Terraform vs Docker-What’s the Difference? (Pros and Cons)

Terraform vs Docker-What’s the Difference? (Pros and Cons). Terraform and Docker are both open source programs categorized as Infrastructure Build and Container Tools, respectively. Some popular companies that use these two tools are; Instacart, Slack, Harvest, and Twitch

However, there have been discussions over which is preferable. Given the similarities and distinctions between the two, making a decision is difficult. As a result, this guide aims to clear up your doubts about Terraform and Docker by contrasting the two tools in a few key areas and offering a brief overview.

Let’s continue with Terraform vs Docker-What’s the Difference? (pros and Cons). 

What is Terraform?

First of all Terraform is an Infrastructure as Code (IaC) solution. Primarily used by DevOps teams to simplify infrastructure tasks. It is an open source, cloud agnostic provisioning tool made by HashiCorp in the Go programming language.

Cloud and on premises resources can be specified using human readable configuration files that you can reuse and share. After that, you can allocate and manage every aspect of your infrastructure for the duration of its life cycle using a standardized workflow.

Consider Terraform a connective tissue and a common language for managing your entire IT stack. It enables you to write code that describes your entire infrastructure. In addition Terraform also enables you to create and manage these resources concurrently across providers whether your servers are from the same provider or different ones.

Some of these providers are AWS or Azure. In addition to high level components like DNS records and SaaS services, Terraform can handle low level components like computation, storage, and networking resources. 

Features of Terraform

  • Terraform offers a “planning” step where it develops an execution plan and asks for your consent before altering your infrastructure. This execution plan is recorded in a state file. Terraform uses the state file to decide which changes to make to your infrastructure to match your configuration. This helps you prevent surprises when Terraform manipulates infrastructure. 
  • Terraform automates creating and modifying any non dependent resources by creating a graph of all your resources. As a result, Terraform constructs infrastructure as quickly as possible, and operators gain knowledge of the dependencies in their infrastructure.
  • To save time and promote best practices, Terraform enables reusable configuration components known as modules that define configurable infrastructure groups. You can utilize publicly available Terraform Registry modules or create your own. 
  • As your configuration is stored in a file, you may utilize Terraform Cloud to manage Terraform processes between teams and commit your configuration to a Version Control System (VCS). Terraform Cloud offers secure access to shared state and private data while running Terraform in a consistent, dependable environment. Additionally, it offers role based access controls and a private registry for sharing providers and modules, among other things.
  • High level configuration syntax is used to represent infrastructure. This enables users to version and handle a data center blueprint like any other code. Terraform takes an immutable approach to infrastructure, reducing the complexity of upgrading or modifying your services and infrastructure. Furthermore, you can reuse and share infrastructure.

Up next with Terraform vs Docker-What’s the Difference? is to learn the Terraform benefits.

Pros of Terraform

  • Network appliances, software as a service (SaaS) deployments, public and private cloud infrastructure, and other external resources are all supported by Terraform. It’s declarative configuration files allow you to design and spin up numerous resources, including compute, networking, and storage nodes.
  • Users can declare the desired end state using a declarative tool, and the IaC tools will automatically complete the necessary processes to fulfil the user configuration. In contrast to other imperative IaC tools requiring users to specify the exact steps needed to obtain the desired state, Terraform does not demand this.
  • Terraform fosters reusable configurations, allowing users to provide many environments using the same configuration. It also supports using modules to create reusable components within configuration files.
  • The IaC tool allows users to safely roll back the majority of infrastructure configurations without tedious reconfigurations because all configurations are version controlled, and the state is controlled.
  • Terraform offers platform specific IaC tools including AWS CloudFormation and Azure Resource templates. However, Terraform enables users to manage infrastructure across platforms with applications that leverage numerous tools, platforms, and multi cloud architectures with just one tool.
  • All alterations in Terraform are recorded, and any unnecessary changes will not occur unless specifically authorized by the user. This is a result of the state files that keep track of all changes in the environment. Terraform can be further automated to identify configuration errors and automatically correct them to ensure that the desired state is always maintained.

