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Terraform: Up & Running, 2nd Edition by Yevgeniy Brikman

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Chapter 4. How to Create Reusable Infrastructure with Terraform Modules

At the end of Chapter 3, you had deployed the architecture shown in Figure 4-1.

A load balancer, web server cluster, and database
Figure 4-1. A load balancer, web server cluster, and database

This works great as a first environment, but you typically need at least two environments: one for your team’s internal testing (“staging”) and one that real users can access (“production”), as shown in Figure 4-2. Ideally, the two environments are nearly identical, though you may run slightly fewer/smaller servers in staging to save money.

Two environments, each with its own load balancer, web server cluster, and database
Figure 4-2. Two environments, each with its own load balancer, web server cluster, and database

How do you add this production environment without having to copy/paste all of the code from staging? For example, how do you avoid having to copy and paste all the code in stage/services/webserver-cluster into prod/services/webserver-cluster and all the code in stage/data-stores/mysql into prod/data-stores/mysql?

In a general-purpose programming language, such as Ruby, if you had the same code copied and pasted in several places, you could put that code inside of a function and reuse that function everywhere:

def example_function()
  puts "Hello, World"
end

# Other places in your code
example_function()

With Terraform, you can put your code inside of a Terraform module and reuse that module in multiple places throughout your code. Instead of having the same code copy/pasted in the staging and production environments, you’ll be able to have both environments reuse code from the same module, as shown in Figure 4-3.

tur2 0403
Figure 4-3. Putting code into modules allows you to reuse that code from multiple environments

This is a big deal. Modules are the key ingredient to writing reusable, maintainable, and testable Terraform code. Once you start using them, there’s no going back. You’ll start building everything as a module, creating a library of modules to share within your company, start leveraging modules you find online, and start thinking of your entire infrastructure as a collection of reusable modules.

In this chapter, I’ll show you how to create and use Terraform modules by covering the following topics:

  • Module basics

  • Module inputs

  • Module locals

  • Module outputs

  • Module gotchas

  • Module versioning

Example Code

As a reminder, all of the code examples in the book can be found at the following URL: https://github.com/brikis98/terraform-up-and-running-code.

Module Basics

A Terraform module is very simple: any set of Terraform configuration files in a folder is a module. All the configurations you’ve written so far have technically been modules, although not particularly interesting ones, since you deployed them directly (the module in the current working directory is called the root module). To see what modules are really capable of, you have to use one module from another module.

As an example, let’s turn the code in stage/services/webserver-cluster, which includes an Auto Scaling Group (ASG), Application Load Balancer (ALB), security groups, and many other resources, into a reusable module.

As a first step, run terraform destroy in the stage/services/webserver-cluster to clean up any resources you created earlier. Next, create a new top-level folder called modules and move all the files from stage/services/webserver-cluster to modules/services/webserver-cluster. You should end up with a folder structure that looks something like Figure 4-4.

Open up the main.tf file in modules/services/webserver-cluster and remove the provider definition. Providers should be configured by the user of the module and not by the module itself.

tur2 0404
Figure 4-4. The folder structure with a module and a staging environment

You can now make use of this module in the staging environment. The syntax for using a module is:

module "<NAME>" {
  source = "<SOURCE>"

  [CONFIG ...]
}

where NAME is an identifier you can use throughout the Terraform code to refer to this module (e.g., web-service), SOURCE is the path where the module code can be found (e.g., modules/services/webserver-cluster), and CONFIG consists of one or more arguments that are specific to that module. For example, you can create a new file in stage/services/webserver-cluster/main.tf and use the webserver-cluster module in it as follows:

provider "aws" {
  region = "us-east-2"
}

module "webserver_cluster" {
  source = "../../../modules/services/webserver-cluster"
}

You can then reuse the exact same module in the production environment by creating a new prod/services/webserver-cluster/main.tf file with the following contents:

provider "aws" {
  region = "us-east-2"
}

module "webserver_cluster" {
  source = "../../../modules/services/webserver-cluster"
}

And there you have it: code reuse in multiple environments with minimal copy/paste! Note that whenever you add a module to your Terraform configurations or modify the source parameter of a module, you need to run the init command before you run plan or apply:

$ terraform init
Initializing modules...
- webserver_cluster in ../../../modules/services/webserver-cluster

Initializing the backend...

