Terraform vs Pulumi

Terraform vs Pulumi

Terraform and Pulumi are both Infrastructure as Code (IaC) tools. They allow you to manage, provision, and configure your infrastructure using code, which makes it easy to automate your infrastructure deployments and manage them in a version control system.

Terraform is an open source tool developed by Hashicorp. It’s popular among developers because it’s easy to use and has a wide range of community-developed plugins and integrations.

Pulumi is a newer tool developed by a startup of the same name. It’s also open source and aims to be more developer-friendly than Terraform. In addition, it supports a wider range of programming languages and is more extensible than Terraform.

In this article, we look into IaC, as well as the main uses and benefits of both Terraform and Pulumi. We’ll also examine the differences and similarities between the two.


What is IaC?

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) is the process of managing, provisioning, and configuring computing infrastructure using machine-readable definition files rather than physical hardware configuration or interactive configuration tools.

With IaC, the entire infrastructure can be deployed and managed automatically and consistently, according to the definition files. This makes IaC an important part of DevOps, as it enables infrastructure to be treated like code and thus subject to the same processes and tools as application code.

The benefits of IaC in today’s world include:

  • Enables you to manage your infrastructure as code, which means it can be treated like any other code, and thus be version-controlled, reviewed, etc
  • Allows you to automate the provisioning of infrastructure, which reduces the chances of human error and makes it possible to provision infrastructure much faster
  • Enables you to replicate your infrastructure easily and consistently
  • Allows you to manage your infrastructure in a declarative way, which means you can describe the desired state of your infrastructure, and the IaC tool will take care of provisioning accordingly

What is Terraform?

Terraform is a popular but older tool with vast platform support and documentation. Terraform is easy to get started with, even if you’re unfamiliar with IaC. It uses its own proprietary language, HCL, and it has a wide range of community-developed modules that can be used to automate the provisioning of almost any kind of infrastructure.

What language does Terraform use?

Terraform uses the Domain Specific Language (DSL) known as Hashicorp Configuration Language (HCL). HCL is declarative, meaning Terraform code defines what infrastructure should look like, rather than the steps that should be taken to create that infrastructure.

Terraform code can also be written in JSON, but HCL is the recommended language as it’s explicitly designed for Terraform.

Benefits/drawbacks of HCL

One of the benefits of Terraform’s HCL is that it’s human-readable and easy to learn if you’re familiar with other programming languages. Plus, because HCL is designed for Terraform, it’s easier to use than JSON. Terraform’s HCL is also not as widely used as JSON, making it more difficult to find community support.

Main uses of Terraform

Terraform can be used for a wide range of cloud-based infrastructure deployments. It’s often used to provision and manage resources in public clouds, such as AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. Terraform can also be used to provision and manage on-premises resources, such as servers, networking gear, and storage.

Terraform is often used to manage resources in multiple cloud providers simultaneously. This is known as multi-cloud deployments. Terraform’s multi-cloud capabilities make it a popular choice for those who want the flexibility to deploy resources in any cloud.

Main benefits of using Terraform

Terraform’s main benefits include its wide platform support, ease of use, and community modules. Terraform’s wide platform support means it can be used to manage almost any type of infrastructure. Meanwhile, Terraform’s ease of use and stability makes it a good choice for those new to IaC and open to learning HCL. Indeed, its uniform syntax for describing the infrastructure is one of its greatest strengths.

Terraform’s community modules make it easy to find code to automate the provisioning of almost any type of infrastructure.

What is Pulumi

Pulumi is a newer, developer-friendly tool that’s also fast-growing. Pulumi is open source and supports many languages, not just its own, and it integrates well with popular DevOps tools. It uses programming languages familiar to many developers, which makes learning it easy.

However, because it’s newer, Pulumi does not yet have the same level of platform support and documentation as Terraform. For instance, you can find all the resources you need to use Terraform to its maximum potential on its website. However, while Pulumi does have a website, you’ll find some of its best resources within Pulumi’s Slack community and on Github.

What languages does Pulumi use?

Pulumi supports many languages, each equally capable. Currently, Pulumi supports the following languages:

  • Go
  • Java
  • Python
  • .NET (C#, F#, VB)
  • Node.js (JavaScript and TypeScript)
  • Pulumi YAML

Since Pulumi is open source, you can even add your own language if it isn’t listed.

One of the benefits of using multiple languages is that it makes Pulumi more accessible to a wide range of developers. It also allows Pulumi to integrate with any number of DevOps tools. Pulumi also has integrations with popular DevOps tools, such as Ansible, Terraform, and Chef.

