» Terraform Enterprise AWS Reference Architecture

» Introduction

This document provides recommended practices and a reference architecture for HashiCorp Terraform Enterprise implementations on AWS.

» Implementation Modes

Terraform Enterprise can be installed and function in different implementation modes with increasing capability and complexity:

  • Standalone: The base architecture with a single application node that supports the standard implementation requirements for the platform.
  • Active/Active: This is an extension of Standalone mode that adds multiple active node capability that can expand horizontally to support larger and increasing execution loads.

Since the architectures of the modes progresses logically, this guide will present the base Standalone mode first and then discuss the differences that alter the implementation into the Active/Active mode.

» Required Reading

Prior to making hardware sizing and architectural decisions, read through the pre-install checklist to familiarize yourself with the application components and architecture. Further, read the reliability and availability guidance as a primer to understanding the recommendations in this reference architecture.

» Infrastructure Requirements

Depending on the chosen operational mode, the infrastructure requirements for Terraform Enterprise range from a single AWS EC2 instance for demo installations to multiple instances connected to RDS and S3 for a stateless production installation.

The following table provides high-level server guidelines. Of particular note is the strong recommendation to avoid non-fixed performance CPUs, or “Burstable CPU” in AWS terms, such as T-series instances.

» Terraform Enterprise Server (EC2 via Auto Scaling Group)

Type CPU Memory Disk AWS Instance Types
Minimum 4 core 16 GB RAM 50GB m5.xlarge
Scaled 8 core 32 GB RAM 50GB m5.2xlarge

» Hardware Sizing Considerations

  • The minimum size would be appropriate for most initial production deployments, or for development/testing environments.

  • The scaled size is for production environments where there is a consistent high workload in the form of concurrent Terraform runs.

» PostgreSQL Database (RDS Multi-AZ)

Type CPU Memory Storage AWS Instance Types
Minimum 4 core 16 GB RAM 50GB db.m4.xlarge
Scaled 8 core 32 GB RAM 50GB db.m4.2xlarge

» Hardware Sizing Considerations

  • The minimum size would be appropriate for most initial production deployments, or for development/testing environments.

  • The scaled size is for production environments where there is a consistent high workload in the form of concurrent Terraform runs.

» Object Storage (S3)

An S3 Standard bucket must be specified during the Terraform Enterprise installation for application data to be stored securely and redundantly away from the EC2 servers running the Terraform Enterprise application. This S3 bucket must be in the same region as the EC2 and RDS instances. It is recommended the VPC containing the Terraform Enterprise servers be configured with a VPC endpoint for S3. Within the Terraform Enterprise application, Vault is used to encrypt all application data stored in the S3 bucket. This allows for further server-side encryption by S3 if required by your security policy.

» Other Considerations

» Additional AWS Resources

In order to successfully provision this reference architecture you must also be permitted to create the following AWS resources:

  • VPC
  • Subnet
  • Route Table
  • Route Table Association
  • Security Group
  • Load Balancer (Application, Network, or Classic Load Balancer)
  • Launch Configuration
  • Auto Scaling Group
  • Target Group (if using Application or Network Load Balancer)
  • CloudWatch Alarm
  • IAM Instance Profile
  • IAM Role
  • IAM Role Policy
  • Route 53 (optional)

» Network

To deploy Terraform Enterprise in AWS you will need to create new or use existing networking infrastructure. The below infrastructure diagram highlights some of the key components (VPC, subnets, DB subnet group) and you will also have security group, routing table and gateway requirements. These elements are likely to be very unique to your environment and not something this Reference Architecture can specify in detail. An example Terraform configuration is provided to demonstrate how these resources can be provisioned and how they interrelate.


DNS can be configured external to AWS or using Route 53. The fully qualified domain name should resolve to the Load Balancer (if using one) or the Terraform Enterprise instance using a CNAME if using external DNS or an alias record set if using Route 53. Creating the required DNS entry is outside the scope of this guide.

Another approach would be to use an external registrar or DNS server to point to a Route 53 CNAME record using a canonical, but not necessarily public, domain name, which then forwards to the ALIAS record for the ELB. This pattern is required if using Route 53 Health Checks and failover pairs to automatically fail over to the standby instance. This is documented further below.

» SSL/TLS Certificates and Load Balancers

An SSL/TLS certificate signed by a public or private CA is required for secure communication between clients, VCS systems, and the Terraform Enterprise application server. The certificate can be specified during the UI-based installation or in a configuration file used for an unattended installation.

If a Classic or Application Load Balancer is used, SSL/TLS will be terminated on the load balancer. In this configuration, the Terraform Enterprise instances should still be configured to listen for incoming SSL/TLS connections. If a Network Load Balancer is used, SSL/TLS will be terminated on the Terraform Enterprise instance.