Initializing provider plugins...

Terraform has been successfully initialized!

Now you’ve seen all the tricks the init command has up its sleeve. It downloads providers, modules, and configures your backends, all in one handy command.

Before you run the apply command on this code, you should note that there is a problem with the webserver-cluster module: all the names are hard-coded. That is, the name of the security groups, ALB, and other resources are all hard-coded, so if you use this module more than once, you’ll get name conflict errors. Even the database details are hard-coded because the main.tf file you copied into modules/services/webserver-cluster is using a terraform_remote_state data source to figure out the database address and port, and that terraform_remote_state is hard-coded to look at the staging environment.

To fix these issues, you need to add configurable inputs to the webserver-cluster module so it can behave differently in different environments.

Module Inputs

To make a function configurable in a general-purpose programming language, such as Ruby, you can add input parameters to that function:

def example_function(param1, param2)
  puts "Hello, #{param1} #{param2}"
end

# Other places in your code
example_function("foo", "bar")

In Terraform, modules can have input parameters, too. To define them, you use a mechanism you’re already familiar with: input variables. Open up modules/services/webserver-cluster/variables.tf and add three new input variables:

variable "cluster_name" {
  description = "The name to use for all the cluster resources"
  type        = string
}

variable "db_remote_state_bucket" {
  description = "The name of the S3 bucket for the database's remote state"
  type        = string
}

variable "db_remote_state_key" {
  description = "The path for the database's remote state in S3"
  type        = string
}

Next, go through modules/services/webserver-cluster/main.tf and use var.cluster_name instead of the hard-coded names (e.g., instead of "terraform-asg-example"). For example, here is how you do it for the ALB security group:

resource "aws_security_group" "alb" {
  name = "${var.cluster_name}-alb"

  ingress {
    from_port   = 80
    to_port     = 80
    protocol    = "tcp"
    cidr_blocks = ["0.0.0.0/0"]
  }

  egress {
    from_port   = 0
    to_port     = 0
    protocol    = "-1"
    cidr_blocks = ["0.0.0.0/0"]
  }
}

Notice how the name parameter is set to "${var.cluster_name}-alb". You’ll need to make a similar change to the other aws_security_group resource (e.g., give it the name "${var.cluster_name}-instance"), the aws_alb resource, and the tag section of the aws_autoscaling_group resource.

You should also update the terraform_remote_state data source to use the db_remote_state_bucket and db_remote_state_key as its bucket and key parameter, respectively, to ensure you’re reading the state file from the right environment:

data "terraform_remote_state" "db" {
  backend = "s3"

  config = {
    bucket = var.db_remote_state_bucket
    key    = var.db_remote_state_key
    region = "us-east-2"
  }
}

Now, in the staging environment, in stage/services/webserver-cluster/main.tf, you can set these new input variables accordingly:

module "webserver_cluster" {
  source = "../../../modules/services/webserver-cluster"

  cluster_name           = "webservers-stage"
  db_remote_state_bucket = "(YOUR_BUCKET_NAME)"
  db_remote_state_key    = "stage/data-stores/mysql/terraform.tfstate"
}

You should do the same in the production environment in prod/services/webserver-cluster/main.tf:

module "webserver_cluster" {
  source = "../../../modules/services/webserver-cluster"

  cluster_name           = "webservers-prod"
  db_remote_state_bucket = "(YOUR_BUCKET_NAME)"
  db_remote_state_key    = "prod/data-stores/mysql/terraform.tfstate"
}

Note: the production database doesn’t actually exist yet. As an exercise, I leave it up to you to add a production database similar to the staging one.

