. Additionally, infrastructure can be shared and re-used.
- Execution Plans: Terraform has a "planning" step where it generates an execution plan. The execution plan shows what Terraform will do when you call apply. This lets you avoid any surprises when Terraform manipulates infrastructure.
- Resource Graph: Terraform builds a graph of all your resources, and parallelizes the creation and modification of any non-dependent resources. Because of this, Terraform builds infrastructure as efficiently as possible, and operators get insight into dependencies in their infrastructure.
"Devops" is the top reason why over 27 developers like AWS OpsWorks, while over 80 developers mention "Infrastructure as code" as the leading cause for choosing Terraform.
Terraform is an open source tool with 17.4K GitHub stars and 4.77K GitHub forks. Here's a link to Terraform's open source repository on GitHub.
Instacart, Slack, and Twitch are some of the popular companies that use Terraform, whereas AWS OpsWorks is used by DeveloperTown, Third Iron, and TENDIGI, LLC. Terraform has a broader approval, being mentioned in 490 company stacks & 298 developers stacks; compared to AWS OpsWorks, which is listed in 73 company stacks and 18 developer stacks.
Ok, so first - AWS Copilot is CloudFormation under the hood, but the way it works results in you not thinking about CFN anymore. AWS found the right balance with Copilot - it's insanely simple to setup production-ready multi-account environment with many services inside, with CI/CD out of the box etc etc. It's pretty new, but even now it was enough to launch Transcripto, which uses may be a dozen of different AWS services, all bound together by Copilot.
Because Pulumi uses real programming languages, you can actually write abstractions for your infrastructure code, which is incredibly empowering. You still 'describe' your desired state, but by having a programming language at your fingers, you can factor out patterns, and package it up for easier consumption.
We use Terraform to manage AWS cloud environment for the project. It is pretty complex, largely static, security-focused, and constantly evolving.
Terraform provides descriptive (declarative) way of defining the target configuration, where it can work out the dependencies between configuration elements and apply differences without re-provisioning the entire cloud stack.Advantages
Terraform is vendor-neutral in a way that it is using a common configuration language (HCL) with plugins (providers) for multiple cloud and service providers.
Terraform keeps track of the previous state of the deployment and applies incremental changes, resulting in faster deployment times.
Terraform allows us to share reusable modules between projects. We have built an impressive library of modules internally, which makes it very easy to assemble a new project from pre-fabricated building blocks.Disadvantages
Software is imperfect, and Terraform is no exception. Occasionally we hit annoying bugs that we have to work around. The interaction with any underlying APIs is encapsulated inside 3rd party Terraform providers, and any bug fixes or new features require a provider release. Some providers have very poor coverage of the underlying APIs.
Terraform is not great for managing highly dynamic parts of cloud environments. That part is better delegated to other tools or scripts.
Terraform state may go out of sync with the target environment or with the source configuration, which often results in painful reconciliation.
I personally am not a huge fan of vendor lock in for multiple reasons:
- I've seen cost saving moves to the cloud end up costing a fortune and trapping companies due to over utilization of cloud specific features.
- I've seen S3 failures nearly take down half the internet.
- I've seen companies get stuck in the cloud because they aren't built cloud agnostic.
I choose to use terraform for my cloud provisioning for these reasons:
- It's cloud agnostic so I can use it no matter where I am.
- It isn't difficult to use and uses a relatively easy to read language.
- It tests infrastructure before running it, and enables me to see and keep changes up to date.
- It runs from the same CLI I do most of my CM work from.
Context: I wanted to create an end to end IoT data pipeline simulation in Google Cloud IoT Core and other GCP services. I never touched Terraform meaningfully until working on this project, and it's one of the best explorations in my development career. The documentation and syntax is incredibly human-readable and friendly. I'm used to building infrastructure through the google apis via Python , but I'm so glad past Sung did not make that decision. I was tempted to use Google Cloud Deployment Manager, but the templates were a bit convoluted by first impression. I'm glad past Sung did not make this decision either.
Solution: Leveraging Google Cloud Build Google Cloud Run Google Cloud Bigtable Google BigQuery Google Cloud Storage Google Compute Engine along with some other fun tools, I can deploy over 40 GCP resources using Terraform!
Check Out My Architecture: CLICK ME
Check out the GitHub repo attached
Pros of AWS OpsWorks
- Cloud management19
Pros of Terraform
- Infrastructure as code119
- Declarative syntax73
- Cloud agnostic8
- Immutable infrastructure6
- It's like coding your infrastructure in simple English6
- Platform agnostic5
- Automates infrastructure deployments4
- Scales to hundreds of hosts2
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Cons of AWS OpsWorks
Cons of Terraform
- Doesn't have full support to GKE1
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