Pulumi vs Terraform – What’s the Difference? (Pros and Cons)

Pulumi vs Terraform – What’s the Difference? (Pros and Cons). In this blog, we are going introduce each tool, their benefits and compare both of the most popular IaC tools.

Selecting and provisioning an appropriate infrastructure is relatively arduous. It requires a team of engineers, storage admins, system admins, an application team and backup admins to facilitate and maintain an on premise data center.

That is why big tech companies rely on fully managed cloud based infrastructures as it makes the process of provisioning effortless. However, although it has relieved the pressure on an on premise solution, it still lacks a much needed consistency to eliminate human error and enhance speed.

Therefore, it is significant to use Infrastructure as a Code (IaC). It is a modern approach to provision, customizing and managing your organization’s infrastructure in the cloud

Let’s start our article blog Pulumi vs Terraform – What’s the Difference? (Pros and Cons).

Overview of Pulumi

So firstly Pulumi is an open source Infrastructure as Code (IaC) tool used for service Orchestration. Capable of deploying, managing and updating cloud infrastructures, databases, containers and host services. Also highly beneficial as it can facilitate both lower end components that include higher level elements and storing and networking. Moreover, here you can describe the network state using typical programming languages and tools.

Primarily designed to enable you to manage your infrastructure using their existing skill sets and tools. This way, you tend to acquire precise integration of legacy systems that interact with the network cloud through its ‘Software Development Kit.’

Particularly appropriate for DevOps because it allows the development team to specify the infrastructure using infamous imperative programming languages.

With the help of Pulumi, you can deploy to any cloud, review changes before making them, and integrate with the CI/CD system. Some of the advanced features provided by Pulumi are audit capabilities, built in encryption services and integration with identity providers. Also it takes checkpoints or snapshots and stores sensitive configuration items, like passwords.

Pros of Pulumi

Worth knowing what advantages Pulumi presents:

  • Tames Cloud Complexity – Pulumi provides infrastructure from more than fifty cloud and SaaS providers. Has a complete and consistent interface that not only offers complete access to clouds but also abstracts complexity.
  • Bring The Cloud Closer To Application Development – With the help of Pulumi, you can build reusable infrastructure and infrastructure platforms so that developers can develop modern cloud applications instantly and with less overhead.
  • Foster Collaboration and Instant Innovation – It unites infrastructure teams, security teams, and developers around shared languages and tools so that everyone can ship products efficiently and quickly.
  • Uses Engineering Practices with Infrastructure – Pulumi uses this to replace inefficient, manual infrastructure processes with automation.

Cons of Pulumi

  • The only and primary disadvantage of Pulumi is that it is still unpolished and have lacked documentation in places.
  • Duplication due to letting different programming languages to work with the tool .

Overview of Terraform

Like Pulumi, Terraform is also an open source IaC tool. But, it is used for building or scaling a network and managing its operational scale. It is not a software configuration tool, which means it does not install and manage software on any target devices. Rather, it creates, modifies and destroys the server.

In addition Terraform is a highly reliable tool for data centers and software defined networking environments, where equipment is standardized and virtualized. Capable of handling lower level elements such as storage and networking devices and higher level components, including DNS entries.

Moreover, it maps the actual resources back to the original configuration, stores network metadata  and improves network performance to implement state management. In short, it is an effortless, straightforward tool that requires little or no programming experience.

Interestingly Terraform provides workspaces for organizing infrastructure, remote state management, data sharing . Also it helps you to run triggers, version control integration, command line integration and allows you to access control and governance.

Pros of Terraform

Certainly with Terraform you will get the following advantages:

  • Prevents Configuration Drift – Being a provisioning software, Terraform binds you to make changes to the containers and deploys the latest version across every server. This way, server configuration does not rely on dependency, thereby resulting in identical instances across the infrastructures.
  • Does Not Require Separate Documentation – The code you write for your infrastructure becomes documentation. Fortunately, because of its procedural nature, we can determine what’s currently deployed and its configuration by looking at the script.
  • Masterless – By default, Terraform is a masterclass. Meaning it does not require a master node to keep track of all configuration and distributing updates. It saves additional infrastructure and maintenance costs.
  • Flexibility – surely Terraform is not only capable of handling IaaS but also PaaS. It also stores local variables like cloud tokens and passwords in encrypted form on its registry.