As you can see, you set input variables for a module using the same syntax as setting arguments for a resource. The input variables are the API of the module, controlling how it will behave in different environments. This example uses different names in different environments, but you may want to make other parameters configurable, too. For example, in staging, you might want to run a small web server cluster to save money, but in production, you might want to run a larger cluster to handle lots of traffic. To do that, you can add three more input variables to modules/services/webserver-cluster/variables.tf:

variable "instance_type" {
  description = "The type of EC2 Instances to run (e.g. t2.micro)"
  type        = string
}

variable "min_size" {
  description = "The minimum number of EC2 Instances in the ASG"
  type        = number
}

variable "max_size" {
  description = "The maximum number of EC2 Instances in the ASG"
  type        = number
}

Next, update the launch configuration in modules/services/webserver-cluster/main.tf to set its instance_type parameter to the new var.instance_type input variable:

resource "aws_launch_configuration" "example" {
  image_id        = "ami-0c55b159cbfafe1f0"
  instance_type   = var.instance_type
  security_groups = [aws_security_group.instance.id]
  user_data       = data.template_file.user_data.rendered

  # Required when using a launch configuration with an auto scaling group.
  # https://www.terraform.io/docs/providers/aws/r/launch_configuration.html
  lifecycle {
    create_before_destroy = true
  }
}

Similarly, you should update the ASG definition in the same file to set its min_size and max_size parameters to the new var.min_size and var.max_size input variables:

resource "aws_autoscaling_group" "example" {
  launch_configuration = aws_launch_configuration.example.name
  vpc_zone_identifier  = data.aws_subnet_ids.default.ids
  target_group_arns    = [aws_lb_target_group.asg.arn]
  health_check_type    = "ELB"

  min_size = var.min_size
  max_size = var.max_size

  tag {
    key                 = "Name"
    value               = var.cluster_name
    propagate_at_launch = true
  }
}

Now, in the staging environment (stage/services/webserver-cluster/main.tf), you can keep the cluster small and inexpensive by setting instance_type to "t2.micro" and min_size and max_size to 2:

module "webserver_cluster" {
  source = "../../../modules/services/webserver-cluster"

  cluster_name           = "webservers-stage"
  db_remote_state_bucket = "(YOUR_BUCKET_NAME)"
  db_remote_state_key    = "stage/data-stores/mysql/terraform.tfstate"

  instance_type = "t2.micro"
  min_size      = 2
  max_size      = 2
}

On the other hand, in the production environment, you can use a larger instance_type with more CPU and memory, such as m4.large (note: this instance type is not part of the AWS free tier, so if you’re just using this for learning and don’t want to be charged, stick with "t2.micro" for the instance_type), and you can set max_size to 10 to allow the cluster to shrink or grow depending on the load (don’t worry, the cluster will launch with two Instances initially):

module "webserver_cluster" {
  source = "../../../modules/services/webserver-cluster"

  cluster_name           = "webservers-prod"
  db_remote_state_bucket = "(YOUR_BUCKET_NAME)"
  db_remote_state_key    = "prod/data-stores/mysql/terraform.tfstate"

  instance_type = "m4.large"
  min_size      = 2
  max_size      = 10
}

Module Locals

Using input variables to define your module’s inputs is great, but what if you need a way to define a variable in your module to do some intermediary calculation, or just to keep your code DRY, but you don’t want to expose that variable as a configurable input? For example, the load balancer in the webserver-cluster module in modules/services/webserver-cluster/main.tf listens on port 80, the default port for HTTP. This port number is currently copy/pasted in multiple places, including the load balancer listener:

resource "aws_lb_listener" "http" {
  load_balancer_arn = aws_lb.example.arn
  port              = 80
  protocol          = "HTTP"

  # By default, return a simple 404 page
  default_action {
    type = "fixed-response"

    fixed_response {
      content_type = "text/plain"
      message_body = "404: page not found"
      status_code  = 404
    }
  }
}

And the load balancer security group:

resource "aws_security_group" "alb" {
  name = "${var.cluster_name}-alb"

  ingress {
    from_port   = 80
    to_port     = 80
    protocol    = "tcp"
    cidr_blocks = ["0.0.0.0/0"]
  }

  egress {
    from_port   = 0
    to_port     = 0
    protocol    = "-1"
    cidr_blocks = ["0.0.0.0/0"]
  }
}

