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

Terraform vs Puppet – What’s the Difference? (Pros and Cons). Terraform and Puppet are IT automation tools that manage infrastructure as code (IAC). You can use these tools to provision your IT infrastructure through code rather than manually. With either Terraform or Puppet, all you need is to create configuration files containing infrastructure specifications and distribute them to make changes.

Infrastructure as code tools help manage and provision resources automatically. This article discusses Terraform vs Puppet, including their features, pros and cons, and key differences.

Shall we start with Terraform vs Puppet – What’s the Difference? (Pros and Cons)? Read on!

What is Terraform?

Firstly Terraform is an open source service orchestration and provisioning tool by HarshiCorp. Enables you to provision and manage infrastructure both in the cloud and on premise. As an automation tool, Terraform is used by DevOps teams to automate infrastructure provisioning.

Besides, it has a plugin based infrastructure that makes it easily extendable. You can connect with infrastructure hosts to perform complex management scenarios across multiple cloud platforms. Also, you can easily package, share and reuse its configuration in the form of modules.

Secondly Terraform supports multiple cloud platforms using the HCL language. One of the main functions of Terraform is to provision cloud platforms such as Azure and AWS. Also, Terraform helps facilitate multi cloud deployments. Unlike other IAC tools, Terraform can perform simultaneously across all cloud platforms. Ideally, you can use the same syntax for multicloud deployment without having to familiarize yourself with each technology.

How Terraform Works

Thirdly Terraform is a fast infrastructure as code tool that handles infrastructure in the form of code. You can use Terraform to build and manage servers from Azure and AWS.

There are two forms of Terraform: Terraform Core and Terraform Plugins. With Terraform Core it evaluates your infrastructure and evaluates it against your desired configuration. After that, it proposes plans to amend infrastructure components. 

Then with Terraform plugins are the executable binaries written in Go. Currently, it supports one type of plugins known as providers that communicate with the Terraform core over an RPC interface. Well Terraform downloads/installs the providers needed by a configuration.

Workflow in Terraform consists of three steps: Write, Review, and Apply. During the Write step, you declare infrastructure resources as code using the HCL language. During the Review Stage, Terraform displays how it will either add or remove resources based on your declared infrastructure and the existing resources. In the final step, you can choose to accept the planned changes. If you choose to apply these changes, Terraform deploys the changes on your infrastructure.

Features of Terraform

Here are the top features that make terraform a great DevOps tool:

Infrastructure as a Code

Basically Infrastructure as code is the ability to represent your infrastructure in the form of code. Besides Terraform uses configuration syntax to describe infrastructure. Use terraform to create, change, and improve infrastructure in a human readable declarative language. Infrastructure is managed and executed within a workflow consistent across all infrastructures.

Ideally, Terraform provides a way to take inputs and credentials in the form of configurations. These configurations describe resources in a language that Terraform understands.

Execution Plans

Certainly the Terraform plan command generates an action plan. This plan shows how what happens after applying the configuration. Let’s you review and approve the intended changes to your infrastructure. Essentially, it creates an action plan, evaluates the current state of your infrastructure, and provides a review. After the review, Terraform then makes amends to the infrastructure.

To generate an execution plan, Terraform installs modules and providers referenced by the configuration. Afterwards, Terraform references the modules and providers to create a plan of resource changes.

Resource Graphs

Because Terraform has command graphs that help visualize the execution and configuration plans. Graph command has a DOT format that can generate charts in Graph Viz.

Cloud Agnostic

Another key point is that Terraform supports multiple cloud platforms, including Azure and AWS. It’s highly beneficial if you are running multiple cloud environments. As shown Terraform uses similar syntax patterns used to code infrastructure on multiple cloud platforms. Therefore, the learning curve is similar for all clouds. This way, you don’t have to worry about vendor lock in issues.


Also with Terraform it provides users with modules reusable as Terraform code. A module is a collection of configuration files dedicated to a single task. By reusing modules, you don’t have to code again for similar infrastructure components. You can put code inside a module and reuse it in multiple places throughout your code.

Pros of Terraform

Well Terraform is an open source IAC tool with lots of benefits, including:

  • HCL language is declarative and describes its intended goals .
  • Agentless tool that doesn’t require any software to be installed on the managed infrastructure
  • Backed by a large community of developers.
  • Provides a GUI to manage all running services.
  • You can trigger Terraform from within most CI/CD DevOps pipelines like GitLab, Jenkins, and Circle.
  • Registry  in Terraform provides a collaborative environment for teams.
  • There is no need for a master node to keep track of configurations and updates.

Cons of Terraform

While it has lots of advantages, Terraform also has some downsides such as:

  • Does not support script generation from the state.
  • You cannot access specific configurations such as the Terraform backend via VAR files.
  • The enterprise plan is relatively expensive.

So Terraform vs Puppet – What’s the Difference? it is time to introduce Puppet. 

What is Puppet?

Puppet is a DevOps system management, configuration, and automation tool. It helps manage IT systems such as networks, storage, and servers consistently. Also helps in the orchestration of applications across the organizational infrastructure.

With Puppet, system management doesn’t have to be a headache. What it does it automates the configuration of various devices and servers, making system management faster and less error prone.

Puppet has two versions:

  • Open Source Puppet.
  • Puppet Enterprise.

Open Source Puppet is the basic version of Puppet used for configuration management. Modify the source code to fit your unique systems requirements. This version comes with core capabilities and out of the box functionalities. Besides, it’s free to use.

