AWS CloudFormation Vs Terraform: The Definitive Guide 


There was a time when infrastructure management was a challenging task. With the continuous changes and upgradation, infrastructure management becomes easier due to automation functionality. Now, you can easily version and automate the infrastructure and focus on the other tasks very well. You may now quickly version and automate the infrastructure while focusing on other tasks. There are several cloud platforms to choose from, but selecting which one is the best might be difficult. We’ve made it easier for you by choosing the finest two cloud platforms, CloudFormation and Terraform. Let’s have a look at which one is more appropriate. 


AWS CloudFormation is an AWS managed service or solution that lets users to develop, deploy, and manage a group of connected Amazon and third-party resources. This gives a solitary reference to highlight both mapping and development of AWS infrastructure.   


Terraform is a sophisticated open-source Infrastructure-as-Code software platform for provisioning, maintenance, and useful versioning established by HashiCorp, a software infrastructure firm. This cloud agnostic tool converts the APIs into declarative configuration files that help users to edit, review, and modify. This eliminates the nuances of maintaining dependencies between AWS resources and allows easy modification and demolition of provisioned resources, making it easier to version and iterate.  

For your information, a command-line interface can be used to create third-party integration.  

CloudFormation vs Terraform

Comparing the two is a daunting task as it completely depends on how they suit the needs of your infrastructure. Below is the comparison based on some points. Let’s take a closer look at each of them to see which one is ideal for us. 

State Management

CloudFormation allows users to do frequent drift detection throughout their entire provisioned infrastructure and receive detailed feedback or updates anytime changes are made. CloudFormation provides a stack facility, which consists of AWS resources and dependencies that users may delete and modify. These modifications are immediately visible to the user on a regular basis, allowing them to purposefully manage the stack stage. 

Terraform, on the other hand, keeps the infrastructure’s state on a provisioned machine (virtual machine or remote computer) or to a disc. The state is then stored in a JSON file that acts as a map for Terraform for further control.  


As modules, CloudFormation uses “nested stacks” or templates. These nested stacks act as a building block and are reused within the CloudFormation templates and need additional permission as well.    

Terraform uses modules, a standard set of configuration files. These modules allow you to create infrastructure abstraction. Each terraform contains its root module and is defined as .tf file.   


CloudFormation supports up to 60 parameters at runtime and the most straightforward method is one by one as each template contains its own logical and unique ID. You can share templates in bulk from a file, imported from another stack, and read them from the parameter store.  

Terraform is a cloud-agnostic that takes advantage of data sources that are distinct from each provider that are retrieved and calculated and allows Terraform configuration to update infrastructure. In a nutshell, by eliminating the need to learn various tools and configuration, Terraform allows you to manage all of your IaC.   


CloudFormation uses either JSON or YAML format, in which YAML is significantly easy to read and manage. The template body of CloudFormation is limited to 51,000 and the AWS developers are restricted from creating the file that exceeds the limit and causes separate creation of nested templates. 

HCL (HashiCorp Configuration Language) is a JSON compatible language.  Terraform uses HCL that assists in achieving a balance between human readable and editable content and machine-friendly code. 


CloudFormation and Terraform can be both effective and efficient in their own way, depending on your infrastructure’s need. Both CloudFormation and Terraform can be best suited depending on the requirement and available resources that you have.  

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