The values in the security group, including the “all IPs” CIDR block 0.0.0.0/0, the “any port” value of 0, and the “any protocol” value of “-1” are also copy/pasted in several places throughout the module. Having these magical values hard-coded in multiple places makes the code harder to read and maintain. You could extract values into input variables, but then users of your module will be able to (accidentally) override these values, which you may not want. Instead of using input variables, you can define these as local values in a locals block:

locals {
  http_port    = 80
  any_port     = 0
  any_protocol = "-1"
  tcp_protocol = "tcp"
  all_ips      = ["0.0.0.0/0"]
}

Local values allow you to assign a name to any Terraform expression, and to use that name throughout the module. These names are only visible within the module, so they will have no impact on other modules, and you can’t override these values from outside of the module. To read the value of a local, you need to use a local reference, which uses the following syntax:

local.<NAME>

Use this syntax to update your load balancer listener:

resource "aws_lb_listener" "http" {
  load_balancer_arn = aws_lb.example.arn
  port              = local.http_port
  protocol          = "HTTP"

  # By default, return a simple 404 page
  default_action {
    type = "fixed-response"

    fixed_response {
      content_type = "text/plain"
      message_body = "404: page not found"
      status_code  = 404
    }
  }
}

And all the security groups in the module, including the load balancer security group:

resource "aws_security_group" "alb" {
  name = "${var.cluster_name}-alb"

  ingress {
    from_port   = local.http_port
    to_port     = local.http_port
    protocol    = local.tcp_protocol
    cidr_blocks = local.all_ips
  }

  egress {
    from_port   = local.any_port
    to_port     = local.any_port
    protocol    = local.any_protocol
    cidr_blocks = local.all_ips
  }
}

Locals make your code easier to read and maintain, so use them often.

Module Outputs

A powerful feature of Auto Scaling Groups is that you can configure them to increase or decrease the number of servers you have running in response to load. One way to do this is to use an auto scaling schedule, which can change the size of the cluster at a scheduled time during the day. For example, if traffic to your cluster is much higher during normal business hours, you can use an auto scaling schedule to increase the number of servers at 9 a.m. and decrease it at 5 p.m.

If you define the auto scaling schedule in the webserver-cluster module, it would apply to both staging and production. Since you don’t need to do this sort of scaling in your staging environment, for the time being, you can define the auto scaling schedule directly in the production configurations (in Chapter 5, you’ll see how to conditionally define resources, which will allow you to move the auto scaling policy into the webserver-cluster module).

To define an auto scaling schedule, add the following two aws_autoscaling_schedule resources to prod/services/webserver-cluster/main.tf:

resource "aws_autoscaling_schedule" "scale_out_during_business_hours" {
  scheduled_action_name = "scale-out-during-business-hours"
  min_size              = 2
  max_size              = 10
  desired_capacity      = 10
  recurrence            = "0 9 * * *"
}

resource "aws_autoscaling_schedule" "scale_in_at_night" {
  scheduled_action_name = "scale-in-at-night"
  min_size              = 2
  max_size              = 10
  desired_capacity      = 2
  recurrence            = "0 17 * * *"
}

This code uses one aws_autoscaling_schedule resource to increase the number of servers to 10 during the morning hours (the recurrence parameter uses cron syntax, so "0 9 * * *" means “9 a.m. every day”) and a second aws_autoscaling_schedule resource to decrease the number of servers at night ("0 17 * * *" means “5 p.m. every day”). However, both usages of aws_autoscaling_schedule are missing a required parameter, autoscaling_group_name, which specifies the name of the ASG. The ASG itself is defined within the webserver-cluster module, so how do you access its name? In a general-purpose programming language, such as Ruby, functions can return values:

def example_function(param1, param2)
  return "Hello, #{param1} #{param2}"
end

# Other places in your code
return_value = example_function("foo", "bar")

In Terraform, a module can also return values. Again, this is done using a mechanism you already know: output variables. You can add the ASG name as an output variable in /modules/services/webserver-cluster/outputs.tf as follows:

output "asg_name" {
  value       = aws_autoscaling_group.example.name
  description = "The name of the Auto Scaling Group"
}

