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Keep your remote state configuration DRY

Dry Remote Use cases Cli

Keep your remote state configuration DRY

Motivation

Terraform supports remote state storage via a variety of backends that you normally configure in your .tf files as follows:

terraform {
  backend "s3" {
    bucket         = "my-terraform-state"
    key            = "frontend-app/terraform.tfstate"
    region         = "us-east-1"
    encrypt        = true
    dynamodb_table = "my-lock-table"
  }
}

Unfortunately, the backend configuration does not support expressions, variables, or functions. This makes it hard to keep your code DRY if you have multiple Terraform modules. For example, consider the following folder structure, which uses different Terraform modules to deploy a backend app, frontend app, MySQL database, and a VPC:

├── backend-app
│   └── main.tf
├── frontend-app
│   └── main.tf
├── mysql
│   └── main.tf
└── vpc
    └── main.tf

To use remote state with each of these modules, you would have to copy/paste the exact same backend configuration into each of the main.tf files. The only thing that would differ between the configurations would be the key parameter: e.g., the key for mysql/main.tf might be mysql/terraform.tfstate and the key for frontend-app/main.tf might be frontend-app/terraform.tfstate.

To keep your remote state configuration DRY, you can use Terragrunt.

Filling in remote state settings with Terragrunt

To fill in the settings via Terragrunt, create a terragrunt.hcl file in the root folder, plus one terragrunt.hcl file in each of the Terraform modules:

├── terragrunt.hcl
├── backend-app
│   ├── main.tf
│   └── terragrunt.hcl
├── frontend-app
│   ├── main.tf
│   └── terragrunt.hcl
├── mysql
│   ├── main.tf
│   └── terragrunt.hcl
└── vpc
    ├── main.tf
    └── terragrunt.hcl

In your root terragrunt.hcl file, you can define your entire remote state configuration just once in a generate block, to generate a backend.tf file that includes the backend configuration:

generate "backend" {
  path      = "backend.tf"
  if_exists = "overwrite_terragrunt"
  contents = <<EOF
terraform {
  backend "s3" {
    bucket         = "my-terraform-state"
    key            = "${path_relative_to_include()}/terraform.tfstate"
    region         = "us-east-1"
    encrypt        = true
    dynamodb_table = "my-lock-table"
  }
}
EOF
}

This instructs Terragrunt to create the file backend.tf in the working directory (where Terragrunt calls terraform) before it calls any of the Terraform commands, including init. This allows you to inject this backend configuration in all the modules that includes the root file and have terragrunt properly initialize the backend configuration with interpolated values.

To inherit this configuration, in each of the child terragrunt.hcl files, such as mysql/terragrunt.hcl, you can tell Terragrunt to automatically include all the settings from the root terragrunt.hcl file as follows:

include "root" {
  path = find_in_parent_folders()
}

The include block tells Terragrunt to use the exact same Terragrunt configuration from the terragrunt.hcl file specified via the path parameter. It behaves exactly as if you had copy/pasted the Terraform configuration from the included file generate configuration into mysql/terragrunt.hcl, but this approach is much easier to maintain!

The next time you run terragrunt, it will automatically configure all the settings for the backend, if they aren’t configured already, by calling terraform init.

The terragrunt.hcl files above use two Terragrunt built-in functions:

  • find_in_parent_folders(): This function returns the absolute path to the first terragrunt.hcl file it finds in the parent folders above the current terragrunt.hcl file. In the example above, the call to find_in_parent_folders() in mysql/terragrunt.hcl will return /your-root-folder/terragrunt.hcl. This way, you don’t have to hard code the path parameter in every module.

  • path_relative_to_include(): This function returns the relative path between the current terragrunt.hcl file and the path specified in its include block. We typically use this in a root terragrunt.hcl file so that each Terraform child module stores its Terraform state at a different key. For example, the mysql module will have its key parameter resolve to mysql/terraform.tfstate and the frontend-app module will have its key parameter resolve to frontend-app/terraform.tfstate.

