» Terraform Enterprise VMware Reference Architecture

» Introduction

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

» Implementation Modes

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

  • Standalone/Mounted Disk: 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.

This guide will present the base Standalone/Mounted Disk 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 familiarise 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 virtual machine for demo or proof of concept installations, to multiple virtual machines hosting the Terraform Cloud application, PostgreSQL, Redis, and external Vault servers for a stateless production installation.

» Standalone/Mounted Disk

This mode requires that you specify the local path for data storage. The local path should be a mounted disk from a SAN or NAS device, or some other replicated storage. This allows for rapid recovery or failover.

If you need or want to define storage externally and independently, you can choose the External Services operational mode. This is a more complicated implementation in VMware that requires you to independently manage other services which will not be detailed in this document. You will need to deploy S3-compatible storage either by connecting to a true AWS S3 bucket or by using a compatible alternative on-prem solution, such as Ceph. You will also need to deploy and separately manage an external PostgreSQL database on an additional server or servers.

Some additional information about the External Services option can be found at the end of this document.

Although it is possible for Terraform Enterprise to use an external Vault server instead of its internally managed one, we do not recommended it. External Vault usage is not addressed in this document.

The following table provides high-level server recommendations as a guideline. Please note, thick provision, lazy zeroed storage is preferred. Thin provisioned is only recommended if you are using an external PostgreSQL database and external Vault server. Using thin provisioned disks when using the internal database or Vault may result in serious performance issues.

» Terraform Enterprise Servers

Type CPU Sockets Total Cores* Memory Disk
Minimum 2 4 16 GB RAM 40GB
Scaled 2 8 32 GB RAM 40GB

» 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.

  • Please monitor the actual CPU utilization in vCenter before making the decision to increase the CPU allocation.

» Other Considerations

» Network

To deploy Terraform Enterprise on VMWare you will need to create new or use existing networking infrastructure that has access to any infrastructure you expect to manage with the Terraform Enterprise server. If you plan to use your Terraform Enterprise server to manage or deploy infrastructure on external providers (eg Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud), you will need to make sure the Terraform Enterprise server has unimpeded access to those providers. The same goes for any other public or private datacenter the server will need to connect with.


The fully qualified domain name should resolve to the IP address of the virtual machine using an A record. Creating the required DNS entry is outside the scope of this guide.


A valid, signed SSL/TLS certificate is required for secure communication between clients and the Terraform Enterprise application server. Requesting a certificate is outside the scope of this guide. You will be prompted for the public and private certificates during installation.

» Infrastructure Diagram


» Application Layer

The Application Layer is a VMware virtual machine running on an ESXi cluster providing an auto-recovery mechanism in the event of virtual machine or physical server failure.

» Storage Layer

The Storage Layer is provided in the form of attached disk space configured with or benefiting from inherent resiliency provided by the NAS or SAN. The primary Terraform Enterprise VM will have 2 disks which must meet the requirements detailed here. The first disk is independent to this VM and contains the OS and Terraform Enterprise components specific to this individual install, such as configuration information. The second disk will contain Terraform Enterprise's configuration information such as Workspaces and their resulting Terraform state files. This second disk needs to be regularly backed up, for instance via replication or snapshotting inherent to your SAN or other software, at a rate that meets your desired RPO. Similarly, the standby VM will have two disks. An OS disk that is independent to that VM and a disk which is simply a point in time copy of the primary instance's second disk.

The specific selection and configuration of the storage device is not covered in this document. For more information about high-speed and highly available storage, please see your storage vendor. We recommend that each of these VMs be deployed as immutable architecture to enable one to easily redeploy the secondary VM when the primary has been upgraded or changed. If this is not possible a snapshot methodology inherent to TFE along with examples of restoring those snapshots is available at Terraform Enterprise Automated Recovery.

For more information about Terraform Enterprise's disk requirements, see Before Installing: Disk Requirements.

» Active/Active

The Active/Active mode provides a higher level of availability and failover as well as horizontal scaling. It requires additional external services, and all of the requirements and instructions are available on the Terraform Enterprise Active/Active page.

We have tested Active/Active on VMWare internally on ESX version 7.0.1 and vCenter Server Appliance version, but should work on any version supported by the vSphere Provider for Terraform.

We recommend a setup with the following:

  • A load balancer to route traffic to both Terraform Enterprise virtual machines.
  • Both virtual machines located in the same physical datacenter and on the same network. High amounts of network latency between the Terraform Enterprise virtual machines and the external services may result in plan and apply slowness and errors.
  • High-speed disks, as they are are critical for good performance.
  • Both Terraform Enterprise virtual machines can access an external Redis server, a PostgreSQL database, and an S3-compatible blob storage bucket. Terraform Enterprise will use an internal Vault server by default. Optionally, you can configure Terraform Enterprise to use an existing Vault cluster.

An example of a recommended setup:

TFE Active/Active on VMware

» Infrastructure Provisioning

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

» Normal Operation

» Component Interaction

In Mounted Disk Mode the PostgreSQL database will be run in a local container and data will be written to the specified path (which should be a mounted storage device, replicated and/or backed up frequently.) In Active/Active or External Services Mod the external PostgreSQL server will be used.

State and other data will be written to the specified local path (which should be a mounted storage device, replicated and/or backed up frequently) in Mounted Disk, and the S3-compatible storage in Active/Active or External Service Mode.

Redis is used to managed job flow and does not contain stateful data. In Mounted Disk Mode and External Services this service will be started locally as a container. In Active/Active this will be an external server.