You can access module output variables using the following syntax:

module.<MODULE_NAME>.<OUTPUT_NAME>

For example:

module.frontend.asg_name

In prod/services/webserver-cluster/main.tf, you can use this syntax to set the autoscaling_group_name parameter in each of the aws_autoscaling_schedule resources:

resource "aws_autoscaling_schedule" "scale_out_during_business_hours" {
  scheduled_action_name = "scale-out-during-business-hours"
  min_size              = 2
  max_size              = 10
  desired_capacity      = 10
  recurrence            = "0 9 * * *"

  autoscaling_group_name = module.webserver_cluster.asg_name
}

resource "aws_autoscaling_schedule" "scale_in_at_night" {
  scheduled_action_name = "scale-in-at-night"
  min_size              = 2
  max_size              = 10
  desired_capacity      = 2
  recurrence            = "0 17 * * *"

  autoscaling_group_name = module.webserver_cluster.asg_name
}

You may want to expose one other output in the webserver-cluster module: the DNS name of the ALB, so you know what URL to test when the cluster is deployed. To do that, you again add an output variable in /modules/services/webserver-cluster/outputs.tf:

output "alb_dns_name" {
  value       = aws_lb.example.dns_name
  description = "The domain name of the load balancer"
}

You can then “pass through” this output in stage/services/webserver-cluster/outputs.tf and prod/services/webserver-cluster/outputs.tf as follows:

output "alb_dns_name" {
  value       = module.webserver_cluster.alb_dns_name
  description = "The domain name of the load balancer"
}

Your web server cluster is almost ready to deploy. The only thing left is to take a few gotchas into account.

Module Gotchas

When creating modules, watch out for these gotchas:

  • File paths

  • Inline blocks

File Paths

In Chapter 3, you moved the User Data script for the web server cluster into an external file, user-data.sh, and used the file built-in function to read this file from disk. The catch with the file function is that the file path you use has to be relative (since you could run Terraform on many different computers)—but what is it relative to?

By default, Terraform interprets the path relative to the current working directory. That works if you’re using the file function in a Terraform configuration file that’s in the same directory as where you’re running terraform apply (that is, if you’re using the file function in the root module), but that won’t work when you’re using file in a module that’s defined in a separate folder.

To solve this issue, you can use an expression known as a path reference, which is of the form path.<TYPE>. Terraform supports the following types of path references:

path.module

Returns the filesystem path of the module where the expression is defined.

path.root

Returns the filesystem path of the root module.

path.cwd

Returns the filesystem path of the current working directory. In normal use of Terraform this is the same as path.root, but some advanced uses of Terraform run it from a directory other than the root module directory, causing these paths to be different.

For the User Data script, you need a path relative to the module itself, so you should use path.module in the template_file data source in modules/services/webserver-cluster/main.tf:

data "template_file" "user_data" {
  template = file("${path.module}/user-data.sh")

  vars = {
    server_port = var.server_port
    db_address  = data.terraform_remote_state.db.outputs.address
    db_port     = data.terraform_remote_state.db.outputs.port
  }
}

Inline Blocks

The configuration for some Terraform resources can be defined either as inline blocks or as separate resources. When creating a module, you should always prefer using a separate resource.