See the Built-in Functions docs for more info.

Create remote state and locking resources automatically

The generate block is useful for allowing you to setup the remote state backend configuration in a DRY manner, but this introduces a bootstrapping problem: how do you create and manage the underlying storage resources for the remote state? For example, when using the s3 backend, Terraform expects the S3 bucket to already exist for it to upload the state objects.

Ideally you can manage the S3 bucket using Terraform, but what about the state object for the module managing the S3 bucket? How do you create the S3 bucket, before you run terraform, if you need to run terraform to create the bucket?

To handle this, Terragrunt supports a different block for managing the backend configuration: the remote_state block.

NOTE

remote_state is an alternative way of managing the Terraform backend compared to generate. You can not use both methods at the same time to manage the remote state configuration. When implementing remote_state, be sure to remove the corresponding generate block for managing the backend.

The following backends are currently supported by remote_state:

For all other backends, the remote_state block operates in the same manner as generate. However, we may add support for additional backends to remote_state blocks, which may disrupt your environment. If you do not want support for automated management of remote state resources, we recommend sticking to generate blocks to configure the backend.

When you run terragrunt with a remote_state configuration, it will automatically create the following resources if they don’t already exist:

  • S3 bucket: If you are using the S3 backend for remote state storage and the bucket you specify in remote_state.config doesn’t already exist, Terragrunt will create it automatically, with versioning, server-side encryption, and access logging enabled.

    In addition, you can let terragrunt tag the bucket with custom tags that you specify in remote_state.config.s3_bucket_tags.

  • DynamoDB table: If you are using the S3 backend for remote state storage and you specify a dynamodb_table (a DynamoDB table used for locking) in remote_state.config, if that table doesn’t already exist, Terragrunt will create it automatically, with server-side encryption enabled, including a primary key called LockID.

    You may configure custom endpoint for the AWS DynamoDB API using remote_state.config.dynamodb_endpoint.

    In addition, you can let terragrunt tag the DynamoDB table with custom tags that you specify in remote_state.config.dynamodb_table_tags.

  • GCS bucket: If you are using the GCS backend for remote state storage and the bucket you specify in remote_state.config doesn’t already exist, Terragrunt will create it automatically, with versioning enabled. For this to work correctly you must also specify project and location keys in remote_state.config, so Terragrunt knows where to create the bucket. You will also need to supply valid credentials using either remote_state.config.credentials or by setting the GOOGLE_APPLICATION_CREDENTIALS environment variable. If you want to skip creating the bucket entirely, simply set skip_bucket_creation to true and Terragrunt will assume the bucket has already been created. If you don’t specify bucket in remote_state then terragrunt will assume that you will pass bucket through -backend-config in extra_arguments.

    We also strongly recommend you enable Cloud Audit Logs to audit and track API operations performed against the state bucket.

    In addition, you can let Terragrunt label the bucket with custom labels that you specify in remote_state.config.gcs_bucket_labels.

Note: If you specify a profile key in remote_state.config, Terragrunt will automatically use this AWS profile when creating the S3 bucket or DynamoDB table.

Note: You can disable automatic remote state initialization by setting remote_state.disable_init, this will skip the automatic creation of remote state resources and will execute terraform init passing the backend=false option. This can be handy when running commands such as validate-all as part of a CI process where you do not want to initialize remote state.

The following example demonstrates using an environment variable to configure this option:

remote_state {
  # ...

  disable_init = tobool(get_env("TERRAGRUNT_DISABLE_INIT", "false"))
}

Here is an example of using the remote_state block to configure the S3 backend:

remote_state {
  backend = "s3"
  generate = {
    path      = "backend.tf"
    if_exists = "overwrite"
  }
  config = {
    bucket         = "my-terraform-state"
    key            = "${path_relative_to_include()}/terraform.tfstate"
    region         = "us-east-1"
    encrypt        = true
    dynamodb_table = "my-lock-table"
  }
}

Like the approach with generate blocks, this will generate a backend.tf file that contains the remote state configuration. However, in addition to that, terragrunt will also now manage the S3 bucket and DynamoDB table for you. This means that if the S3 bucket my-terraform-state and DynamoDB table my-lock-table does not exist in your account, Terragrunt will automatically create these resources before calling terraform and configure them based on the specified configuration parameters.

