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

Terraform vs Bicep – What’s the Difference ? (Pros and Cons). One of the major aims of the DevOps team in every organization is to find quicker and more efficient methods of deploying code. This deployment method has to be trusted and repeatable to maintain consistency across all applications.

The public cloud infrastructure is gradually moving away from traditional processes, making it hard to keep up with the growing pace of the IT industry. However, enterprises can easily accomplish their goal of automation by using Infrastructure as Code (IaC) tools. 

IaC tools are designed to operate as general purpose tools for specific development environments. Both Terraform and Bicep are popular IaC tools designed to speed up an enterprise’s development and deployment process.

In this article, we’ll highlight some of the most striking differences between these two IaC tools and outline some pros and cons of using each tool. 

Let’s start on Terraform vs Bicep – What’s the Difference ? (Pros and Cons).

What is Terraform?

First of all Terraform is one of the industry’s most popular infrastructure as code tools. It is a tool written in Hashicorp Configuration Language (HCL), a rare but fully functional programming language. However, unlike traditional programming languages, HCL allows you to define resources in human readable configuration files that are reusable and can be shared with others. In addition, the IaC tool allows developers to manage cloud and on premise resources using declarative code. 

Features of Terraform

Multi Platform Support

Secondly Terraform supports over a thousand cloud providers allowing you to work across multiple cloud providers and varying infrastructure environments. It’s multi platform support also allows users to maintain the same workflow irrespective of the cloud provider they’re working with. You can deploy your code on multiple platforms. For example, you can deploy serverless functions with AWS and utilize Google Cloud for load balancing

Requires State File

The IaC tool stores data concerning your managed infrastructure and configurations in a local file or shared cloud storage if you work with multiple development teams. The state file is crucial to Terraform’s functionality. Whilst it may be possible to run Terraform without state, doing so will shift a massive amount of work from the required space to a replacement space.

Log Access

Users are provided with detailed logs, which they can enable in the settings by selecting any desired value in the TF_LOG environment. This gives users a detailed overview of each log in the enterprise. When TF_LOG is enabled, you can footprint each user’s actions by using the data on logs to monitor the activities of users in an enterprise.

Protocol Support

Moreover Terraform uses the Provider Registry Protocol to get information about the providers you can install and to locate the distribution packages of each provider. Additionally, the provider registry consists of plugins Terraform utilizes to manage resources in the system and perform API calls to the available resources.

Pros of Terraform

Easy Declaration

The IaC tool utilizes declarative programming rather than imperative. This means that whoever writes the configuration codes declares how they want the end state of the program to be and the compiler does all the heavy lifting.

The compiler uses complex logic to determine the most efficient way to achieve the program’s end goal. Due to Terraform’s declarative programming style, users don’t need to learn complex programming logic to define resources because the tool determines the best formation to apply resources and deploy the logic. 

Easy Collaboration

If you work with multiple development teams when you’re developing applications, you’ll need your configurations to stay the same to ensure consistency during the dev process. That is why Terraform provides cloud and on premise solutions that support workflow consistency among teams. Another benefit is that it provides a version control system (VCS) that you can use to commit your configuration file and manage it effectively in its Cloud infrastructure. 

Automate Changes

All the configuration files on Terraform’s infrastructure are declarative therefore you won’t have to go through long hours creating step by step instructions for resources because the IaC tool handles all the underground logic. 

Extensive Support Community

Certainly Terraform has amassed a huge community spanning experienced developers and newbie creators during its 8 years of existence. The community has developed into an ecosystem that hosts a bunch of third party tools and also learning resources that help newbies get up to speed with the industry’s best practices on infrastructure as code

Remote State Prevents Conflicting Code Changes

Suppose you’re working on an application, and several developers are working on that project. In that case, chances are two engineers will make changes to the same set of resources at the same time, which can cause a spinoff of errors and hitches in the development process.

However, Terraform prevents this hitch by storing data and configuration information in state. Furthermore, it integrates with application backends by providing remote state management. State management prevents other engineers from making their own changes until the last change is complete.

Cons of Terraform

Expensive Enterprise Plan

The IaC tool is a very excellent service with many decent features that simplify the deployment process in an enterprise. Still, many of those great features are locked in its enterprise plan.  Unfortunately the enterprise plan is very expensive to run, starting at $20 per user for the basic plan, and the price goes up significantly in the business plan. 

