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13 Most Useful Infrastructure as Code (IaC) Tools for 2023

34.best_iac_tools

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) has transformed how organizations provision and manage their IT infrastructure. In this article, we will review some of the most useful IaC tools for your business in 2023.

What is IaC?

IaC treats all infrastructure pieces as code, using different programming languages or tools. By codifying infrastructure, IaC allows for automation, consistency, and repeatable processes in deploying and managing resources. This approach not only reduces human error but also enhances efficiency and scalability.

What are Infrastructure as Code Tools?

IaC tools are software solutions that enable the automation of infrastructure provisioning and management. They use code to automate the setup and configuration of IT resources, making it easier to manage large-scale, complex, and dynamic environments.

Why should you use IaC Tools?

Infrastructure as Code tools and frameworks bring several benefits, including:

  • Speed and Efficiency: Automated processes reduce the time required for provisioning and managing infrastructure.
  • Consistency and Accuracy: Code-based management minimizes human error, ensuring a more consistent environment.
  • Scalability and Flexibility: Large-scale infrastructure is easier to manage, and adaptation to changes is quicker.
  • Version Control and Documentation: Infrastructure changes are tracked, providing an audit trail and documentation.

Most Useful Infrastructure as Code Tools in 2023

You can choose from many IaC tools for your workflow, depending on your use case. If you have all your IaC in one cloud provider, it may make sense to choose the native IaC service, but if you have a multi-provider workflow, OpenTofu and Terraform make more sense. Of course, if you manage everything from Kubernetes, K8s operators or Crossplane can be a better choice. 

Let’s jump into the most useful Infrastructure as Code DevOps tools in 2023 in no particular order of preference.

1. Terraform

Iac tools terraform

Terraform by HashiCorp is a powerful IaC tool that enables the management of infrastructure across multiple cloud providers using a simple, declarative language. It has recently switched its license to BSL, which shocked the open-source world.

Key Features

  • Treats infrastructure as immutable elements – ensures consistency and reduces drift
  • Stateful – Tracks infrastructure state
  • Multi-Cloud/Multi-Tool support – Gives you the ability to manage infrastructure along multiple providers
  • Declarative syntax – Uses a declarative language called Hashicorp Configuration Language (HCL)
  • Modular – Enhances reusability

License: BSL

Code Example:

resource "aws_instance" "example" {
  ami                 = "ami-id"
  instance_type       = "t2.micro"
}

If you are looking for Terraform Cloud Alternatives, we recommend reading Terraform Cloud vs. Atlantis comparison blog post.

2. OpenTofu

infrastructure as code tools opentofu

OpenTofu is an open-source alternative to Terraform, focusing on community-driven development and maintaining an open-source identity. It was created as a response to HashiCorp’s change to BSL, and it is developed under the Linux Foundation’s umbrella. This involvement with the Linux Foundation demonstrates credibility and fosters a collaborative environment for continuous innovation and improvement in the field of IaC.

Key Features:

  • OpenTofu is currently on par with Terraform
  • Its open-source nature means the community’s voice is heard and contributions are valued.

License: MPL2.0 (open source)

Code Example:

resource "aws_s3_bucket" "example" {
  bucket = "opentofubucket"

  tags = {
    Name        = "My OpenTofu Bucket"
    Environment = "dev"
  }
}

3. Terragrunt

iac tools terragrunt

Terragrunt is a thin wrapper that provides extra tools for keeping Terraform configurations DRY, working with multiple Terraform modules and managing remote state. Terragrunt was born to solve one key problem – scale. When you manage Terraform at scale without Terragrunt or an IaC management tool, you will repeat configurations, making issues hard to solve.

Key Features

  • Terraform wrapper – Provides additional features to Terraform, to reduce deployment complexity
  • Enhances reusability – Helps with keeping your Terraform configuration DRY
  • State management – Reduces the complexity of managing state
  • Modules handling – Streamlines the use of Terraform modules

License: MIT License (open source)

Code Example:

terraform {
  source = "./"
}

inputs = {}

remote_state {
  backend = "s3"
  config = {
    bucket                 = "terragrunt-bucket-state"
    key                    = "config1/terraform.tfstate"
    region                 = "eu-west-1"
    encrypt                = true
    dynamodb_table         = "dynamodbtable"
    skip_bucket_versioning = true
  }
}

4. Pulumi

iac tool pulumi

Pulumi offers a unique approach by allowing you to write IaC in familiar programming languages like Python, Go, and JavaScript. With Pulumi, you get a more flexible way to write infrastructure code, and it’s known for its ease of use, especially for developers familiar with these languages. Pulumi integrates seamlessly with existing development workflows and tools, making it a great choice for software development teams looking to adopt IaC practices.