For example, the aws_security_group resource allows you to define ingress and egress rules via inline blocks, as you saw in the webserver-cluster module (modules/services/webserver-cluster/main.tf):

resource "aws_security_group" "alb" {
  name = "${var.cluster_name}-alb"

  ingress {
    from_port   = local.http_port
    to_port     = local.http_port
    protocol    = local.tcp_protocol
    cidr_blocks = local.all_ips
  }

  egress {
    from_port   = local.any_port
    to_port     = local.any_port
    protocol    = local.any_protocol
    cidr_blocks = local.all_ips
  }
}

You should change this module to define the exact same ingress and egress rules by using separate aws_security_group_rule resources (make sure to do this for both security groups in the module):

resource "aws_security_group" "alb" {
  name = "${var.cluster_name}-alb"
}

resource "aws_security_group_rule" "allow_http_inbound" {
  type              = "ingress"
  security_group_id = aws_security_group.alb.id

  from_port   = local.http_port
  to_port     = local.http_port
  protocol    = local.tcp_protocol
  cidr_blocks = local.all_ips
}

resource "aws_security_group_rule" "allow_all_outbound" {
  type              = "egress"
  security_group_id = aws_security_group.alb.id

  from_port   = local.any_port
  to_port     = local.any_port
  protocol    = local.any_protocol
  cidr_blocks = local.all_ips
}

If you try to use a mix of both inline blocks and separate resources, you will get errors where routing rules conflict and overwrite each other. Therefore, you must use one or the other. Because of this limitation, when creating a module, you should always try to use a separate resource instead of the inline block. Otherwise, your module will be less flexible and configurable.

For example, if all the ingress and egress rules within the webserver-cluster module are defined as separate aws_security_group_rule resources, you can make the module flexible enough to allow users to add custom rules from outside of the module. To do that, you export the ID of the aws_security_group as an output variable in modules/services/webserver-cluster/outputs.tf:

output "alb_security_group_id" {
  value       = aws_security_group.alb.id
  description = "The ID of the Security Group attached to the load balancer"
}

Now, imagine that in the staging environment, you needed to expose an extra port just for testing. This is now easy to do by adding an aws_security_group_rule resource to stage/services/webserver-cluster/main.tf:

resource "aws_security_group_rule" "allow_testing_inbound" {
  type              = "ingress"
  security_group_id = module.webserver_cluster.alb_security_group_id

  from_port   = 12345
  to_port     = 12345
  protocol    = "tcp"
  cidr_blocks = ["0.0.0.0/0"]
}

Had you defined even a single ingress or egress rule as an inline block, this code would not work. Note that this same type of problem affects a number of Terraform resources, such as:

  • aws_security_group and aws_security_group_rule

  • aws_route_table and aws_route

  • aws_network_acl and aws_network_acl_rule

At this point, you are finally ready to deploy your web server cluster in both staging and production. Run terraform apply as usual and enjoy using two separate copies of your infrastructure.

Network Isolation

The examples in this chapter create two environments that are isolated in your Terraform code, and isolated in terms of having separate load balancers, servers, and databases, but they are not isolated at the network level. To keep all the examples in this book simple, all the resources deploy into the same Virtual Private Cloud (VPC). That means a server in the staging environment can talk to a server in the production environment and vice versa.

In real-world usage, running both environments in one VPC opens you up to two risks. First, a mistake in one environment could affect the other. For example, if you’re making changes in staging and accidentally mess up the configuration of the route tables, all the routing in production may be affected too. Second, if an attacker gets access to one environment, they also have access to the other. If you’re making rapid changes in staging and accidentally leave a port exposed, any hacker that broke in would not only have access to your staging data, but also your production data.

Therefore, outside of simple examples and experiments, you should run each environment in a separate VPC. In fact, to be extra sure, you may even run each environment in totally separate AWS accounts!

Module Versioning

If both your staging and production environment are pointing to the same module folder, then as soon as you make a change in that folder, it will affect both environments on the very next deployment. This sort of coupling makes it harder to test a change in staging without any chance of affecting production. A better approach is to create versioned modules so that you can use one version in staging (e.g., v0.0.2) and a different version in production (e.g., v0.0.1), as shown in Figure 4-5.