Additionally, for the S3 backend only, Terragrunt will automatically update the S3 resource to match the configuration specified in the remote_state bucket. For example, if you require versioning in the remote_state block, but the underlying state bucket doesn’t have versioning enabled, Terragrunt will automatically turn on versioning on the bucket to match the configuration.

If you do not want terragrunt to automatically apply changes, you can configure the following:

remote_state {
  # ... other args omitted for brevity ...
  config = {
    # ... other config omitted for brevity ...
    disable_bucket_update = true
  }
}

Check out the terragrunt-infrastructure-modules-example and terragrunt-infrastructure-live-example repos for fully-working sample code that demonstrates how to use Terragrunt to manage remote state.

S3-specific remote state settings

For the s3 backend, the following config options can be used for S3-compatible object stores, as necessary:

Note: The skip_bucket_accesslogging is now DEPRECATED. It is replaced by accesslogging_bucket_name. Please read below for more details on when to use the new config option.

remote_state {
  # ...

  config = {
    skip_bucket_versioning         = true # use only if the object store does not support versioning
    skip_bucket_ssencryption       = true # use only if non-encrypted Terraform State is required and/or the object store does not support server-side encryption
    skip_bucket_root_access        = true # use only if the AWS account root user should not have access to the remote state bucket for some reason
    skip_bucket_enforced_tls       = true # use only if you need to access the S3 bucket without TLS being enforced
    enable_lock_table_ssencryption = true # use only if non-encrypted DynamoDB Lock Table for the Terraform State is required and/or the NoSQL database service does not support server-side encryption
    accesslogging_bucket_name      = <string> # use only if you need server access logging to be enabled for your terraform state S3 bucket. Provide a <string> value representing the name of the target bucket to be used for logs output.
    accesslogging_target_prefix    = <string> # use only if you want to set a specific prefix for your terraform state S3 bucket access logs when Server Access Logging is enabled. Provide a <string> value representing the TargetPrefix to be used for the logs output objects. If set to empty <string>, then TargetPrefix will be set to empty <string>. If attribute is not provided at all, then TargetPrefix will be set to default value `TFStateLogs/`.

    shared_credentials_file     = "/path/to/credentials/file"
    skip_credentials_validation = true
    skip_metadata_api_check     = true
    force_path_style            = true
  }
}

If you experience an error for any of these configurations, confirm you are using Terraform v0.12.2 or greater.

Further, the config options s3_bucket_tags, dynamodb_table_tags, skip_bucket_versioning, skip_bucket_ssencryption, skip_bucket_root_access, skip_bucket_enforced_tls, skip_bucket_public_access_blocking, accesslogging_bucket_name, accesslogging_target_prefix, and enable_lock_table_ssencryption are only valid for backend s3. They are used by terragrunt and are not passed on to terraform. See section Create remote state and locking resources automatically.

GCS-specific remote state settings

For the gcs backend, the following config options can be used for GCS-compatible object stores, as necessary:

remote_state {
 # ...

 skip_bucket_versioning = true # use only if the object store does not support versioning

 enable_bucket_policy_only = false # use only if uniform bucket-level access is needed (https://cloud.google.com/storage/docs/uniform-bucket-level-access)

 encryption_key = "GOOGLE_ENCRYPTION_KEY"
}

If you experience an error for any of these configurations, confirm you are using Terraform v0.12.0 or greater.

Further, the config options gcs_bucket_labels, skip_bucket_versioning and enable_bucket_policy_only are only valid for the backend gcs. They are used by terragrunt and are not passed on to terraform. See section Create remote state and locking resources automatically.