Difficult to Debug

While Terraform might be pretty easy to set up due to the HCL’s human readable configuration, it can be very hard to debug. Many developers have previously highlighted the unnecessary difficulties they experience when debugging its syntax errors. As a new developer, you’ll find troubleshooting pretty hard, especially if you’re working on a very large and complex project. 

State Files Security

Storing configuration data in Terraform’s state files helps prevent confusion during the development process, but it also poses a security risk. Managing resources will be almost impossible if the IaC tool’s state is ever lost.

Up next with with Terraform vs Bicep – What’s the Difference ? is to introduce Bicep.

What is Bicep?

Bicep is a pretty new IaC language that uses declarative programming to deploy Azure resources. In addition, it is a domain specific language developed by Microsoft to work in specific Azure environments. The syntaxes of Bicep are concise, reliable and reusable. 

Besides Bicep is more like a spinoff of ARM template language, but in this case, the syntax of Bicep is different. However, the functionalities offered by ARM templates remain the same. Basically Bicep’s domain specific nature prevents developers from using the language to deploy to non Azure resources. 

Features of Bicep

Single Platform Support

Certainly Bicep language was developed by Microsoft exclusively for Microsoft applications. As a result, developers can only deploy to Azure and can’t work with other cloud developers like AWS or Google Cloud. Unlike Terraform which allows you to deploy your code in multiple cloud providers, Bicep works exclusively for Microsoft applications.

Reusable Code

In addition Bicep comes with several Azure modules that you can use to create reusable Bicep codes across multiple deployment projects. These modules improve the readability of your Bicep files by simplifying complex details of your deployment. They also eliminate the need for repetitive copy pasting when you’re working on multiple projects.  

Resource Dependency Management

There is automatic  detection of resource dependencies and deploying them accordingly. Therefore, this eliminates the need to create these dependencies using templates manually, like the ARM template.

Integration with Azure Services

Due to Bicep’s single platform nature, it integrates solely with Azure services such as templates, Azure policy, and Blueprints. Bicep files can be integrated with Azure services for continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD).

No State Files

Altogether Bicep stores all data and configuration information directly in Azure, unlike Terraform, which stores configuration data in state files. This eliminates the need for managing multiple state files. The state files help to prevent conflict of code changes among developers by allowing a change only after the last change is complete.

However, Bicep doesn’t need such files. To prevent developers from making conflicting changes, you can use the “what if” operation to preview your changes before uploading them to Azure.

Pros of Bicep

Simple Syntax

Compared to previous ARM templates, the Bicep syntax is very easy to write and understand. To code in Bicep, you don’t require any previous programming knowledge or experience. This is because the syntax is concise and is written like human readable language, allowing you to declare the resources you wish to deploy without much stress.

Repeatable Resources

Also Bicep ensures that you maintain a consistent deployment infrastructure throughout the development cycle. You can deploy Bicep files as often as you want and maintain the same resources in each state. Rather than deploying multiple files to represent separate updates, Bicep requires only one configuration file to represent the desired state. 

No Cost

Unlike Terraform and its competitors, Bicep is open source and free to use. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about licensing issues or subscription based features. Every feature and functionality you need to run Bicep is available for free.


Besides Bicep allow you to break up your code into smaller, manageable parts called modules. These modules support code usability, thereby simplifying the development process. To share modules with users in your enterprise, you’ll need a private registry, public registry, or template spec. These modules are only accessible to users with the corresponding permissions. 

But Terraform vs Bicep what are the cons of Bicep?

Cons of Bicep

Limited to Azure Environment

Remember that Bicep is a domain specific language. Specifically designed specifically for the deployment of Microsoft and Azure applications. This might not be a problem, depending on your deployment purpose. If you’re working on Microsoft exclusive applications, you don’t need multiple cloud providers. However, it’ll be almost impossible to use Bicep if you’re using multiple cloud providers and need a consistent programming language across all cloud providers.

Not Widely Used

As a matter of fact Bicep is a pretty new deployment language. Very efficient but offers little support due to its growing popularity. Unlike more experienced platforms like ARM and Terraform, Microsoft’s Bicep’s support community is still growing.

Now with Terraform vs Bicep – What’s the Difference ? is comparison time.

