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AWS OpsWorks vs Terraform: What are the differences?


In this article, we will discuss the key differences between AWS OpsWorks and Terraform, two popular infrastructure automation tools used in the cloud computing industry.

  1. Ease of Use: AWS OpsWorks is a managed service that provides a high-level abstraction layer for deploying and managing applications on AWS. It abstracts away the underlying infrastructure details and simplifies the deployment process. On the other hand, Terraform is an open-source tool that requires more technical expertise to set up and configure. It allows users to define infrastructure as code and provides more fine-grained control over resources.

  2. Supported Cloud Providers: AWS OpsWorks is primarily designed for managing applications and infrastructure on the AWS platform. It integrates tightly with other AWS services and provides native support for AWS resources. In contrast, Terraform is cloud-agnostic and supports multiple cloud providers, including AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, and more. It offers a consistent workflow and syntax for provisioning resources across different cloud platforms.

  3. Version Control Integration: AWS OpsWorks does not have native integration with version control systems like Git. This means that managing and tracking changes to infrastructure configurations can be more challenging. On the other hand, Terraform integrates seamlessly with Git and other version control systems. It allows users to store their infrastructure code in a repository, track changes over time, and collaborate with other team members more effectively.

  4. State Management: AWS OpsWorks manages the state of the infrastructure internally and does not expose it to users directly. This means that users do not have direct access to the infrastructure state and cannot easily manage it. In contrast, Terraform keeps track of the infrastructure state in a state file that can be stored locally or remotely. This allows users to easily manage, version control, and share the state file, making it easier to collaborate on infrastructure changes.

  5. Resource Granularity: AWS OpsWorks provides a higher-level abstraction and manages resources at the stack or application level. It simplifies the deployment and management of infrastructure components as a whole. In contrast, Terraform allows users to define and manage resources at a more granular level, such as individual instances, databases, load balancers, etc. This provides more flexibility and control over the infrastructure configuration but also requires more fine-grained management.

  6. Cost Structure: AWS OpsWorks is a managed service provided by AWS and is billed based on the resources used. The cost structure is more aligned with the specific AWS resources provisioned and the usage patterns. On the other hand, Terraform itself is an open-source tool and does not have any additional costs. However, users still need to pay for the cloud resources provisioned through Terraform, which are billed separately by the cloud provider.

In summary, the key differences between AWS OpsWorks and Terraform lie in their ease of use, supported cloud providers, version control integration, state management, resource granularity, and cost structure.

Decisions about AWS OpsWorks and Terraform
Kirill Shirinkin
Cloud and DevOps Consultant at mkdev · | 3 upvotes · 145.5K views

Ok, so first - AWS Copilot is CloudFormation under the hood, but the way it works results in you not thinking about CFN anymore. AWS found the right balance with Copilot - it's insanely simple to setup production-ready multi-account environment with many services inside, with CI/CD out of the box etc etc. It's pretty new, but even now it was enough to launch Transcripto, which uses may be a dozen of different AWS services, all bound together by Copilot.

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Because Pulumi uses real programming languages, you can actually write abstractions for your infrastructure code, which is incredibly empowering. You still 'describe' your desired state, but by having a programming language at your fingers, you can factor out patterns, and package it up for easier consumption.

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Sergey Ivanov

We use Terraform to manage AWS cloud environment for the project. It is pretty complex, largely static, security-focused, and constantly evolving.

Terraform provides descriptive (declarative) way of defining the target configuration, where it can work out the dependencies between configuration elements and apply differences without re-provisioning the entire cloud stack.


Terraform is vendor-neutral in a way that it is using a common configuration language (HCL) with plugins (providers) for multiple cloud and service providers.

Terraform keeps track of the previous state of the deployment and applies incremental changes, resulting in faster deployment times.

Terraform allows us to share reusable modules between projects. We have built an impressive library of modules internally, which makes it very easy to assemble a new project from pre-fabricated building blocks.


Software is imperfect, and Terraform is no exception. Occasionally we hit annoying bugs that we have to work around. The interaction with any underlying APIs is encapsulated inside 3rd party Terraform providers, and any bug fixes or new features require a provider release. Some providers have very poor coverage of the underlying APIs.

Terraform is not great for managing highly dynamic parts of cloud environments. That part is better delegated to other tools or scripts.

Terraform state may go out of sync with the target environment or with the source configuration, which often results in painful reconciliation.