Key Features

  • Real Programming Constructs – Uses loops, functions, and classes for infrastructure definitions
  • Multi-Cloud support – Gives you the ability to manage infrastructure along multiple providers
  • State and Secret Management — Manages infrastructure state and secrets securely

License: Apache 2.0 (open source)

Code Example:

import pulumi
import pulumi_aws as aws

bucket = aws.s3.Bucket('my-bucket')
pulumi.export('bucket_name',  bucket.id)

More details about how Pulumi works are described in What is Pulumi? blog post. Check out also Pulumi vs. Terraform comparison.

5. AWS CloudFormation

cloudformation iac framework

AWS CloudFormation provides a common language to describe and provision all the infrastructure resources in your cloud environment. As a service designed for AWS, it specializes exclusively in orchestrating and managing AWS services, enabling seamless, automated deployment of AWS-based infrastructure. This tight integration with AWS ensures that CloudFormation is always in sync with the latest AWS features and services,

Key Features

  • Deeply integrated with AWS – Offers robust support for various AWS services.
  • Declarative JSON/YAML Templates – Uses JSON or YAML for infrastructure templates.
  • Plan capabilities – Allows previewing and managing changes before applying
  • Stack Management – Organizes resources into stacks for easier management
  • AWS Resource Coverage – Supports a wide range of AWS resources

License: AWS proprietary

Code Example:

Resources:
  MyEC2Instance:
    Type: "AWS::EC2::Instance"
    Properties:
      ImageId: "ami-0ff8a91507f77f867"

6. Azure ARM

azure rm tool iac

ARM is a deployment and management service from Microsoft Azure that provides a management layer for creating, updating, and deleting resources in your Azure account. It is native to Azure and it gives you the ability to control only the services that are available in your Azure account.

Key Features

  • It uses JSON to define the infrastructure and configuration for your project
  • Role-Based Access Control – Integrates with Azure’s RBAC for secure management
  • Conditional Deployment – Supports conditional resource deployment within templates

License: Microsoft proprietary

Code Example:

{
  "$schema": "https://schema.management.azure.com/schemas/2019-04-01/deploymentTemplate.json#",
  "contentVersion": "1.0.0.0",
  "resources": []
}

7. Google CDM

google cdm

Cloud Deployment Manager (CDM) is Google Cloud’s native tool for deploying complex and interdependent Google Cloud resources. Similar to AWS CloudFormation and Azure ARM, Google CDM can only provision resources inside your Google Cloud account.

Key Features

  • It uses YAML for resource definition and allows templating and modular deployments
  • Native GCP Integration: Tailored for managing Google Cloud resources
  • Dependency Management: Handles resource dependencies automatically

License: Google Proprietary

Code Example:

resources:
- name: my-vm
  type: compute.v1.instance
  properties:
    zone: us-central1-a

8. Kubernetes Operators

kubernetes operators iac

Kubernetes Operators are application-specific controllers that extend the Kubernetes API to create, configure, and manage instances of complex stateful applications. AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, Oracle Cloud Infrastructure and others provide their own K8s operators to provision infrastructure resources in their respective cloud.

Key Features

  • Extends Kubernetes API for specific applications
  • Automates Lifecycle Management –  Manages complex stateful applications within Kubernetes
  • Allows defining custom resources for Kubernetes
  • Facilitates the development of new operators

License: AWS K8s Operators (Apache 2.0, open source)

Code Example: Create an S3 bucket in AWS

apiVersion: s3.services.k8s.aws/v1alpha1
kind: Bucket
metadata:
  name: bucket
spec:
  name: bucket
  tagging:
    tagSet:
    - key: name
      value: bucket

9. Crossplane

crossplane infrastructure as code tool

Crossplane is an open-source Kubernetes add-on that turns your cluster into a universal control plane, managing cloud services and infrastructure from kubectl. It works with almost any cloud provider, and if you are using a k8s cluster to manage everything, Crossplane can help with your infrastructure resources. 

