Created: 5/27/2022

Summarize Infrastructure with Terraform Modules

Terraform modules can significantly simplify the IaC that lives in your projects, particularly when you have common or repetitive use cases.

What is Terraform

Terraform is an open source Infrastructure as Code tool. Terraform has the ability to observe the current state of a system, compare it to the desired state defined in your source code, create a plan of action to migrate between states, and execute that plan of action. Terraform doesn't do much on its own, but providers create an adapter layer between Terraform and the APIs for infrastructure platforms. Hashicorp (the company behind Terraform), maintains first-class providers for AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and Kubernetes.

Perks of Terraform Modules

Terraform's documentation is extremely clear and thorough, but in no particular order, these are some things I find particularly useful about Terraform modules:

  • the Terraform registry watches GitHub, and automatically deploys new module versions from git tags
  • the Terraform registry generates clear and useful documentation since module inputs and outputs are defined as HCL
  • Terraform modules allow you to get the most out of HCL, which is the best configuration language in my opinion
  • IaC for projects can be extremely tiny
  • many projects that share IaC can be updated simultaneously through module

Example 1: Pod Deployment

My container deployment module is used to deploy a single container into a Kubernetes cluster. It takes care of replication, service load balancing, ingress, and TLS certificate generation. Despite the module doing all that, it's extremely simple to use in a project:

module "container-deployment" {
  source  = "jdevries3133/container-deployment/kubernetes"
  version = "0.3.0"

  app_name = "danart"
  container = "jdevries3133/danart:1.0.1"
  domain = "danart.us"

The desire to throw a container into my cluster and expose it on a domain is really common. I use it for simple static sites like my mom's cute little art site, or documentation sites for my software packages.


The module support an extra_env argument, whose values populate a ConfigMap and are then injected into the pod environment. So, you can extend the configuration for apps that use a 3rd API, for example:

module "container-deployment" {
  extra_env = {
    API_SECRET = "password!"

With HCL, this type of dynamic configuration is much better supported than with YAML.

Example 2: Full-Stack Deployment

To take things a step further, my basic deployment module provides everything a fledgling full-stack web app needs to grow. It does everything the pod deployment does, but it also creates a PostgreSQL database using Bitnami's helm chart. It provides database connection information as environment variables, and also supports an extra_env argument for any other credential your app might need.

Example Usage: classfast.app

The end of the road with all this modularization is very clean and simple IaC. classfast.app is my most recent full-stack project, and its IaC looks like this

# ... terraform state and provider initialization boilerplate is omitted

variable "google_client_secret" {
  type      = string
  sensitive = true

data "external" "git_describe" {
  program = ["sh", "scripts/git_describe.sh"]

resource "random_password" "django_secret" {
  length  = 48
  special = true

module "basic-deployment" {
  source  = "jdevries3133/basic-deployment/kubernetes"
  version = "0.1.2"

  app_name  = terraform.workspace == "production" ? "fast-grader" : "fast-grader-beta"
  container = "jdevries3133/fast_grader_django:${data.external.git_describe.result.output}"
  domain    = terraform.workspace == "production" ? "classfast.app" : "beta.classfast.app"

  extra_env = {
    DJANGO_SECRET          = random_password.django_secret.result
    DJANGO_SETTINGS_MODULE = "fast_grader.settings.production"
    GOOGLE_CLIENT_ID       = "850669494212-rbi5f45edqpnru9a7gs1avgb480kr92b.apps.googleusercontent.com"
    GOOGLE_CLIENT_SECRET   = var.google_client_secret
    IS_PRODUCTION          = terraform.workspace == "production" ? "true" : "false"

This IaC yields:

  • parallel production and staging environment (see beta.classfast.app)
  • automated TLS certificates
  • a PostgreSQL database
  • replicated application containers
  • management of api secrets
  • GitOps-esque workflow, working with git tags

That's a lot of bang for your buck for only 33 lines of infrastructure code if you ask me!

By the way, click here to learn about that git_describe.sh script

your thoughts?