How Terraform variables help with scalability in infrastructure configuration

Johannesburg, 14 Feb 2024
Terraform variables operate like a dynamic template.
Terraform variables operate like a dynamic template.

Provisioning and configuring cloud environments has always been a time-consuming and tedious task. It was less of a problem in the early days of applications and internet solutions, when developers only occasionally needed a new environment. But now that DevOps teams need to provision new environments several times a day, manual management is no longer feasible.

Bottlenecks arise when developers have to wait for a new environment to be prepared, and many give in to the temptation to simply re-use an old environments instead, which skews the results. Manual errors creep into environments, especially when DevOps is under so much time pressure, and finding and fixing those errors is an even longer and more laborious process.

Hashicorp’s Terraform platform resolves many of these difficulties by automating the provisioning and configuration of the resources needed for an application to function properly, such as virtual machines, containers, networks, storage and other components. It’s a type of infrastructure as code (IAC) solution that’s made life much easier for DevOps personnel.

However, as Terraform and IAC have taken off, various drawbacks became evident. With demand for increasingly high volumes of new environments continuing, DevOps teams discovered the rise of new inconsistencies resulting in dependencies that require manual intervention or tedious workarounds.

All these issues held them back from easy scalability. They needed solutions to make scalable provisioning more reliable, consistent, versatile and less error-prone. Enter dynamic Terraform variables, which help DevOps overcome all these obstacles.

Essentially, Terraform variables operate like a dynamic template that DevOps teams can re-use again and again and again, making only minimal changes to adapt each one to the specific circumstance. Here’s more detail about the ways in which dynamic Terraform variables help IT professionals to scale environment provisioning and configuration more efficiently.

Dynamic configuration

Typical provisioning work involves hard-coding values into the infrastructure configuration. While this process is faster than previous approaches to infrastructure configuration, it makes it impossible to change the values without modifying the underlying code. But Terraform variables make it possible to parameterise resources so that they remain dynamic.

With Terraform variables, DevOps professionals can define parameters like instance sizes, regions and resource counts as variables, so they can be easily adjusted whenever needed. Transforming configuration into something dynamic rather than static makes it simple to scale infrastructure up or down based on evolving needs and demands, so infrastructure across environments can adapt to changing requirements and scenarios as needed.


By abstracting out values that are subject to change across different environments or deployments, variables enable the creation of modular and adaptable infrastructure code. These modules serve as re-usable blocks of infrastructure configuration which can be applied across different environments and multiple configurations to improve scalability across the whole ecosystem.

As well as enabling dynamic configuration, this also allows for the dynamic assignment of values based on the context of the deployment. For example, variables can represent resource names, IP addresses, instance types or any other configurable parameter, allowing the same infrastructure code to be re-used across various environments with minimal modifications.


By abstracting out common parameters and configurations into variables, teams can establish standardised patterns for infrastructure components such as instance sizes, network configurations or security policies. Re-using variables applies infrastructure configurations across different environments and deployments in a consistent manner.

This approach streamlines the provisioning process, minimises the risk of configuration drift and helps maintain a predictable and reliable infrastructure landscape, especially in complex or rapidly changing environments. Using Terraform variables also assigns specific data types, allowed values or validation rules to each variable, which ensures that only valid and compliant values are accepted during configuration. This helps enforce organisational policies, security requirements and compliance standards consistently across all infrastructure deployments.


The above-mentioned re-usability, modularity and dynamic configuration translates directly into greater productivity and efficiency. Re-usable, modular configurations minimise the need for redundant configuration code, saving time and resources on infrastructure provisioning and reducing duplication of effort across different projects and environments.

Terraform variables also facilitate the automation of infrastructure deployment and management processes, reducing the manual intervention required for repetitive tasks. As a result, teams can achieve more with fewer resources in terms of time and effort. Additionally, dynamic values and interpolation mean that teams can leverage external data sources, environment variables and calculated values within their infrastructure configurations. This enables them to build more intelligent and adaptable infrastructure solutions that can respond dynamically to changes in requirements, workload patterns and operational conditions, reducing the workload for DevOps professionals.

Scalable infrastructure is already at your door

Today’s infrastructure needs to be increasingly dynamic, adaptable and agile, and Terraform variables deliver those capabilities. By centralising common parameters and configurations into variables, teams can streamline the process of provisioning new environments. With optimised resource utilisation and faster response times, DevOps teams can adapt their infrastructure configurations to evolving organisational needs with greater agility and resilience.