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I personally am not a huge fan of vendor lock in for multiple reasons:

  • I've seen cost saving moves to the cloud end up costing a fortune and trapping companies due to over utilization of cloud specific features.
  • I've seen S3 failures nearly take down half the internet.
  • I've seen companies get stuck in the cloud because they aren't built cloud agnostic.

I choose to use terraform for my cloud provisioning for these reasons:

  • It's cloud agnostic so I can use it no matter where I am.
  • It isn't difficult to use and uses a relatively easy to read language.
  • It tests infrastructure before running it, and enables me to see and keep changes up to date.
  • It runs from the same CLI I do most of my CM work from.
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Context: I wanted to create an end to end IoT data pipeline simulation in Google Cloud IoT Core and other GCP services. I never touched Terraform meaningfully until working on this project, and it's one of the best explorations in my development career. The documentation and syntax is incredibly human-readable and friendly. I'm used to building infrastructure through the google apis via Python , but I'm so glad past Sung did not make that decision. I was tempted to use Google Cloud Deployment Manager, but the templates were a bit convoluted by first impression. I'm glad past Sung did not make this decision either.

Solution: Leveraging Google Cloud Build Google Cloud Run Google Cloud Bigtable Google BigQuery Google Cloud Storage Google Compute Engine along with some other fun tools, I can deploy over 40 GCP resources using Terraform!

Check Out My Architecture: CLICK ME

Check out the GitHub repo attached

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Pros of AWS OpsWorks
Pros of Terraform
  • 32
  • 19
    Cloud management
  • 122
    Infrastructure as code
  • 73
    Declarative syntax
  • 45
  • 28
  • 24
  • 8
  • 8
    Cloud agnostic
  • 6
    It's like coding your infrastructure in simple English
  • 6
    Immutable infrastructure
  • 5
    Platform agnostic
  • 4
  • 4
  • 4
    Automates infrastructure deployments
  • 4
  • 2
  • 2
    Scales to hundreds of hosts

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Cons of AWS OpsWorks
Cons of Terraform
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    • 1
      Doesn't have full support to GKE

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    - No public GitHub repository available -

    What is AWS OpsWorks?

    Start from templates for common technologies like Ruby, Node.JS, PHP, and Java, or build your own using Chef recipes to install software packages and perform any task that you can script. AWS OpsWorks can scale your application using automatic load-based or time-based scaling and maintain the health of your application by detecting failed instances and replacing them. You have full control of deployments and automation of each component

    What is Terraform?

    With Terraform, you describe your complete infrastructure as code, even as it spans multiple service providers. Your servers may come from AWS, your DNS may come from CloudFlare, and your database may come from Heroku. Terraform will build all these resources across all these providers in parallel.

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    What companies use AWS OpsWorks?
    What companies use Terraform?
    See which teams inside your own company are using AWS OpsWorks or Terraform.
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    What tools integrate with AWS OpsWorks?
    What tools integrate with Terraform?

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    What are some alternatives to AWS OpsWorks and Terraform?
    Chef enables you to manage and scale cloud infrastructure with no downtime or interruptions. Freely move applications and configurations from one cloud to another. Chef is integrated with all major cloud providers including Amazon EC2, VMWare, IBM Smartcloud, Rackspace, OpenStack, Windows Azure, HP Cloud, Google Compute Engine, Joyent Cloud and others.
    AWS Elastic Beanstalk
    Once you upload your application, Elastic Beanstalk automatically handles the deployment details of capacity provisioning, load balancing, auto-scaling, and application health monitoring.
    AWS Config
    AWS Config is a fully managed service that provides you with an AWS resource inventory, configuration history, and configuration change notifications to enable security and governance. With AWS Config you can discover existing AWS resources, export a complete inventory of your AWS resources with all configuration details, and determine how a resource was configured at any point in time. These capabilities enable compliance auditing, security analysis, resource change tracking, and troubleshooting.
    AWS CloudFormation
    You can use AWS CloudFormation’s sample templates or create your own templates to describe the AWS resources, and any associated dependencies or runtime parameters, required to run your application. You don’t need to figure out the order in which AWS services need to be provisioned or the subtleties of how to make those dependencies work.
    AWS CodeDeploy
    AWS CodeDeploy is a service that automates code deployments to Amazon EC2 instances. AWS CodeDeploy makes it easier for you to rapidly release new features, helps you avoid downtime during deployment, and handles the complexity of updating your applications.
    See all alternatives