Ansible vs Terraform [ 7 points comparison ]

Ansible and Terraform are widely used tools in infrastructure automation, but they have distinct features and different purposes with some overlaps.

Ansible vs Terraform

Here’s a comparison between Ansible and Terraform:

#1 Purpose:

  • Ansible is a configuration management and automation tool that focuses on managing and automating the configuration of systems, deploying applications, and orchestrating complex IT workflows. It is primarily used for tasks such as system configuration, application deployment, and management of infrastructure components.
  • Terraform is an infrastructure provisioning tool that enables you to define and manage infrastructure as code. It focuses on creating, managing, and provisioning infrastructure resources in various cloud providers and on-premises environments.

#2 Declarative vs Imperative:

  • Ansible uses a declarative approach, where you define the desired state of your systems and brings them to that state. Ansible playbooks describe the desired configurations, and Ansible handles the execution and enforcement of those configurations.
  • Terraform uses an imperative approach, where you define the sequence of steps to create and provision infrastructure resources. Terraform configuration files specify the resources and their relationships, and Terraform executes the steps in the desired sequence to bring up the infrastructure.

#3 Configuration Management vs Infrastructure Provisioning:

  • Ansible is primarily used for configuration management, application deployment, and automation of IT workflows. It excels at system configuration, installing software, managing files, and executing ad-hoc commands on remote systems.
  • Terraform is focused on infrastructure provisioning and orchestration. It allows you to define and manage infrastructure resources like virtual machines, networks, storage, etc. Terraform supports multiple cloud providers and can provide resources consistently and repeatedly.

#4 Agentless vs API-driven:

  • Ansible follows an agentless architecture, meaning it does not require any software to be installed on the managed systems. It uses SSH and other remote protocols to connect to remote systems and execute tasks.
  • Terraform is API-driven and interacts with cloud providers and infrastructure platforms through their respective APIs. It makes API calls to create, update, or delete infrastructure resources, and it can work with various cloud providers and services.

#5 Ecosystem and Integrations:

  • Ansible has a rich ecosystem with many modules and plugins for managing different systems, platforms, and services. It integrates well with various tools and technologies, including cloud providers, network devices, monitoring systems, etc.
  • Terraform has a large and growing ecosystem with many provider plugins that enable provisioning resources in different cloud providers, infrastructure platforms, and services. Terraform integrates well with popular cloud providers and supports numerous infrastructure resources.

#6 Scope of Automation:

  • Ansible is a general-purpose automation tool that can be used for various tasks, including configuration management, application deployment, and system orchestration. It can manage both the configuration of systems and the execution of complex workflows.
  • Terraform is explicitly focused on infrastructure provisioning and orchestration. It excels at creating and managing infrastructure resources but has a different level of flexibility for general-purpose automation than Ansible.

#7 Ansible vs Terraform similarities

  • Ansible and Terraform promote configuration reusability. Ansible uses roles and playbooks, allowing users to define reusable configurations and apply them to different systems. Terraform uses modules, enabling users to define and encapsulate reusable infrastructure configurations that can be shared across projects and teams.

In summary, Ansible is a powerful tool for configuration management, application deployment, and system automation, while Terraform is designed for infrastructure provisioning and orchestration. They can be used together in a DevOps workflow, with Ansible handling system configuration and application deployment and Terraform managing the infrastructure resources required for those systems and applications.