chef vs terraform
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Chef and Terraform represent two of the top tools driving improvement in DevOps. Which of these DevOps tools has the best features for your organizations’ needs, and what should you consider before adopting either solution? This feature comparison of Chef and Terraform will answer both questions.

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What is Chef?

Progress Chef is an open-source configuration management tool that facilitates the automation of DevOps processes and tasks across multiple servers. If you know your way around this Chef, all that is required is just a few clicks to automate and manage the software across multiple devices within your organization.

With Chef, you can develop, destroy and rebuild servers on your preferred cloud platform. It allows users to easily scale infrastructures in the cloud with no downtime and move their applications from one cloud platform to another.

What is Terraform?

Terraform by HashiCorp is an open-source DevOps tool that helps you build, manage and define infrastructure in human-readable language. With Terraform, you can easily automate and manage your infrastructure and services running on your organizational platform using declarative programming.

Terraform allows developers to construct and alter infrastructure in a secure and efficient environment. Terraform can assist with multicloud deployments by providing a single procedure for all clouds.

Chef vs. Terraform: Feature comparison

Server configuration and automationYesYes
Declarative languageYesYes
Procedural languageYesNo
Cloud functionalityYesYes
Cloud agnosticYesYes

Head-to-head comparison: Chef vs. Terraform


Automation is one feature both Chef and Terraform can provide to DevOps engineers. With infrastructure as code capability, infrastructure modifications are automated and can be applied across multiple cloud environments.

Cloud agnostic

Both Chef and Terraform offer cross-platform compatibility. Why is this important? Because Chef and Terraform offer cloud agnostic capabilities. This enhances the ability of DevOps engineers to deploy software faster in the cloud without going to build the same software for each cloud provider.


If you choose between these tools, you must decide whether your project requires mutable or immutable environments. Making a shift from mutable to immutable infrastructure can cost your organization a lot of money. If you are going for a mutable infrastructure, Chef will be most suitable for your projects, as it allows for easier changes. With Chef, your DevOps team can apply their patches and upgrades without needing to create servers from scratch.

However, if your project does not constantly need an upgrade in servers, you should chooseTerraform, because it offers you immutable infrastructure. This feature means that your servers do not get modified after they are deployed; rather, they can be replaced with a new server.

While errors, configuration drifts, and snowflake servers are mitigated or reduced to the barest minimum when using Terraform, the same cannot be said for using Chef because of its mutable infrastructure provisioning.

Choosing between Chef and Terraform

Choosing between these tools will depend on the operational priorities of an organization.

If your organization is more inclined to use a tool for quick and reliable deployment, Terraform may be a better option than Chef. With Terraform, DevOps engineers can outline programs in more organized pipelines for infrastructure, reducing manual operations.

DevOps engineers like to combine tools during development because no tool can fit an organization’s every need. So, if you need a tool that functions better with popular tools such as Docker or Packer, Terraform is a better option than Chef.

With Terraform, an organization can easily track its changes on all their deployments, making it easy to keep a record of every development process. This feature is very important as new developers can easily study the records of all changes made when they join a new team. In addition, this feature is very crucial to large IT firms that need many hands to handle operations.

If you need a tool with both declarative and imperative approaches to programming, Chef is a better choice than Terraform. With Chef, DevOps can either adopt the declarative approach to programming, which is easier to use, or the imperative approach, which involves writing code that details the steps the computer must take to process specific functions.

Again, it’s more difficult to diagnose configuration bugs when using Chef because of its mutable feature. Hence, it’s not ideal for the management and deployment of large applications, as it does not guarantee the reduction in bug incidents in the codebase.

An organization with many developers who understand the workings of the Ruby programming language might need to adopt the Chef tool, as it’s written in Ruby. On the other hand, if you have a  number of developers who are more familiar with the Go language, adopting Terraform will be a better option.

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