Helm vs Terraform: What are the differences?
Helm: The Kubernetes Package Manager. Helm is the best way to find, share, and use software built for Kubernetes; Terraform: 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.
Helm can be classified as a tool in the "Container Tools" category, while Terraform is grouped under "Infrastructure Build Tools".
Helm and Terraform are both open source tools. It seems that Terraform with 17.7K GitHub stars and 4.83K forks on GitHub has more adoption than Helm with 12.6K GitHub stars and 4.06K GitHub forks.
According to the StackShare community, Terraform has a broader approval, being mentioned in 510 company stacks & 313 developers stacks; compared to Helm, which is listed in 85 company stacks and 23 developer stacks.
What is Helm?
What is Terraform?
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What are the cons of using Helm?
What are the cons of using Terraform?
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LaunchDarkly is almost a five year old company, and our methodology for deploying was state of the art... for 2014. We recently undertook a project to modernize the way we #deploy our software, moving from Ansible-based deploy scripts that executed on our local machines, to using Spinnaker (along with Terraform and Packer) as the basis of our deployment system. We've been using Armory's enterprise Spinnaker offering to make this project a reality.
We recently moved our main applications from Heroku to Kubernetes . The 3 main driving factors behind the switch were scalability (database size limits), security (the inability to set up PostgreSQL instances in private networks), and costs (GCP is cheaper for raw computing resources).
We prefer using managed services, so we are using Google Kubernetes Engine with Google Cloud SQL for PostgreSQL for our PostgreSQL databases and Google Cloud Memorystore for Redis . For our CI/CD pipeline, we are using CircleCI and Google Cloud Build to deploy applications managed with Helm . The new infrastructure is managed with Terraform .
Read the blog post to go more in depth.
We use Terraform because we needed a way to automate the process of building and deploying feature branches. We wanted to hide the complexity such that when a dev creates a PR, it triggers a build and deployment without the dev having to worry about any of the 'plumbing' going on behind the scenes. Terraform allows us to automate the process of provisioning DNS records, Amazon S3 buckets, Amazon EC2 instances and AWS Elastic Load Balancing (ELB)'s. It also makes it easy to tear it all down when finished. We also like that it supports multiple clouds, which is why we chose to use it over AWS CloudFormation.
I use Terraform because it hits the level of abstraction pocket of being high-level and flexible, and is agnostic to cloud platforms. Creating complex infrastructure components for a solution with a UI console is tedious to repeat. Using low-level APIs are usually specific to cloud platforms, and you still have to build your own tooling for deploying, state management, and destroying infrastructure.
However, Terraform is usually slower to implement new services compared to cloud-specific APIs. It's worth the trade-off though, especially if you're multi-cloud. I heard someone say, "We want to preference a cloud, not lock in to one." Terraform builds on that claim.
Terraform Google Cloud Deployment Manager AWS CloudFormation
Kubernetes powers our #backend services as it is very easy in terms of #devops (the managed version). We deploy everything using @helm charts as it provides us to manage deployments the same way we manage our code on GitHub . On every commit a CircleCI job is triggered to run the tests, build Docker images and deploy them to the registry. Finally on every master commit CircleCI also deploys the relevant service using Helm chart to our Kubernetes cluster
Our base infrastructure is composed of Debian based servers running in Amazon EC2 , asset storage with Amazon S3 , and Amazon RDS for Aurora and Redis under Amazon ElastiCache for data storage.
We are starting to work in automated provisioning and management with Terraform , Packer , and Ansible .
We began our hosting journey, as many do, on Heroku because they make it easy to deploy your application and automate some of the routine tasks associated with deployments, etc. However, as our team grew and our product matured, our needs have outgrown Heroku. I will dive into the history and reasons for this in a future blog post.
We decided to migrate our infrastructure to Kubernetes running on Amazon EKS. Although Google Kubernetes Engine has a slightly more mature Kubernetes offering and is more user-friendly; we decided to go with EKS because we already using other AWS services (including a previous migration from Heroku Postgres to AWS RDS). We are still in the process of moving our main website workloads to EKS, however we have successfully migrate all our staging and testing PR apps to run in a staging cluster. We developed a Slack chatops application (also running in the cluster) which automates all the common tasks of spinning up and managing a production-like cluster for a pull request. This allows our engineering team to iterate quickly and safely test code in a full production environment. Helm plays a central role when deploying our staging apps into the cluster. We use CircleCI to build docker containers for each PR push, which are then published to Amazon EC2 Container Service (ECR). An
upgrade-operator process watches the ECR repository for new containers and then uses Helm to rollout updates to the staging environments. All this happens automatically and makes it really easy for developers to get code onto servers quickly. The immutable and isolated nature of our staging environments means that we can do anything we want in that environment and quickly re-create or restore the environment to start over.
The next step in our journey is to migrate our production workloads to an EKS cluster and build out the CD workflows to get our containers promoted to that cluster after our QA testing is complete in our staging environments.
Our backend consists of two major pools of machines. One pool hosts the systems that run our site, manage jobs, and send notifications. These services are deployed within Docker containers orchestrated in Kubernetes. Due to Kubernetes’ ecosystem and toolchain, it was an obvious choice for our fairly statically-defined processes: the rate of change of job types or how many we may need in our internal stack is relatively low.
The other pool of machines is for running our users’ jobs. Because we cannot dynamically predict demand, what types of jobs our users need to have run, nor the resources required for each of those jobs, we found that Nomad excelled over Kubernetes in this area.
We’re also using Helm to make it easier to deploy new services into Kubernetes. We create a chart (i.e. package) for each service. This lets us easily roll back new software and gives us an audit trail of what was installed or upgraded.
Terraform makes it so easy to deploy AWS and Google Cloud services, with the declarative approach avoiding so many headaches of manual work and possible mistakes.
- Infrastructure as Code.
- Central tool to deploy all infratructure: AWS, CloudFlare, StatusCake
The entire AWS environments is described and setup using Terraform.