However, one of the drawbacks of using multiple languages is that it can make Pulumi more difficult to learn for those new to IaC, especially since community support for Pulumi is somewhat limited. 

Main Uses of Pulumi

Pulumi can be used for a wide range of cloud-based infrastructure deployments. As a modern IaC, Pulumi leverages existing programming languages and their native ecosystems to interact with cloud resources. Thanks to a downloadable command line interface (CLI), runtime, libraries, and a hosted service, Pulimi offers a robust way to manage cloud infrastructure, as well as provisioning and updating it.

Main Benefits of Using Pulumi

Some of the main benefits of using Pulumi include its ease of use, wide range of integrations, and growing community.

Pulumi’s ease of use makes it a good choice, especially if you’re new to IaC. The familiar programming languages make it easier to get started, especially since you don’t have to learn an entirely new language like Terraform’s HCL. Plus, Pulumi’s wide range of integrations is ideal if you want to use a tool that integrates well with your existing workflow.

Pulumi provides support for native providers by generating them directly from the cloud provider’s API. Essentially, when a cloud provider adds support for new features or resources, Pulumi gets access quickly.

Pulumi’s growing community is another benefit. Due to its use of popular programming languages, Pulumi has been able to attract many developers. This has led to a small but growing community that can offer support and expertise. It has also fostered collaboration, which is critical to faster innovation. These and other benefits of Pulumi may encourage you to move from Terraform.

What Are the Similarities Between Terraform and Pulumi?

Both Terraform and Pulumi support a wide range of cloud providers, including AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud. This means you can use either Terraform or Pulumi to provision and manage infrastructure on any of these cloud providers.

Both Terraform and Pulumi are also open source, which means you can use either Terraform or Pulumi for free and modify the code to suit your needs.

In terms of functionality, Terraform and Pulumi are very similar. Both tools can be used to manage infrastructure in the public cloud, on-premises, or in a hybrid environment.

Both Terraform and Pulumi use declarative configuration files. This means you define what your infrastructure should look like, and Terraform or Pulumi will provision and update your infrastructure to match your specifications.

What Are the Differences Between Terraform and Pulumi?

While both Terraform and Pulumi are declarative tools, Pulumi uses general-purpose imperative languages. This means Terraform automatically generates the infrastructure based on the code that’s written, while Pulumi requires the user to write code that specifically describes the infrastructure.

When it comes to the ability to adopt existing infrastructure into IaC, both Terraform and Pulumi support importing infrastructure. However, Pulumi goes a step further and generates code that matches the imported resources.

Terraform also has a wider range of resources for provisioning and managing infrastructure, so it can be used for more complex deployments than Pulumi.

Pulumi is also a newer tool than Terraform. Because Pulumi is still growing and evolving, it may not be as stable as Terraform. However, that means Pulumi can learn from the mistakes Terraform has made, and that it can innovate faster.

Additionally, Pulumi’s integration with Terraform providers means it can support more providers than Terraform.

In terms of language support, Terraform only supports HCL, while Pulumi supports many languages, including Go, JavaScript, TypeScript, Python, and .NET.

Pulumi also offers Dynamic Provider Support, which Terraform does not. Pulumi can automatically generate Terraform providers and support new resources and features much faster than Terraform. Pulumi can also generate credentials for Terraform providers, which Terraform cannot do.

Lastly, Pulumi and Terraform approach state management differently. Terraform uses a state file to track the resources it has created, while Pulumi uses Pulumi service to track the resources created.

The Pulumi service also offers several advantages, including the ability to share state across teams. You can also use Pulumi’s policy engine to enforce governance policies. With Pulumi, developers can leverage Pulumi service and any general-purpose language to write code and manage state. Developers can even convert their HCL code into Pulumi via tf2pulumi.

Terraform, on the other hand, handles its own state management. By default, it requires you to manually manage state and concurrency using state files. The implication here is that getting started with Pulumi and operationalizing it in a team environment is much easier than with Terraform.

Which Tool is Better: Terraform or Pulumi?

Both Terraform and Pulumi have their own advantages and disadvantages. Terraform is a more mature tool, and it has a wider range of resources. However, Pulumi is easier to use, and it’s constantly improving thanks to its growing community.

In the end, the best tool for you depends on your needs. If you need a more stable tool with a deeper resource and knowledge base, Terraform may be the better choice. However, if you need a tool that’s easier to use and constantly improving, Pulumi may be the better choice.

Ultimately, while Terraform and Pulumi both have their benefits, Pulumi offers some advantages that Terraform doesn’t. These advantages may make Pulumi the better choice for your needs.

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