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

Terraform vs Helm – What’s the Difference ? (Pros and Cons). Containerization has become quite popular in this time and age. The more you deal with containerization, the more clusters of Kubernetes you get. As a result, there is an increased need to manage these Kubernetes clusters effectively. Tools like Terraform and Helm come to view.

Shall we start with Terraform vs Helm – What’s the Difference ? 

What is Terraform?

Firstly, Terraform is a popularly known open source infrastructure as a code (IaC) tool. Also, it makes it easy to manage and automate other infrastructure and services effectively. In turn, these codes make it easy for engineers/developers to perform certain activities like setting up servers, managing cloud resources, creating security schemes, and Installing and managing docker containers

Well, it doesn’t matter which provider your server is running on (Azure or AWS). With, Terraform it helps you to build resources across every one of them. One of the essential functions of Terraform is that it provides cloud provisioning for each provider you choose and multiple cloud deployment.

Features of Terraform

  • Uses declarative code style: Engineer only needs to give the end state of whatever setup they are working on. 
  • Automation change: This feature allows you to automatically apply changesets to different infrastructures that are built (or infrastructure that already exists). This feature helps to minimize the wastage of resources and errors. 
  • Resource Graph: Builds a graph of available resources. The primary purpose of this feature is to provide its users with a clearer picture of how you can efficiently build an Infrastructure.
  • Drift detection: One of the most prominent features of Terraform is that it comes with a fantastic drift detective system that gives you a detailed view of the difference between your present and desired state while building an infrastructure.  

Pros of Terraform

  • Open source and with a strong community. 
  • Offers a planning phase to its users. Additionally, this phase makes it easy for you to see the results of an action before you apply any changes. 
  • Comes with immutable infrastructure. Therefore, the servers on terraforms are usually replaced instead of being changed. This approach leads to fewer failures, vulnerabilities, threats and errors. 

Cons of Terraform

  • Challenging to work with beta resources on Terraform, as it does not support beta objects, making it challenging to manage apps inside a Kubernetes cluster. 
  • No feature that allows you to install any component on a Kubernetes cluster. With this, it becomes impossible to manage running pods on terraform
  • If you make an incorrect change to resources on terraform, no direct or automatic rollback feature allows you to undo these changes. 

Up next with Terraform vs Helm – What’s the Difference ? we introduce Helm. 

What is Helm?

Another tool is Helm. A package manager explicitly created for Kubernetes. What is more, it makes it relatively easy to package different repeatable applications and services and deploy them to a Kubernetes cluster. After that, you manage these apps via the helm charts, which defines, installs and upgrades Kubernetes applications. 

The architecture of Helm is quite simple. It consists of a client and a tiller server. 

  • The client: Provides an interface for users to work with helm charts and tiller servers. With the helm client, users can: roll back, install and upgrade charts. 
  • Tiller server: On Helm, there are servers usually installed with the Kubernetes cluster. Besides, this installation allows the user to have a direct interface with the Kubernetes API to install, upgrade or remove several Kubernetes resources. 

Features of Helm

  • Helm charts: Provides users with reusable templates to easily use to carry out quick and effective infrastructure provisioning.
  • Cluster management: Makes it easy for users to take care of application dependencies and even deploy instances. 
  • Availability of upgrades: Different upgrade options are available to users who plan on getting the most out of helm charts. There are also options available for users to uninstall any upgrade or applications that they think are unnecessary. 
  • Track records: Users keep tabs on their changes on the Kubernetes cluster. Every time your release on Helm changes, all the previous data gets piled into a record of your existing data.

Pros of Helm

  • Allows users to roll back after applying changes. Consequently, it makes it easy to correct several mistakes before making a final decision. 
  • Reusable charts. Asides from this, Helm comes with in built upgrades and updates that help to simplify the management of a few complex applications.
  • Define several variables and deploy applications into different environments and Kubernetes clusters. 

Cons of Helm

  • Challenging and time consuming to learn the basics. In addition, a proper understanding of Helm functions is essential.
  • After each project, teams always need to create an image for each project. As noted, this image creation is often burdensome, but it aims to help avoid confusion when executing commands. 
  • Customizing Helm charts is a complex procedure and helms are generally complicated to manage. 
  • Does not effectively manage sensitive values directly. Instead, you will have to adopt a few plugins known as helm secrets. With this plugin, you encrypt sensitive data on hell. 

Next with Terraform vs Helm – What’s the Difference ? is to perform a comparison of both tools. 

Differences Between Terraform and Helm

Image sources: iconduck.com and icon-icons.com

Installation Within Kubernetes Cluster


On one side, Terraform does not install any application, package or service inside the Kubernetes cluster. Instead, the terraform tool directly interacts with the Kubernetes cluster without the help of third party servers.


On the other, Helm installs the tiller server inside of the Kubernetes cluster. This installation process is to help and provide an interface between the Kubernetes API and the users. With this, carrying out operations on the Helm is smooth.

Maintenance of Kubernetes Objects


Here, Terraform isn’t just limited to the default Terraform format. It also makes use of JSON/HCL file formats when it comes to describing and maintaining several Kubernetes objects.


Oppositely, Helm uses the standard Kubernetes manifests and several Go templates to maintain and describe Kubernetes objects. With well over 60 available functions they are also mainly defined by the Go template. 

Learning curve


Learning Terraform is easy to  understand and use. With a basic understanding of the code, you are able to use Terraform for different operations without experiencing any issues. 


Unfortunately, Helm has a deep learning curve. As a newbie, it is difficult to understand a few concepts even after understanding the code. In addition, it is usually time consuming to learn in general.



After applying the wrong changes on terraform, it is nearly impossible to roll back directly and correct them. If users decide to roll back, the process is often very complex and not worth the effort. 


Interestingly, Helm provides its users with the option to roll back after they have already made changes. This rollback feature makes it easy to correct changes quickly, but the downside is that it consumes a lot of resources.



Concerning modularity, Terraform usually relies on modules. These modules allow you to copy several chunks of terraform configuration and incorporate it into multiple places. The modules also isolates resource names (i.e. each resource gets a unique name) to avoid naming confusion. 


Contrarily, Helms makes use of subcharts when it comes to modularity. A subchart is a “standalone” chart that doesn’t depend on its parent’s chart. These sub charts usually have their unique values and templates. 

Beta Support


Well, Terraform does not support beta resources. Because of this, it becomes difficult for Terraform to work with beta objects, and it becomes much more complex when you try to switch terraform into an already set up beta environment.


Unlike Terraform, Helm is much more mature and has a lot of support for different environments and resources (beta resources included). In addition, adopting Helm is straightforward, making it easy to work on beta objects.

Thank you for reading Terraform vs Helm – What’s the Difference ? We shall conclude this article blog. 

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

Summarizing, both Terraform and Helm are tools that make managing Kubernetes clusters easier. Both tools have a lot of things in common:

  • Both written in code.
  • Install from various sources.
  • Access a curated list of packages.

While Terraform and Helm share a few similarities, they are also quite different. The differences between both tools include the rollback option, ability to work with beta resources, modularity, learning curve, etc. Terraform is an open source IaC tool used for managing and automating infrastructure, platforms, and services. Finally, it helps to change and build version infrastructure through code. Meanwhile, Helm is a Kubernetes package manager that deploys repeatable services and apps to clusters. It allows users to manage apps via Helm Charts, which simplify the installation, and upgrade of K8s environments.

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 1 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x