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Figure 4-5. Using different versions of a module in different environments

In all the module examples you’ve seen so far, whenever you used a module, you set the source parameter of the module to a local file path. In addition to file paths, Terraform supports other types of module sources, such as Git URLs, Mercurial URLs, and arbitrary HTTP URLs.1 The easiest way to create a versioned module is to put the code for the module in a separate Git repository and to set the source parameter to that repository’s URL. That means your Terraform code will be spread out across (at least) two repositories:

modules

This repo defines reusable modules. Think of each module as a “blueprint” that defines a specific part of your infrastructure.

live

This repo defines the live infrastructure you’re running in each environment (stage, prod, mgmt, etc). Think of this as the “houses” you built from the “blueprints” in the modules repo.

The updated folder structure for your Terraform code will now look something like Figure 4-6.

tur2 0406
Figure 4-6. File layout with multiple repositories

To set up this folder structure, you’ll first need to move the stage, prod, and global folders into a folder called live. Next, configure the live and modules folders as separate git repositories. Here is an example of how to do that for the modules folder:

$ cd modules
$ git init
$ git add .
$ git commit -m "Initial commit of modules repo"
$ git remote add origin "(URL OF REMOTE GIT REPOSITORY)"
$ git push origin master

You can also add a tag to the modules repo to use as a version number. If you’re using GitHub, you can use the GitHub UI to create a release, which will create a tag under the hood. If you’re not using GitHub, you can use the Git CLI:

$ git tag -a "v0.0.1" -m "First release of webserver-cluster module"
$ git push --follow-tags

Now you can use this versioned module in both staging and production by specifying a Git URL in the source parameter. Here is what that would look like in live/stage/services/webserver-cluster/main.tf if your modules repo was in the GitHub repo github.com/foo/modules (note that the double-slash in the Git URL below is required):

module "webserver_cluster" {
  source = "github.com/foo/modules//webserver-cluster?ref=v0.0.1"

  cluster_name           = "webservers-stage"
  db_remote_state_bucket = "(YOUR_BUCKET_NAME)"
  db_remote_state_key    = "stage/data-stores/mysql/terraform.tfstate"

  instance_type = "t2.micro"
  min_size      = 2
  max_size      = 2
}

If you want to try out versioned modules without messing with Git repos, you can use a module from the code examples GitHub repo for this book (I had to break up the URL to make it fit in the book, but it should all be on one line):

source = "github.com/brikis98/terraform-up-and-running-code//
  code/terraform/04-terraform-module/module-example/modules/
  services/webserver-cluster?ref=v0.1.0"

The ref parameter allows you to specify a specific Git commit via its sha1 hash, a branch name, or, as in this example, a specific Git tag. I generally recommend using Git tags as version numbers for modules. Branch names are not stable, as you always get the latest commit on a branch, which may change every time you run the init command, and the sha1 hashes are not very human friendly. Git tags are as stable as a commit (in fact, a tag is just a pointer to a commit) but they allow you to use a friendly, readable name.

A particularly useful naming scheme for tags is semantic versioning. This is a versioning scheme of the format MAJOR.MINOR.PATCH (e.g., 1.0.4) with specific rules on when you should increment each part of the version number. In particular, you should increment the…

  • MAJOR version when you make incompatible API changes,

  • MINOR version when you add functionality in a backward-compatible manner, and

  • PATCH version when you make backward-compatible bug fixes.

Semantic versioning gives you a way to communicate to users of your module what kind of changes you’ve made and the implications of upgrading.

Since you’ve updated your Terraform code to use a versioned module URL, you need to tell Terraform to download the module code by re-running terraform init:

$ terraform init
Initializing modules...
Downloading git@github.com:brikis98/terraform-up-and-running-code.git?ref=v0.1.0
for webserver_cluster...

(...)

This time, you can see that Terraform downloads the module code from Git rather than your local filesystem. Once the module code has been downloaded, you can run the apply command as usual.

