» Provision

You're now able to create and modify infrastructure. Now let's see how to use provisioners to initialize instances when they're created.

If you're using an image-based infrastructure (perhaps with images created with Packer), then what you've learned so far is good enough. But if you need to do some initial setup on your instances, then provisioners let you upload files, run shell scripts, or install and trigger other software like configuration management tools, etc.

» Defining a Provisioner

To define a provisioner, modify the resource block defining the "example" EC2 instance to look like the following:

resource "aws_instance" "example" {
  ami           = "ami-b374d5a5"
  instance_type = "t2.micro"

  provisioner "local-exec" {
    command = "echo ${aws_instance.example.public_ip} > ip_address.txt"

This adds a provisioner block within the resource block. Multiple provisioner blocks can be added to define multiple provisioning steps. Terraform supports multiple provisioners, but for this example we are using the local-exec provisioner.

The local-exec provisioner executes a command locally on the machine running Terraform. We're using this provisioner versus the others so we don't have to worry about specifying any connection info right now.

» Running Provisioners

Provisioners are only run when a resource is created. They are not a replacement for configuration management and changing the software of an already-running server, and are instead just meant as a way to bootstrap a server. For configuration management, you should use Terraform provisioning to invoke a real configuration management solution.

Make sure that your infrastructure is destroyed if it isn't already, then run apply:

$ terraform apply
# ...

aws_instance.example: Creating...
  ami:           "" => "ami-b374d5a5"
  instance_type: "" => "t2.micro"
aws_eip.ip: Creating...
  instance: "" => "i-213f350a"

Apply complete! Resources: 2 added, 0 changed, 0 destroyed.

Terraform will output anything from provisioners to the console, but in this case there is no output. However, we can verify everything worked by looking at the ip_address.txt file:

$ cat ip_address.txt

It contains the IP, just as we asked!

» Failed Provisioners and Tainted Resources

If a resource successfully creates but fails during provisioning, Terraform will error and mark the resource as "tainted". A resource that is tainted has been physically created, but can't be considered safe to use since provisioning failed.

When you generate your next execution plan, Terraform will not attempt to restart provisioning on the same resource because it isn't guaranteed to be safe. Instead, Terraform will remove any tainted resources and create new resources, attempting to provision them again after creation.

Terraform also does not automatically roll back and destroy the resource during the apply when the failure happens, because that would go against the execution plan: the execution plan would've said a resource will be created, but does not say it will ever be deleted. If you create an execution plan with a tainted resource, however, the plan will clearly state that the resource will be destroyed because it is tainted.

» Destroy Provisioners

Provisioners can also be defined that run only during a destroy operation. These are useful for performing system cleanup, extracting data, etc.

For many resources, using built-in cleanup mechanisms is recommended if possible (such as init scripts), but provisioners can be used if necessary.

The getting started guide won't show any destroy provisioner examples. If you need to use destroy provisioners, please see the provisioner documentation.

» Next

Provisioning is important for being able to bootstrap instances. As another reminder, it is not a replacement for configuration management. It is meant to simply bootstrap machines. If you use configuration management, you should use the provisioning as a way to bootstrap the configuration management tool.

In the next section, we start looking at variables as a way to parameterize our configurations.