HashiCorp does not recommend the use of self-signed certificates on the Terraform Enterprise instance unless you use a Classic or Application Load Balancer and place a public certificate (such as an AWS Certificate Manager certificate) on the load balancer. Note that certificates cannot be placed on Network Load Balancers.

If you want to use a Network Load Balancer (NLB) with Terraform Enterprise, use either an internet-facing NLB or an internal NLB that targets by IP. An internal NLB that targets by instance ID cannot be used with Terraform Enterprise since NLBs configured in this way do not support loopbacks. Amazon provides load balancer troubleshooting information for Network Load Balancers.

A public AWS Certificate Manager (ACM) certificate cannot be used with a Network Load Balancer and Terraform Enterprise since certificates cannot be placed on NLBs and AWS does not support exporting the private key for public ACM certificates. This means you cannot load the private key of a public ACM certificate on your Terraform Enterprise instance.

» Infrastructure Diagram - Standalone


» Application Layer

The Application Layer is composed of an Auto Scaling Group and a Launch Configuration providing an auto-recovery mechanism in the event of an instance or Availability Zone failure.

» Storage Layer

The Storage Layer is composed of multiple service endpoints (RDS, S3) all configured with or benefiting from inherent resiliency provided by AWS.

» Additional Information

» Infrastructure Provisioning

The recommended way to deploy Terraform Enterprise is through use of a Terraform configuration that defines the required resources, their references to other resources, and associated dependencies.

» Normal Operation

» Component Interaction

The Load Balancer routes all traffic to the Terraform Enterprise instance, which is managed by an Auto Scaling Group with maximum and minimum instance counts set to one.

The Terraform Enterprise application is connected to the PostgreSQL database via the RDS Multi-AZ endpoint and all database requests are routed via the RDS Multi-AZ endpoint to the RDS-main database instance.

The Terraform Enterprise application is connected to object storage via the S3 endpoint for the defined bucket and all object storage requests are routed to the highly available infrastructure supporting S3.

» Monitoring

There is not currently a full monitoring guide for Terraform Enterprise. The following pages include information relevant to monitoring:

» Upgrades

See the Upgrades section of the documentation.

» High Availability - Failure Scenarios

AWS provides availability and reliability recommendations in the Well-Architected framework. Working in accordance with those recommendations, the Terraform Enterprise Reference Architecture is designed to handle different failure scenarios with different probabilities. As the architecture evolves it will provide a higher level of service continuity.

» Terraform Enterprise Server

By utilizing an Auto Scaling Group, a Terraform Enterprise instance can automatically recover in the event of any outage except for the loss of an entire region.

In the event of a Terraform Enterprise instance failing in a way that AWS can observe, the health checks on the Auto Scaling Group trigger, causing a replacement instance to be launched. Once launched, it reinitializes the software, and on completion, processing on this EC2 instance will resume as normal.

With External Services (PostgreSQL Database, Object Storage) in use, there is still some application configuration data present on the Terraform Enterprise server such as installation type, database connection settings, hostname. This data rarely changes. If the configuration on Terraform Enterprise changes you should update the Launch Configuration to include the updates so that any newly launched EC2 instance uses them.

» Availability Zone Failure

In the event of the Availability Zone hosting the main instances (EC2 and RDS) failing, the Auto Scaling Group for the EC2 instance will automatically begin booting a new one in an operational AZ.

  • Multi-AZ RDS automatically fails over to the RDS Standby Replica (RDS-standby). The AWS documentation provides more detail on the exact behavior and expected impact.

  • S3 is resilient to Availability Zone failure based on its architecture.

See below for more detail on how each component handles Availability Zone failure.

» PostgreSQL Database

Using RDS Multi-AZ as an external database service leverages the highly available infrastructure provided by AWS. From the AWS website:

In a Multi-AZ deployment, Amazon RDS automatically provisions and maintains a synchronous standby replica in a different Availability Zone. In the event of a planned or unplanned outage of your DB instance, Amazon RDS automatically switches to a standby replica in another Availability Zone. (source)

» Object Storage

Using S3 as an external object store leverages the highly available infrastructure provided by AWS. S3 buckets are replicated to all Availability Zones within the region selected during bucket creation. From the AWS website:

Amazon S3 runs on the world’s largest global cloud infrastructure, and was built from the ground up to deliver a customer promise of 99.999999999% of durability. Data is automatically distributed across a minimum of three physical facilities that are geographically separated within an AWS Region. (source)

» Disaster Recovery - Failure Scenarios

AWS provides availability and reliability recommendations in the Well-Architected framework. Working in accordance with those recommendations the Terraform Enterprise Reference Architecture is designed to handle different failure scenarios that have different probabilities. As the architecture evolves it will provide a higher level of service continuity.