Cons of Terraform

  • Terraform users may occasionally encounter frustrating bugs that they must work around. Interaction with any underlying APIs is wrapped under Terraform providers from third parties, and any bug patches or new functionality require a provider release. Some service providers have relatively limited coverage of the underlying APIs.
  • Since it is impossible to control the resources if the Terraform state is ever lost, the security of state files is an issue. Terraform may alter or delete your current resources if your state is not in sync. It is advised to evaluate your status once configuration issues have been ruled out. Refresh, import, or replace resources to ensure your configuration is up to date.
  • Terraform also has the disadvantage of inadequate management of highly dynamic aspects of cloud environments. It’s best to leave this to other tools or scripts. Also, it is incompatible with local files. It would be a great addition to creating the code for import. 

Next with Terraform vs Docker-What’s the Difference? is to introduce Docker. 

What is Docker?

Docker is an open source software platform that gives programmers access to an ecosystem of supporting tools and the ability to construct, deploy, and manage virtualized application containers on a common operating system (OS).

Docker Inc. introduced Docker container technology in 2013. The company established the software to provide a commercial edition of container management software while also serving as the primary sponsor of an open source version. However, Mirantis acquired the Docker Enterprise business in November 2019.

Features of Docker

  • One of Docker’s best features is that it makes system configuration easier and simpler. This feature allows users to release codes more quickly and with less effort. Since you can use Docker in many contexts, the infrastructure and the application’s environment are unrelated.
  • Docker can track container image versions, roll back to prior versions, and determine who produced a version and how. It can even upload only the changes between an old and a new version.
  • Swarm is a Docker clustering and scheduling tool. It uses the Docker API on the front end, which allows us to manipulate it with multiple tools. It is a self organizing collection of engines that allow for pluggable backends.
  • Docker can combine multiple processes within a single container using Linux Containers (LXC). This allows you to create an application that can continue to run while updating or repairing one of its components.
  • Docker offers improved container portability. While Docker containers run without change in any desktop, data center, or cloud environment, LXC containers frequently refer to machine specific parameters, enhancing container movement.

Pros of Docker

  • By simplifying technical settings and quickly launching apps, Docker aids in increasing productivity. Additionally, it not only offers a secure environment in which to run applications, but it also uses fewer resources.
  • Docker offers security management. Security management enables you to save secrets in the swarm, a Docker clustering and scheduling tool itself. It also allows you to decide which secrets to grant a service access to. Essentially, it grants the engine critical commands like secret inspect, secret create, and many others.
  • Docker provides instant benefits to your business by lowering the infrastructure and maintenance expenses associated with supporting your current application portfolio while accelerating the time to market for new solutions. This makes it simpler to run more codes, which costs you less on each server.
  • Another advantage of Docker is how quickly and easily you can configure the system. In other words, Docker enables users to deploy their work with less time and effort. Since you may utilize Docker in many contexts, the infrastructure’s requirements no longer correlate with the application’s setting.

Cons of Docker

  • Containers don’t operate at bare metal speeds. Containers require fewer resources than virtual machines. However, containers still incur performance costs due to overlay networking and interface between containers and the host system. To get 100 percent bare metal performance, you must employ bare metal rather than containers.
  • If you don’t store it first somewhere else, all data inside a container is designed to be permanently lost when the container goes down. There are solutions to save data persistently in Docker, such as Docker Data Volumes, but this is a difficulty users and experts are yet to fully address.
  • Not all applications benefit from containers. Containers will benefit only from programs designed to run as a collection of separate microservices. Docker’s main benefit is that it can simplify application distribution by offering a straightforward packaging method.
  • Graphical applications perform poorly with Docker. Docker serves as a way to deploy server programs without a graphical user interface. Although there are various inventive ways to run GUI software inside a container, such as X11 video forwarding, these methods are, at best, tedious.