Cons of Terraform

There are also limitations with Terraform :

  • Currently it is under development.
  • A technology with a narrow application.
  • Does not handle the error.
  • Once mistakes are made, there is no way to roll back.
  • Prohibits a few things from importing.
  • No assistance script generation from the state.

Pulumi vs Terraform - Key Differences

Even though Pulumi and Terraform have the same objective, they have distinctive in multiple ways.

Pulumi vs Terraform - Domain Specific Language (DSL)

On one hand Terraform users have to learn a domain specific language (DSL) known as Hashicorp Corporation Language (HCL), which is easy to start but arduous to master.

On the other hand, developers use general purpose languages like JavaScript, TypeScript, .Net, Python and Go while using Pulumi. This way, they can acquire familiar constructs, like loops, classes, and functions.

HCL provides these functionalities as well. But, it requires workarounds that complicate the syntax.

Pulumi vs Terraform - Code Versatility

After defining the infrastructure, Terraform leads you to the desired declarative configuration. The code tends to be clean and short. However, when you try to implement specific conditional situations, problems arise. It is because HCL is limited in that regard.

On the contrary, in Pulumi, you can write code with a standard programming language. Provides you with several methods to reach the desired parameters.

Pulumi vs Terraform - State File Troubleshooting

When you use the IaC tool, you might encounter a corrupt or inconsistent state. Usually it occurs due to a crash during an update, bug, or drift caused by a bad manual change. In such conditions, Terraform provides numerous commands for dealing with a corrupt or inconsistent state. On the other hand, Pulumi offers multiple CLI commands.

Pulumi vs Terraform - State Management

In Terraform, state files are stored on local hard drives automatically. Whereas, in Pulumi, you need to sign up for a free account on the official website and store the state files online.

When Pulumi allows you to store state files via a free account, it offers more functionality. This way, you can efficiently manage, view and monitor activities.

If you want to enjoy similar benefits from Terraform, you need to move from the default local hard drive setup. You can do so by using Terraform Cloud account or relying on a third party cloud storing provider.

Pulumi vs Terraform - Structures Large Projects

In Terraform, you can divide projects into several files and modules to create reusable components. It also enables developers to reuse code files for different environments and purposes. However, in Pulumi, you can structure the infrastructure either as a monolithic project or micro projects. Moreover, when you use higher level Pulumi extensions to map multiple resources, you won’t be able to deserialize the stack references back into resources.

Pulumi vs Terraform - Testing Support

As discussed earlier, Pulumi uses common programming languages that support unit tests with any framework. It only supports writing Go during Integration.

On the other hand, Terraform does not offer official testing support. Here, users need to rely on third party libraries like Terratest and Kitchen Terraform to test an IaC environment.

Pulumi vs Terraform - Cloud Deployment

With Pulumi, you can deploy users to the cloud from a local device. However, you need to use Terraform’s SaaS platform to deploy components to the cloud.

Pulumi vs Terraform - Documentation And Community

Compared to Terraform, the Pulumi documentation is still limited. Moreover, it has been an extensively used IaC tool for years, which lead to significant growth in its community.

Thank you for reading Pulumi vs Terraform – What’s the Difference? (Pros and Cons)

Pulumi vs Terraform - What's the Difference? Conclusion

In this Pulumi vs Terraform post, we explained pros and cons of both tools. Both the IaC tools offer similar functionalities. However, Pulumi is a less rigid tool that only focuses on functionality. Whereas, Terraform is a more mature, documented tool with sturdy community support.

But, since Pulumi is well suited to the DevOps culture, it provides a common language between development and operation teams. In that regard, you can opt for Pulumi so that you can standardize the DevOps pipeline across the development life cycle. It reinforces uniformity and leads to quicker software development with less room for error.

Why don’t you take a look at more Terraform content here.

Avatar for Hitesh Jethva
Hitesh Jethva

I am a fan of open source technology and have more than 10 years of experience working with Linux and Open Source technologies. I am one of the Linux technical writers for Cloud Infrastructure Services.

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