» Data Corruption

The Terraform Enterprise application architecture relies on multiple service endpoints (RDS, S3) all providing their own backup and recovery functionality to support a low MTTR in the event of data corruption.

» PostgreSQL Database

Backup and recovery of PostgreSQL is managed by AWS and configured through the AWS management console on CLI. More details of RDS for PostgreSQL features are available here and summarised below:

Automated Backups – The automated backup feature of Amazon RDS is turned on by default and enables point-in-time recovery for your DB Instance. Amazon RDS will backup your database and transaction logs and store both for a user-specified retention period.

DB Snapshots – DB Snapshots are user-initiated backups of your DB Instance. These full database backups will be stored by Amazon RDS until you explicitly delete them.

» Object Storage

There is no automatic backup/snapshot of S3 by AWS, so it is recommended to script a bucket copy process from the bucket used by the Terraform Enterprise application to a “backup bucket” in S3 that runs at regular intervals. The Amazon S3 Standard-Infrequent Access storage class is identified as a solution targeted more for DR backups than S3 Standard. From the AWS website:

Amazon S3 Standard-Infrequent Access (S3 Standard-IA) is an Amazon S3 storage class for data that is accessed less frequently, but requires rapid access when needed. S3 Standard-IA offers the high durability, high throughput, and low latency of S3 Standard, with a low per GB storage price and per GB retrieval fee. This combination of low cost and high performance make S3 Standard-IA ideal for long-term storage, backups, and as a data store for disaster recovery. (source)

» Multi-Region Deployment to Address Region Failure

Terraform Enterprise is currently architected to provide high availability within a single AWS Region. Using multiple AWS Regions will give you greater control over your recovery time in the event of a hard dependency failure on a regional AWS service. In this section, implementation patterns to support this are discussed.

An identical infrastructure should be provisioned in a secondary AWS Region. Depending on recovery time objectives and tolerances for additional cost to support AWS Region failure, the infrastructure can be running (Warm Standby) or stopped (Cold Standby). In the event of the primary AWS Region hosting the Terraform Enterprise application failing, the secondary AWS Region will require some configuration before traffic is directed to it along with some global services such as DNS.

  • RDS cross-region read replicas can be used in a warm standby architecture or RDS database backups can be used in a cold standby architecture.

  • S3 cross-region replication must be configured so the object storage component of the Storage Layer is available in the secondary AWS Region.

  • DNS must be redirected to the Load Balancer acting as the entry point for the infrastructure deployed in the secondary AWS Region.

» Active/Active Implementation Mode

» Overview

As stated previously, the Active/Active implementation mode is an extension of the Standalone implementation mode that increases the scalability and load capacity of the Terraform Enterprise platform. The same application runs on multiple Terraform Enterprise instances utilizing the same external services in a shared model. The primary architectural and implementation differences for Active/Active are:

  • It can only be run in the External Services mode.
  • The additional nodes are active and processing work at all times.
  • In addition to the existing external services, there is a memory cache which is currently implemented with cloud native implementations of Redis. This is used for the processing queue for the application and has been moved from the individual instance to be a shared resource that manages distribution of work.
  • There are additional configuration parameters to manage the operation of the node cluster and the memory cache.

The following sections will provide further detail on the infrastructure and implementation differences.

» Migration to Active/Active

If you are considering a migration from a Standalone implementation to Active/Active, it is straightforward and there is guidance available to assist with that effort. However, you should first make a determination if the move is necessary. The Standalone mode is capable of handling significant load and the first paths to supporting higher load can be simply increasing the compute power in the existing implementation. A discussion with your HashiCorp representatives may be warranted.

Also note that if your existing architecture does not already depict what is shown and discussed above, you will likely need to make adjustments to bring it into alignment. This could be either before or during the migration. Certain tenets of the reference architecture described here are highly recommended and potentially necessary to support Active/Active mode such as load balancers and scaling groups.

» Infrastructure Diagram - Active/Active


The above diagram shows the infrastructure components of an Active/Active implementation at a high-level.

» Infrastructure Requirements

» Active Nodes

The diagram depicts two active nodes to be concise. Additional nodes can be added by altering your configuration to launch another instance that points to the same shared external services. The number and sizing of nodes should be based on load requirements and redundancy needs. Nodes should be deployed in alternate zones to accommodate zone failure.

The cluster is comprised of essentially independent nodes in a SaaS type model. There are no concerns of leader election or minimal or optimum node counts. When a new node enters the cluster it simply starts taking new work from the load balancer and from the memory cache queue and thus spreading the load horizontally.