This integration not only streamlines the management process but also aligns infrastructure operations with Kubernetes-centric workflows, making it an ideal solution for teams looking to unify their application and infrastructure management strategies under the K8s ecosystem.

License: Apache 2.0 (open source)

Key Features

  • It allows defining infrastructure directly from Kubernetes and supports multi-cloud deployments.
  • Universal Control Plane – Turns Kubernetes cluster into a control plane for cloud services
  • Kubernetes API Extensions – Manages external resources via Kubernetes API

Code Example: Create a VPC in AWS

apiVersion: ec2.aws.upbound.io/v1beta1
kind: VPC
metadata:
  labels:
    name: vpc-example
  name: vpc-example
spec:
  forProvider:
    cidrBlock: 10.1.0.0/16
    region: eu-west-1
  providerConfigRef: 
    name: provider-aws-ec2

10. Ansible

ansible iac

Ansible is a simple, yet powerful IT automation engine used for application deployment, configuration management, and orchestration. Even though it is not an IaC tool per se, you can use different Ansible collections to provision IaC resources. This adaptability enables Ansible to bridge the gap between IT automation and IaC practices, offering a comprehensive solution for managing both software deployments and underlying infrastructure with the same toolset.

Key Features

  • Agentless Architecture – Does not require agents on the target nodes
  • Uses YAML to define automation tasks
  • Modular Design – Supports reusable modules for various automation tasks

License: Apache 2.0 (open source)

Code Example:

- hosts: webservers
  tasks:
    - name: ensure apache is at the latest version
      yum:
        name: httpd
        state: latest

If you are interested in Ansible, here you will find useful Ansible content.

11. Chef

chef iac tools

Chef is an automation platform that transforms infrastructure into code. It allows you to automate how you build, deploy, and manage your infrastructure. By enabling precise control over infrastructure configurations and changes, Chef empowers organizations to achieve greater efficiency and agility in their IT operations.

Key Features

  • It uses a Ruby-based DSL for writing system configurations
  • Automates Configuration Management – Manages and deploys server configurations
  • Test-Driven Infrastructure – Supports automated testing for infrastructure via ChefSpec and InSpec
  • Policy as Code – Defines policies and configurations as code

License: Apache 2.0 (open source)

Code Example:

package 'ntp' do
  action :install
end

12. Salt

salt stack

SaltStack, known as Salt, is a Python-based open-source configuration management tool and remote execution engine. It excels at automating the management and configuration of servers, whether in a cloud environment or even on-premises.

Key Features

  • Supports complex orchestration and configuration management across diverse environments
  • Enables remote execution of commands and control
  • Reacts to different system events for automation

License: Apache 2.0 (open source)

Code Example:

install_apache:
  pkg.installed:
    - names:
      - apache2

13. Spacelift

iac solutions spacelift

Spacelift is an IaC management product that supports multi-IaC workflows for OpenTofu, Terragrunt, Terraform, Ansible, AWS CloudFormation, Pulumi, and Kubernetes (Crossplane and K8s operators included). It is highly flexible and provides powerful integrations to ensure an end-to-end workflow.

Key Features:

  • Multi-IaC Workflow
  • Stack Dependencies – Gives you the ability to build nested dependencies between your tasks, helping you achieve an e2e workflow
  • Unlimited policies and integrations – Allows you to implement any type of guardrails (starting from how many approvals you need for a run, to what resources you can create) and integrate with any tool you want
  • Highly flexible – Enables you to customize what happens before and after runner phases, bring your own image and even modify the default workflow commands
  • Self-service infrastructure via Blueprints
  • Drift Detection & Remediation
spacelift example iac frameworks

Key Points

IaC is critical in modern IT operations, ensuring speed, efficiency, and accuracy in infrastructure management. Each of the range of IaC solutions available has unique features, catering to different environments and requirements.

These best Infrastructure as Code tools work well on their own, but the extra layer of orchestration that a platform like Spacelift provides allows you to handle them at scale and enhance the collaboration between your team members.

Book a demo today with one of our engineers to learn more about the platform, or open a free account here.

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