On the other hand, Puppet enterprise provides the core functionality of the open source version. However, it comes in handy for large organizations thanks to its easy deployment. With an intuitive user interface also has extensive collection of useful features. In essence, it has alerting capabilities, advanced reporting, and easy monitoring. Enterprise version of Puppet also supports automated provisioning of virtual machines (VMs), cloud, and containers. Alongside it is 24x7x365 support when on the premium version.

All in all, Puppet is a powerful tool that helps system administrators to automate system configuration. With Puppet, you write whatever you want to do on the system.

How Puppet Works

Indeed Puppet is based on the client/server model. Central server is known as Puppet master. The Puppet master contains all the configuration nodes that it controls. The Puppet agents are installed on nodes controlled by the master. Well the Puppet Master uses facts to gather information about the nodes.

Afterwards, the Puppet master creates a catalogue to specify node configurations. The master then returns the catalogue to the agents so they can make the necessary configuration updates on their nodes.

Features of Puppet

Variety of configuration management features can be found in Puppet, such as:

Cross Platform Support

Written in Ruby. Therefore, it is compatible with platforms that support Ruby, including Linux, MacOS X, and Windows.


Designed to be idempotent. It repeatedly applies manifests to guarantee the desired resource state of a system. When a resource is in its desired state, Puppet does not take any actions. However, when the resource is not in the expected state, Puppet will take the necessary actions to get the desired state.

Declarative Language

Indeed Puppet uses the domain specific language (DSL), which is declarative. The declarative language is ideal for baseline configuration tasks. This language defines the result rather than the path to the desired outcome. Using Puppet, all you do is describe the desired state of your resources. What it does it ensures your system meets the desired state.


Equally noted Puppet allows its users to manage a large set of infrastructure. If you have hundreds of servers in s distributed environment, it’s difficult to manage them manually. So Puppet helps to configure multiple servers at a go. Allows you to scale your servers effectively and securely. Besides, it saves you lots of time and money.

Continous Integration

For example Puppet Enterprise provides a prescriptive workflow to test and deploy code across all environments. It gives you customizable workflows and testing tools so you can identify how code changes affect your infrastructure. Therefore, you know what to expect before deployment.

Pros of Puppet

  • Language in Puppet has an override mechanism that enables you to override a specific instruction.
  • Wide industry support active across cloud and DevOps and a large discussion boards and forums.
  • Cross-platform tool that’s easy to test.
  • Open source and customizable.
  • Allows you to achieve desired resource state automatically.

Cons of Puppet

  • Ruby language behind Puppet has a steep learning curve.
  • Not easy to understand for new developers.
  • Lacks comprehensive reporting features.

So Terraform vs Puppet – What’s the Difference? 

Differences Between Terraform and Puppet

Both Terraform and Puppet are unique DevOps tools. Here are some of the striking differences between Terraform and Puppet:

Configuration Management

On one hand Terraform is considered an orchestration tool while Puppet is a configuration management tool. Ideally, orchestration is the arrangement or coordination of multiple systems. Well Terraform is designed to ensure the resources are in their desired state. When something doesn’t perform as desired, Terraform restores the system  after reloading.

Configuration management is a process of establishing and maintaining consistency of a system’s performance, attributes, and functionality. As a configuration management tool, Puppet helps configure systems and software on the already provisioned infrastructure.

However, you should understand that configuration management tool can perform orchestration, and vice versa, but to a certain point. So Terraform is more suitable for provisioning while Puppet is more suitable for configuration management.

Configuration Language

Here Terraform uses a JSON like configuration language known as HCL. HCL has a simple syntax that’s ideal for DevOps teams. Ideally, HCL helps provision infrastructure on both on premise and cloud data centers.

Moreover Puppet is written in Ruby an uses a unique Domain Specific Language for system configuration. With Puppet, you’ll describe your system’s desired language in the files and manifests. These manifests describe how the operating system resources and network should be configured. Well with Puppet it compiles the manifests into catalogues, before applying them on corresponding nodes.

Mutable vs Immutable Infrastructure

Every change in Terraform creates a new server, recreating immutable components and replacing them, instead of updating existing components. Immutable infrastructure provides more reliability and consistency in your infrastructure. Also, provides a more predictable deployment process.

Oppositely Puppet creates a mutable infrastructure. Each time you install a new version of a software, Puppet runs the update on existing servers.

Agent Installation

Interestingly Terraform is agentless. No need for the installation of an agent. Instead, Terraform manages communications through plugins. On the other hand, Puppet requires installation of an agent on the host system in order to execute operations. The agents communicate over encrypted communications to a master device.


No official GUI for terraform. However, you can use third party GUIs such as Gaia. But with Puppet, on the other hand, has several interactive GUIs such as Puppet Enterprise, Puppetboard, and PanoPuppet.


Even more Terraform is open source and free to use. However, premium versions come at an extra cost. The free version has feature’s such as Private module registry, Remote Operations, and State management. The Team & Governance version comes at $20/user per year and has additional features such as Sentinel policy as code. For large business teams, Terraform provides a custom packages.

Puppet’s basic version is free. The standard edition costs $100 per month while the premium edition costs $199 per node.

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

Terraform vs Puppet - What's the Difference? Conclusion

Summing up Terraform and Puppet are ideal DevOps tools that help with orchestration and configuration management respectively. Both tools are open source, with Terraform being easy to set up and use. On the other hand, Puppet has a great GUI, great community support, and offers great automation. Both tools are great and with each tool performing unique tasks, it’s best to choose the one that fits your individual needs.

Read our blog for more Terraform tips like these!

Avatar for Dennis Muvaa
Dennis Muvaa

Dennis is an expert content writer and SEO strategist in cloud technologies such as AWS, Azure, and GCP. He's also experienced in cybersecurity, big data, and AI.

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