» Memory Cache

The AWS implementation of the memory cache is handled by Amazon ElastiCache. Specifically using Amazon ElastiCache for Redis. Getting Started with Amazon ElastiCache for Redis provides a high level walk-through of implementing the memory cache.

Determine Your Requirements provides a high level description of the implementation options for the memory cache. Primary differentiators are Cluster Mode and Multi-AZ. The primary difference is how far high availability might extend. Cluster Mode extends the cluster to multiple Node Groups and will benefit larger scale, multi-client implementations. The only clients for Terraform Enterprise are the compute instances in a single region, so this is not required or suggested. Here is additional information on Managing Your ElastiCache Clusters.

You should enable Multi-AZ with Redis Replication Groups where memory cache instances are replicated across availability zones as described in Mitigating Failures. Note there will be a primary and read replicas across the AZs. This failover and promotion of primaries can be configured to happen automatically on an AZ failure. There should be a memory cache node in every AZ that has a Terraform Enterprise node is deployed. A lower testing or sandbox environment could use just a single node, however, a production level environment should always be configured for high availability to benefit from the HA features that coincide with the other external services in the Terraform Enterprise platform. Note there is also a rudimentary mechanism of transaction logs available called Redis Append Only Files (AOF) which is not recommended as an alternative.

The concept of Local Zone exists for Amazon ElasticCache. This is an extension of an AWS Region that is geographically close to your users. This is not required or recommended as the memory cache just needs to be close to TFE compute, limited locations are implemented so far, and it does not support Multi-AZ.

Sizing for Amazon ElasticCache is determined by cache ec2 instance sizes defined for the cluster. You can start the size off in a smaller range such as a "cache.m5.large" with some consideration of anticipated active load, and scale up or down as demand is understood by changing node size. with the aid of Choosing Your Node Size.

Enterprise-grade security is inherently covered in the Amazon ElasticCache implementation because Redis instances are protected from the internet using private IPs, and access to instances is controlled and limited to the account creating owning the cluster. Security Group(s) should be used to limit the access by port to the Redis cluster. Here is additional information on Access Authorization.

Terraform Enterprise supports Redis versions 4.0 and 5.0, but 5.0 is recommended unless there is strong reason to deviate. Amazon ElastiCache for Redis supports Redis versions from 2.x to 6.x down to the minor version, so do explicitly specify the version such as 5.0.6.

» Normal Operation

» Component Interaction

The Load Balancer routes all traffic to the Terraform Enterprise instance, which is managed by an Auto Scaling Group. This is a standard round-robin distribution for now, with no accounting for current load on the nodes. The instance counts on the Auto Scaling Group control the number of nodes in operation and can be used to increase or decrease the number of active nodes.

Active/Active Terraform Enterprise is not currently architected to support dynamic scaling based on load or other factors. The maximum and minimum instance counts on the Auto Scaling Group should be set to the same value. Adding a node can be done at will by setting these values. However, removing a node requires that the node be allowed to finish active work and stop accepting new work before being terminated. The operational documentation has the details on how to "drain" a node.

» Replicated Console

The Replicated Console that allows access to certain information and realtime configuration for Standalone is not available in Active/Active. This functionality, including generating support bundles, has been replaced with CLI commands to be executed on the nodes. The operational documentation has the details on how to utilize these commands.

» Upgrades

Upgrading the Terraform Enterprise version still follows a similar pattern as with Standalone. However, there is not an online option with the Replicated Console. It is possible to upgrade a minor release with CLI commands in a rolling fashion. A "required" release or any change the potentially affects the shared external services will need to be done with a short outage. This involves scaling down to a single node, replacing that node, and then scaling back out. The operational documentation has the details on how these processes can operate.

» Failure Scenarios

» Memory Cache

As mentioned, the Amazon ElasticCache service in Multi-AZ mode provides automatic replication and failover. In the event of a larger failure or any normal maintenance with proper draining, the memory cache will not be required to be restored. If it is damaged it can be re-paved, and if not it can be left to continue operation.

» Multi-Region Implementation to Address Region Failure

Similar to Standalone, Active/Active Terraform Enterprise is currently architected to provide high availability within a single region. You cannot deploy additional nodes associated to the primary cluster in different regions. It is possible to deploy to multiple regions to give you greater control over your recovery time in the event of a hard dependency failure on a regional service. An identical infrastructure will still need to be instantiated separately with a failover scenario resulting in control of processing being transferred to the second implementation, as described in the earlier section on this topic. In addition, this identical infrastructure will require its own Memory Cache external service instance.