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Ansible vs. Terraform, clarified

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Red Hat® Ansible® Automation Platform and HashiCorp Terraform are both automation products with open source roots that embrace an Infrastructure as Code (IaC) approach for automating IT environments. 

Evaluating these solutions for your organization isn’t a simple comparison, since there’s no one "right" way to automate or one automation tool to use—just as there is not only one way to solve a problem. What your business needs is completely different from the requirements of another organization in your same industry.

The better question may be, "What does your business need for your particular use case?" You must evaluate your specific business challenges and requirements and choose the solution (or solutions) that work best. Some problems are better suited for one approach, while others can be better solved with another. And sometimes, a combination of solutions is the key to success.

While both Terraform and Ansible Automation Platform are popular automation offerings—and favorite DevOps tools—the solutions have very different capabilities. Terraform specializes in public cloud infrastructure provisioning, which is one of many use cases in the world of IT automation, and Ansible Automation Platform addresses a wide range of automation use cases. Instead of a single approach to automation, Ansible Automation Platform offers a variety of approaches to tackle a variety of problems. And if our customers encounter a particular problem that is best solved with the combination of two automation solutions, Ansible Automation Platform can integrate with other products from leading cloud providers, including Amazon Web Services (AWS) CloudFormation, Microsoft Azure Resource Manager, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) Cloud Deployment Manager—as well as Helm and Terraform.

Many of our customers use multiple automation solutions at the same time. When they deploy applications in the cloud, for example, they often start provisioning the cloud infrastructure with CloudFormation or Terraform and then perform the ongoing configuration of applications and processes with Ansible Automation Platform. To make this process more efficient, we recently launched a Red Hat Ansible Certified Content Collection for Terraform. This Red Hat-supported collection automates the management and provisioning of IaC using Terraform in an Ansible Automation Platform execution enviornment.

Other customers invest exclusively in Ansible Automation Platform because they want to automate more than just the cloud deployment use case. For example, they may want to automate security processes, like threat investigation or incident response, alongside network processes, like routers and switches reconfiguration.

These customers want to standardize their approach to automation across all use cases to maximize their return on the investment.

See how Terraform and Ansible Automation Platform can work together, helping you automate application deployments, optimize infrastructure, and ensure continuous updates and troubleshooting. Video duration: 2:45

With the variety of enterprise automation offerings available, it’s crucial to understand features, capabilities, and most importantly—what works best for your organization’s specific needs. 
With open source at its core, Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform is a hardened, tested subscription product that offers full life cycle support for organizations. It’s built upon the foundation of community Ansible, which benefits from the experience and intelligence of its thousands of global contributors. Ansible Automation Platform is engineered to help organizations create, manage, and scale their automation workloads. It offers a flexible, stable, and security-focused foundation for deploying end-to-end automation solutions—including automation for hybrid cloud, edge locations, networks, security, infrastructure, and many other use cases

Terraform excels as a cloud infrastructure provisioning and deprovisioning tool with an IaC approach. It’s a specific tool with a specific purpose. Ansible offers an all-purpose, cross-domain automation solution. Both have active open source communities and well-supported downstream commercial products. Both solutions have their individual strengths—and when combined, they work well together and create efficiencies for many businesses. Simply put, choosing an automation solution is not always an "either / or" choice— often it’s an "and." 

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