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Provisioning the NERC resources using Terraform

Terraform is an open-source Infrastructure as Code (IaC) software tool that works with NERC and allows you to orchestrate, provision, and manage infrastructure resources quickly and easily. Terraform codifies cloud application programming interfaces (APIs) into human-readable, declarative configuration (*.tf) files. These files are used to manage underlying infrastructure rather than through NERC's web-based graphical interface - Horizon. Terraform allows you to build, change, and manage your infrastructure in a safe, consistent, and repeatable way by defining resource configurations that you can version, reuse, and share. Terraform’s main job is to create, modify, and destroy compute instances, private networks and other NERC resources.

Benefits of Terraform

If you have multiple instances/ VMs you are managing for your work or research, it can be simpler and more reproducible if you are doing it with automation tool like Terraform.

Installing Terraform

To use Terraform you will need to install it from here.

Basic Template to use Terraform on your NERC Project

You can Git clone: git clone and run our base template for terraform to provision some basic NERC's OpenStack resources using this terraform-nerc repo.


The main branch of this git repo should be a good starting point in developing your own terraform code.

Template to setup R Shiny server using Terraform on your NERC Project

You can Git clone: git clone and can run this template locally using terraform to provision R Shiny server on NERC's OpenStack resources using this terraform-nerc-r-shiny repo.

Important Note

Please make sure to review bash script file i.e. located in this repo that is pointing as user-data-path variable in example.tfvars. This repo includes the script required to setup Shiny R server. You can use similar concept to any other project that needs custom user defined scripts while launching an instance. If you want to change and update this script you can just change this file and then run terraform plan and terraform apply command pointing this example.tfvars file.

How Terraform Works

Terraform reads configuration files and provides an execution plan of changes, which can be reviewed for safety and then applied and provisioned. Terraform reads all files with the extension .tf in your current directory. Resources can be in a single file, or organised across several different files.

The basic Terraform deployment workflow is:

i. Scope - Identify the infrastructure for your project.

ii. Author - Write the configuration for your infrastructure in which you declare the elements of your infrastructure that you want to create.

The format of the resource definition is straightforward and looks like this:

resource type_of_resource "resource name" {
    attribute = "attribue value"

iii. Initialize - Install the plugins Terraform needs to manage the infrastructure.

iv. Plan - Preview the changes Terraform will make to match your configuration.

v. Apply - Make the planned changes.

Running Terraform

The Terraform deployment workflow on the NERC looks like this:

Automating NERC resources using Terraform


  1. You can download the "NERC's OpenStack RC File" with the credentials for your NERC project from the NERC's OpenStack dashboard. Then you need to source that RC file using: source * You can read here on how to do this.

  2. Setup SSH key pairs running ssh-keygen -t rsa -f username-keypair and then make sure the newly generated SSH key pairs exist on your ~/.ssh folder.

Terraform Init

The first command that should be run after writing a new Terraform configuration or cloning an existing one is terraform init. This command is used to initialize a working directory containing Terraform configuration files and install the plugins.


You will need to run terraform init if you make any changes to providers.

Terraform Plan

terraform plan command creates an execution plan, which lets you preview the changes that Terraform plans to make to your infrastructure based on your configuration files.

Terraform Apply

When you use terraform apply without passing it a saved plan file, it incorporates the terraform plan command functionality and so the planning options are also available while running this command.

Input Variables on the Command Line

You can use the -var 'NAME=VALUE' command line option to specify values for input variables declared in your root module for e.g. terraform plan -var 'name=value'

In most cases, it will be more convenient to set values for potentially many input variables declared in the root module of the configuration, using definitions from a "tfvars" file and use it using -var-file=FILENAME command for e.g. terraform plan -var-file=FILENAME

Track your infrastructure and Collaborate

Terraform keeps track of your real infrastructure in a state file, which acts as a source of truth for your environment. Terraform uses the state file to determine the changes to make to your infrastructure so that it will match your configuration. Terraform's state allows you to track resource changes throughout your deployments. You can securely share your state with your teammates, provide a stable environment for Terraform to run in, and prevent race conditions when multiple people make configuration changes at once.

Some useful Terraform commands

terraform init

terraform fmt

terraform validate

terraform plan

terraform apply

terraform show

terraform destroy

terraform output