Private Git Repos

If your Terraform module is in a private Git repository, to use that repo as a module source, you will need to give Terraform a way to authenticate to that Git repository. I recommend using SSH auth so that you don’t have to hard-code the credentials for your repo in the code itself. With SSH auth, each developer can create an SSH key, associate it with their Git user, and add it to ssh-agent, and Terraform will automatically use that key for authentication if you use an SSH source URL.2

The source URL should be of the form:

git::git@github.com:<OWNER>/<REPO>.git//<PATH>?ref=<VERSION>

For example:

git::git@github.com:acme/modules.git//example?ref=v0.1.2

To check that you’ve formatted the URL correctly, try to git clone the base URL from your terminal:

$ git clone git@github.com:<OWNER>/<REPO>.git

If that command succeeds, Terraform should be able to use the private repo too.

Now that you’re using versioned modules, let’s walk through the process of making changes. Let’s say you made some changes to the webserver-cluster module and you wanted to test them out in staging. First, you’d commit those changes to the modules repo:

$ cd modules
$ git add .
$ git commit -m "Made some changes to webserver-cluster"
$ git push origin master

Next, you would create a new tag in the modules repo:

$ git tag -a "v0.0.2" -m "Second release of webserver-cluster"
$ git push --follow-tags

And now you can update just the source URL used in the staging environment (live/stage/services/webserver-cluster/main.tf) to use this new version:

module "webserver_cluster" {
  source = "git::git@github.com:foo/modules.git//webserver-cluster?ref=v0.0.2"

  cluster_name           = "webservers-stage"
  db_remote_state_bucket = "(YOUR_BUCKET_NAME)"
  db_remote_state_key    = "stage/data-stores/mysql/terraform.tfstate"

  instance_type = "t2.micro"
  min_size      = 2
  max_size      = 2
}

In production (live/prod/services/webserver-cluster/main.tf), you can happily continue to run v0.0.1 unchanged:

module "webserver_cluster" {
  source = "git::git@github.com:foo/modules.git//webserver-cluster?ref=v0.0.1"

  cluster_name           = "webservers-prod"
  db_remote_state_bucket = "(YOUR_BUCKET_NAME)"
  db_remote_state_key    = "prod/data-stores/mysql/terraform.tfstate"

  instance_type = "m4.large"
  min_size      = 2
  max_size      = 10
}

Once v0.0.2 has been thoroughly tested and proven in staging, you can then update production, too. But if there turns out to be a bug in v0.0.2, no big deal, as it has no effect on the real users of your production environment. Fix the bug, release a new version, and repeat the whole process again until you have something stable enough for production.

Developing Modules

Versioned modules are great when you’re deploying to a shared environment (e.g., staging or production), but when you’re just testing on your own computer, you’ll want to use local file paths. This allows you to iterate faster, as you’ll be able to make a change in the module folders and rerun the plan or apply command in the live folders immediately, rather than having to commit your code and publish a new version each time.

Since the goal of this book is to help you learn and experiment with Terraform as quickly as possible, the rest of the code examples will use local file paths for modules.

Conclusion

By defining infrastructure as code in modules, you can apply a variety of software engineering best practices to your infrastructure. You can validate each change to a module through code reviews and automated tests; you can create semantically versioned releases of each module; and you can safely try out different versions of a module in different environments and roll back to previous versions if you hit a problem.

All of this can dramatically increase your ability to build infrastructure quickly and reliably, as developers will be able to reuse entire pieces of proven, tested, documented infrastructure. For example, you could create a canonical module that defines how to deploy a single microservice—including how to run a cluster, how to scale the cluster in response to load, and how to distribute traffic requests across the cluster—and each team could use this module to manage their own microservices with just a few lines of code.

To make such a module work for multiple teams, the Terraform code in that module must be flexible and configurable. For example, one team may want to use your module to deploy a single instance of their microservice with no load balancer while another may want a dozen instances of their microservice with a load balancer to distribute traffic between those instances. How do you do conditional statements in Terraform? Is there a way to do a for-loop? Is there a way to use Terraform to roll out changes to this microservice without downtime? These advanced aspects of Terraform syntax are the topic of Chapter 5.

1 For the full details on source URLs, see https://www.terraform.io/docs/modules/sources.html.

2 See https://help.github.com/en/articles/connecting-to-github-with-ssh for a nice guide on working with SSH keys.

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