Differences Between Terraform and Bicep



Licensing in Terraform being enterprise grade software, that provides basic and premium features to its users based on their subscription plans. There is free and paid plans, but most essential features are only available with a premium subscription.


Here the Bicep is Microsoft’s offering for infrastructure as code. Remains open source and free to use. Importantly there are no subscription based features. Every of Bicep’s functionality is free to use. However, Microsoft may try monetizing the platform in the near future but till then, you can continue enjoying the free and open source functionalities of Bicep.

Multi Platform Support


Platform support of Terraform is a multi cloud tool. This  allows you to manage multiple cloud providers for large scale infrastructures. It also interacts with other APIs or cloud providers using plugins known as providers. There are various Terraform Azure providers that allow for the management of Azure infrastructure.


On the other hand Bicep was developed exclusively for Microsoft and Azure resources. As a result, you can’t use Bicep to deploy applications across multiple cloud providers. That is Azure specific tool and not designed to work with any other cloud service.

Deployment Methods


By this comparison Terraform utilizes desired state configuration (DSC). This allows users to easily deploy, monitor and automate the updates of all your IT resources. Terraform also uses the pre existing cloud infrastructure to provide the state designed by the user.


Here with Bicep, on the other hand, it utilizes incremental deployment methods. Instead of using the existing cloud infrastructure like Terraform does, Bicep modifies several Azure services to provide the desired state.



At this point of time Terraform has been around for over eight years. They constantly update their security infrastructure to meet up with dynamic cloud environments. Due to Terraform’s multi cloud support, you’ll have stronger security from different cloud providers. 


Bicep is Microsoft’s proprietary deployment language. Even though it remains free and open source, it doesn’t offer as much security monitoring as Terraform. 



Authentication in Terraform confirms each API based on the credentials of the providers. It evaluates credentials like Azure CLI, managed identities, Service Principal, etc., before they are authenticated. 


With Bicep, you require an authentication token which will be supplied during any request to submit a Bicep file and an ARM template. Until this token is validated, you can’t deploy resources with Bicep. ARM ensures you have permission to create the deployment as well as deploy resources within the specified template.



There are vital differences between Terraform and Bicep regarding the optimizations and efficiency of deployments. Terraform performs processing using the Terraform client. Therefore, pre-processing doesn’t involve calls to Azure since it uses HCL and state to determine the required changes.


Bicep, on the other hand, carries out processing within the service side of the core Azure infrastructure. This feature is advantageous because it allows preflight processing to check policy. 

Portal Integration


While Terraform doesn’t offer similar portal integrations as Bicep, you can use Azure Terrafy to put existing Azure infrastructure under Terraform management. Azure Terrafy is an open-source tool that Microsoft owns and maintains.


Bicep, however, has the ability to automate portal actions. The IaC tool allows you to export templates using the Azure portal. Exporting templates will help you to understand the JSON properties and syntax that deploy your resources.

Well we have read Terraform vs Bicep – What’s the Difference ? until the very end. Let’s conclude.

Terraform vs Bicep - What's the Difference? Conclusion

So both Terraform and Bicep are excellent deployment languages. They’re both easy to learn and help simplify the deployment process in an enterprise. However, you must consider your needs and requirements to determine what product will suit you perfectly.

What did we learn about Terraform vs Bicep – What’s the Difference ?

Overall Terraform is the better choice for the all around tool. Powerful and popular IaC tool used by numerous organizations. With array of robust features, there is also a support for  over 100 providers. Major benefit it works with main cloud providers and on premises solutions like VMware.  

Then there is Bicep, a great choice for those working with ARM templates already. For organizations heavily invested in Microsoft Azure and ARM templates Bicep is the best choice.

When deciding which is best for your environment, it’s important to consider whether you’ll be deploying to more than one cloud or whether your infrastructure will consist of a multi or hybrid-cloud environment.

We’ve listed the pros and cons of each tool. You should tailor your considerations based on each tool’s features, pros and cons. After careful evaluation, you should be able to determine the best deployment tool for your next project

Read more about our Terraform content here

Avatar for Kamso Oguejiofor
Kamso Oguejiofor

Kamso is a mechanical engineer and writer with a strong interest in anything related to technology. He has over 2 years of experience writing on topics like cyber security, network security, and information security. When he’s not studying or writing, he likes to play basketball, work out, and binge watch anime and drama series.

3.6 8 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x