Vault will be run in a local container and used only for transit data encryption and decryption. This stateless use of Vault provides easy recovery in the event of a Vault service failure.

» Monitoring

While there is not currently a full monitoring guide for Terraform Enterprise, information around logging, diagnostics as well as reliability and availability can be found on our website.

» Upgrades

See the Upgrades section of the documentation. For Active/Active you'll need to scale down to a single virtual machine before proceeding with an upgrade.

» High Availability

» Failure Scenarios

VMWare hypervisor provides a high level of resilience in various cases of failure (at the server hardware layer through vMotion and at the network layer through virtual distributed networking.) In addition, having ESXi failover to a DR datacenter provides recovery in the case of a total data center outage See the Disaster Recovery section.

Additional failover can be provide by the Active/Active installation mode.

» Terraform Enterprise Servers (VMware Virtual Machine)

Should the TFE-main server fail, it can be recovered, or traffic can be routed to the TFE-standby server to resume service when the failure is limited to the Terraform Enterprise server layer. See the Disaster Recovery section.

» Single ESXi Server Failure

In the event of a single ESXi server failure, ESXi will vMotion the Terraform Enterprise virtual machine to a functioning ESXi host. This typically does not result in any visible outage to the end-user if VM Fault Tolerance has been configured. As with all applications, you may see a small interruption while the VM boots on the new host if Fault Tolerance is not configured.

» PostgreSQL Database

When running in Mounted Disk operational mode the PostgreSQL server runs inside a Docker container. If the PostgreSQL service fails a new container should be automatically created. However, if the service is hung, or otherwise fails without triggering a new container deployment, the Terraform Enterprise server should be stopped and the standby server started. All PostgreSQL data will have been written to the mounted disk and will then be accessible on the standby node.

» Object Storage

The object storage will be stored on the mounted disk and the expectation is that the NAS or SAN or other highly available mounted storage is fault tolerant and replicated or has fast recovery available.

» Redis (Active/Active Only)

The Redis service does not contain stateful data and does not require backups or data sync. While Redis Cluster is not supported, Redis Sentinel or Replication can be utilized for high availability and/or failover.

» Disaster Recovery

» Failure Scenarios

» Terraform Enterprise Servers (VMware Virtual Machine)

Through deployment of two virtual machines in different ESXi clusters, the Terraform Enterprise Reference Architecture is designed to provide improved availability and reliability. Should the TFE-main server fail, it can be recovered, or traffic can be routed to the TFE-standby server to resume service when the failure is limited to the Terraform Enterprise server layer. The load balancer should be manually updated to point to the standby Terraform Enterprise VM after services have been started on it in the event of a failure.

» Mounted Disk - PostgreSQL Database

The PostgreSQL data will be written to the mounted disk. The expectation is that the storage server is replicated or backed up offsite and will be made available to the server in the event of a DR.

» Mounted Disk - Object Storage

Object storage will be written to the mounted disk. The expectation is that the storage server is replicated or backed up offsite and will be made available to the server in the event of a DR.

» Active/Active Disaster Recovery

You should back up and replicate the stateful external services (PostgreSQL and Blob Storage) to an offsite location to enable a disaster recovery or datacenter failover. You can use either the Backup/Restore API or service-native tools for backups. You do not need to back up the Redis instance because it does not store stateful data.

Redeploy the Terraform Enterprise virtual machines in the restore location using the same automation as in the primary datacenter, and update names and IP addresses for the external services as is necessary.

» ESXi Cluster

In the event of a complete ESXi cluster failure or datacenter failure, load-balancing should be updated to route traffic to a different datacenter and ESXi cluster that is running a second stack of the Terraform Enterprise components. This second environment would be receiving storage layer replication from the primary.

» External Services Storage Options

This information is included if External Services operational mode is required.

» External Services - Object Storage Options

An S3 Standard bucket, or compatible storage, must be specified during the Terraform Enterprise installation for application data to be stored securely and redundantly away from the virtual servers running the Terraform Enterprise application. This object storage must be accessible via the network to the Terraform Enterprise virtual machine. Vault is used to encrypt all application data stored in this location. This allows for further server-side encryption by S3 if required by your security policy.

Recommended object storage solutions are AWS S3, Google Cloud storage, Azure blob storage. Other options for S3-compatible storage are MinIO, and Ceph, and ECS, among many others. Please feel free to reach out to support with questions.

» External Services - PostgreSQL Database

» External Services - PostgreSQL Database Management

Using a PostgreSQL cluster will provide fault tolerance at the database layer. Documentation on how to deploy a PostgreSQL cluster can be found on the PostgreSQL documentation page.

Backup and recovery of PostgreSQL will vary based on your implementation and is not covered in this document. We do recommend regular database snapshots.

» External Services - PostgreSQL Database Sizing

Type CPU Sockets Total Cores Memory Storage
Demo 2 2 core 8 GB RAM 50GB
Production 2 4-8 core 16-32 GB RAM 50GB

» Active/Active - Redis Server

Redis server v5 and v6 are both supported and have been tested thoroughly with Terraform Enterprise. Redis Cluster is not currently supported. Options are provided for the following:

  • redis_port: Allows for connecting to a Redis server running on a nonstandard port
  • redis_use_password_auth: This can be set to 1 if you are using password authentication, or 0 if not.
  • redis_use_tls: Allows to enabling(1) or disabling(0) the TLS requirement

Additional details can be found on the Active/Active Installation page.