Now with Terraform vs Docker-What’s the Difference? Let’s get to know their differences. 

Differences between Terraform and Docker



On one hand Terraform serves as an infrastructure build tool that enables you to create and modify Cloud and on premise resources rapidly and safely using reusable configuration files. It also serves as a platform agnostic tool; therefore, you can use it with any supported provider.


On the other hand Docker is largely classified as a virtual machine and container that simplifies the creation and delivery of distributed applications while also providing application separation and cost effective scalability.

Version Control


This is a feature of Terraform that users often overlook. The seamless and native integration of Terraform with version control platforms like GitHub gives users a unified view of the status and effects of each configuration modification. 


With Docker, you can version control and commit changes to your Docker images. It is quite simple to roll back to an earlier version of your Docker image if you upgrade a component and it disrupts your entire environment. Docker also ensures consistency throughout numerous development and release cycles.



Usability with Terraform aligns precisely with how one wants it to and is generally straightforward to install. It learns from what you want to do with the infrastructure. This tool automatically configures itself with all coding standards, and as a result, it has recently gained popularity in talks of DevOps mechanisms.


In addition with Docker,  it speeds up the process of evaluating and fixing bugs, while lightweight containers make system construction, deployment, and management easier. Docker, above all, standardizes the environment to produce better results. However, it has sync issues and insecure networking systems.



The security of the data that Terraform controls is a critical concern. It regularly backs up the production data stores and has a recovery plan in place in case of a significant outage. The Vault Transit Secret Engine encrypts data while it is in transit. 


However, Docker guarantees that applications that are running in containers are totally isolated from one another from a security perspective, giving you total control over traffic management and flow. No Docker container has access to the activities taking place inside another container.

Complementary Tools


Equally Terraform works with various cloud providers, including Azure, VMware, and AWS. If you have numerous cloud providers, Terraform is a great approach to ensure that their configurations are consistent. Other tools that integrate with Terraform are CloudFare, Heroku, and Google Compute Engine


However Docker’s SaaS service consists of three parts: software, objects, and registries. Its suite also has three essential tools: Docker Compose, Docker Swarm, and Docker Volume. Other integrated tools with Docker are Java, Kubernetes, Bitbucket, and Ansible

Multi-Cloud Platforms

How about multi cloud platform usability of Terraform vs Docker-What’s the Difference? Let’s find out.


Indeed Terraform is a cloud independent platform. A configuration file written in HashiCorp configuration language (HCL) can be used to control infrastructure resources hosted by several cloud providers. It also supports cross cloud dependencies. Terraform introduces resilience and fault tolerance by deploying resources across various cloud environments.


One of Docker’s most attractive features is portability. Docker’s availability has been acknowledged by all major cloud computing providers, including Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Compute Platform (GCP).

Additionally, Docker integrates well with a number of different IaaS providers, including OpenStack and Microsoft Azure. Also, you can used it with a number of configuration managers, including Chef, Puppet, and Ansible, to name a few.

Thank you for reading Terraform vs Docker-What’s the Difference? We shall conclude. 

Terraform vs Docker-What’s the Difference? Conclusion

In this article, you have learned about Terraform and Docker, and we have explored their pros, cons, and differences. You’ve seen that Terraform is a common language for managing your entire IT stack, enabling you to write code that describes your entire infrastructure. 

However, you’ve also seen that Docker is an open source software platform that gives programmers access to an ecosystem of supporting tools enabling them to construct, deploy, and manage virtualized application containers on a common operating system. 

You’ve learned how Terraform and Docker are largely categorized as Virtual Machine Platforms & Containers and Infrastructure Build tools, respectively. Once you coordinate these two tools in your projects, you’ll be able to automate infrastructure, application deployments, monitoring, and more.

Please learn more about Terraform and Docker from our blog articles. 

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.

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