Ansible vs Terraform : Know the difference

Rashmi Bhardwaj | Blog,Cloud & Virtualization,Programming & Software

Ansible and Terraform each are addressing a key point of app and environment management. Terraform is a lifecycle management tool whereas Ansible is a used to configure apps.

What is Terraform?

Terraform is an open source command line tool that can be used to provision any kind of infrastructure on many of different platforms and services. Terraform can be written in HCL (HashiCorp Config Language). HashiCorp Config Language is easy to learn and easy to troubleshoot. It’s between human-friendly and machine-readable code. Terraform training has been the ask of many Cloud engineers who use this tool for provisioning the assets. Infact Terraform in Azure and AWS has become quite popular.

 Features of Terraform

  • Terraform quickly deploys Infrastructure.
  • Terraform uplifts consistency and collaboration.
  • Terraform graph command executes the relationships.
  • Terraform is very quick in building configuration from scratch.


What is Ansible?

Ansible is used to automate and configure apps. It can work with Docker, Amazon EC2 or Kubernetes. Ansible is the product of Red Hat Inc. since 2012. It is a configuration management tool and it is open-source. Ansible’s architecture is agentless and server less and it supports modules for managing Windows and UNIX like hosts. Ansible depends on SSH/PowerShell sessions.


Ansible executes an DevOps paradigm. It executes all the ad-hoc commands. Ansible’s imperative nature it suitable for traditional configuration management. Ansible is used for various goals like automation and potential migration. Ansible for devops has been gaining momentum and embraced in Cloud Solutions especially automation.

Features of Ansible

  • Ansible is agentless, it diminishes the efforts involved in installing and managing an agent.
  • Ansible acts as a single tool for all DevOps tasks as it defines the infrastructure in the ansible playbook and commits to source control.
  • Ansible is a light weight tool, preferred for quick and easier deployment. It is user friendly.

Comparison between Ansible and Terraform

It is difficult to determine which one is better, although they are similar. Below are some points which can describe the comparison between Ansible and Terraform:

  • Ansible and Terraform both are open source language.
  • Ansible uses the syntax of YAML and Terraform uses the HCL language.
  • Ansible is a configuration management tool while on other side Terraform is an orchestration tool.
  • Ansible provides support for mutable infrastructure and Terraform provides support for immutable infrastructure.
  • Ansible follows procedural language, while Terraform follows a declarative language.
  • Ansible provides partial VM provisioning, networking and storage management. On the contrary, Terraform provides comprehensive VM provisioning, networking and storage management.
  • Ansible does not have lifecycle or state management in contrast to Terraform, which is dependent on lifecycle or state management.
  • Terraform is a provisioning tool. Cloud formation and Ansible are configuration management tool.
  • Terraform has built in parallel mechanisms which allow creating a set of resources in threads. Ansible would require to use async and poll, which would probably make you do async blocks with a wait period between them.

Ansible vs Terraform : Difference table

Open Source
Open Source
Client only
Client only
Execution Control
No, Any computer can be a controller.
All clouds
All clouds
TypeAnsible is a configuration management tool.
Terraform is a orchestration tool.
Ansible provide support for mutable infrastructure.
Terraform provides support for immutable infrastructure.
Ansible follows procedural language.
Terraform follows a declarative language.
VM Provisioning, Networking and Storage Management
It provides partial VM provisioning, networking and storage management.
It provides comprehensive VM provisioning, networking and storage management.
Packaging and templating
Ansible provides complete support.
Terraform provides partial support.
Lifecycle (State) Management
It does not have lifecycle management.
It is dependent on lifecycle or state management.
Master server
Ansible is Master less. Some other tools like chefs, puppets require the master server to store the changes and distribute the updates but there are disadvantages such as extra security and infrastructure maintenance which incurs cost.
Terraform is also master less. It communicates with the cloud providers using API. They don’t require any extra infrastructure authentication mechanism.
Agent requirement
Ansible does not require any extra agents to be installed on the server to install.
Terraform also does not require any extra agent to install.

Download the comparison table here.



Both the tools have many similarities and a differences as well. So, which one is the best? It is preferable to use Ansible for configuration management and Terraform for orchestration. Terraform is orchestration and it is considerably intuitive.

Terraform was designed with immutability in mind. It is a provisioning tool that deals with immutable infrastructures in a native way. Ansible is optimized for configuration management and although it can perform orchestration tasks it is better to use the best (and fastest) tool for the given task.


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