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Terraform File Provisioner

Step-00: Provisioner Concepts

  • Generic Provisioners
  • file
  • local-exec
  • remote-exec
  • Provisioner Timings
  • Creation-Time Provisioners (by default)
  • Destroy-Time Provisioners
  • Provisioner Failure Behavior
  • continue
  • fail
  • Provisioner Connections
  • Provisioner Without a Resource (Null Resource)

Pre-requisites - SSH Keys

  • Create SSH Keys for Azure VM Instance if not created
# Create Folder
cd terraform-manifests/
mkdir ssh-keys

# Create SSH Key
cd ssh-ekys
ssh-keygen \
    -m PEM \
    -t rsa \
    -b 4096 \
    -C "azureuser@myserver" \
    -f terraform-azure.pem 
Important Note: If you give passphrase during generation, during everytime you login to VM, you also need to provide passphrase.

# List Files
ls -lrt ssh-keys/

# Files Generated after above command 
Public Key: -> Rename as
Private Key: terraform-azure.pem

# Permissions for Pem file
chmod 400 terraform-azure.pem
  • Connection Block for provisioners uses this to connect to newly created Azure VM instance to copy files using file provisioner, execute scripts using remote-exec provisioner

Step-01: Introduction

  • Understand about File Provisioners
  • Create Provisioner Connections block required for File Provisioners
  • We will also discuss about Creation-Time Provisioners (by default)
  • Understand about Provisioner Failure Behavior
  • continue
  • fail
  • Discuss about Destroy-Time Provisioners

Step-02: File Provisioner & Connection Block

  • Understand about file provisioner & Connection Block
  • Connection Block
  • We can have connection block inside resource block for all provisioners
  • [or] We can have connection block inside a provisioner block for that respective provisioner
  • Self Object
  • Important Technical Note: Resource references are restricted here because references create dependencies. Referring to a resource by name within its own block would create a dependency cycle.
  • Expressions in provisioner blocks cannot refer to their parent resource by name. Instead, they can use the special self object.
  • The self object represents the provisioner's parent resource, and has all of that resource's attributes.
  # Connection Block for Provisioners to connect to Azure Virtual Machine
  connection {
    type = "ssh"
    host = self.public_ip_address # Understand what is "self"
    user = self.admin_username
    password = ""
    private_key = file("${path.module}/ssh-keys/terraform-azure.pem")

Step-03: Create multiple provisioners of various types

  • Creation-Time Provisioners:
  • By default, provisioners run when the resource they are defined within is created.
  • Creation-time provisioners are only run during creation, not during updating or any other lifecycle.
  • They are meant as a means to perform bootstrapping of a system.
  • If a creation-time provisioner fails, the resource is marked as tainted.
  • A tainted resource will be planned for destruction and recreation upon the next terraform apply.
  • Terraform does this because a failed provisioner can leave a resource in a semi-configured state.
  • Because Terraform cannot reason about what the provisioner does, the only way to ensure proper creation of a resource is to recreate it. This is tainting.
  • You can change this behavior by setting the on_failure attribute, which is covered in detail below.
 # File Provisioner-1: Copies the file-copy.html file to /tmp/file-copy.html
  provisioner "file" {
    source      = "apps/file-copy.html"
    destination = "/tmp/file-copy.html"

  # File Provisioner-2: Copies the string in content into /tmp/file.log
  provisioner "file" {
    content     = "VM Host Name: ${self.computer_name}" # Understand what is "self"
    destination = "/tmp/file.log"

  # File Provisioner-3: Copies the app1 folder to /tmp - FOLDER COPY
  provisioner "file" {
    source      = "apps/app1"
    destination = "/tmp"

  # File Provisioner-4: Copies all files and folders in apps/app2 to /tmp - CONTENTS of FOLDER WILL BE COPIED
  provisioner "file" {
    source      = "apps/app2/" # when "/" at the end is added - CONTENTS of FOLDER WILL BE COPIED
    destination = "/tmp"

Step-04: Create Resources using Terraform commands

# Terraform Initialize
terraform init

# Terraform Validate
terraform validate

# Terraform Format
terraform fmt

# Terraform Plan
terraform plan

# Terraform Apply
terraform apply -auto-approve

# Verify - Login to Azure Virtual Machine Instance
ssh -i ssh-keys/terraform-azure.pem azureuser@IP_ADDRESSS_OF_YOUR_VM
ssh -i ssh-keys/terraform-azure.pem azureuser@
Verify /tmp for all files copied
cd /tmp
ls -lrta /tmp

# Clean-up
terraform destroy -auto-approve
rm -rf terraform.tfsate*
Q1: Why do we need to destroy and move with next steps?
1. Provisioners can be created during resource creation-time or destroy-time. 
2. With that said, we need to test failure case of a provisioner which will faill "terraform apply". 
3. We will understand that in next few steps. 

Step-05: Failure Behavior: Understand Decision making when provisioner fails (continue / fail)

  • By default, provisioners that fail will also cause the Terraform apply itself to fail. The on_failure setting can be used to change this. The allowed values are:
  • continue: Ignore the error and continue with creation or destruction.
  • fail: (Default Behavior) Raise an error and stop applying (the default behavior). If this is a creation provisioner, taint the resource.
  • Try copying a file to Apache static content folder "/var/www/html" using file-provisioner
  • This will fail because, the user you are using to copy these files is "azureuser" for Azure linux vm. This user don't have access to folder "/var/www/html/" top copy files.
  • We need to use sudo to do that.
  • All we know is we cannot copy it directly, but we know we have already copied this file in "/tmp" using file provisioner
  • Try two scenarios
  • No on_failure attribute (Same as on_failure = fail) - default what happens It will Raise an error and stop applying. If this is a creation provisioner, it will taint the resource.
  • When on_failure = continue, will continue creating resources
  • Verify: Verify terraform.tfstate for "status": "tainted"
# Enable this during Step-05-01 Test-1
 # File Provisioner-5: Copies the file-copy.html file to /var/www/html/file-copy.html where "azureuser" don't have permission to copy
 # This provisioner will fail but we don't want to taint the resource, we want to continue on_failure
  provisioner "file" {
    source      = "apps/file-copy.html"
    destination = "/var/www/html/file-copy.html"
    #on_failure  = continue  # Enable this during Step-05-01 Test-2

Step-05-01: Fail Case

# Test-1: Without on_failure attribute which will fail terraform apply
 # Copies the file-copy.html file to /var/www/html/file-copy.html
  provisioner "file" {
    source      = "apps/file-copy.html"
    destination = "/var/www/html/file-copy.html"
# Terraform Validate
terraform validate

# Terraform Plan
terraform plan

# Terraform Apply
terraform apply -auto-approve   

# Verify:  
Verify terraform.tfstate for  "status": "tainted"

## Sample Failure Log
azurerm_linux_virtual_machine.mylinuxvm: Provisioning with 'file'...
azurerm_linux_virtual_machine.mylinuxvm: Still creating... [3m0s elapsed]
│ Error: file provisioner error
│   with azurerm_linux_virtual_machine.mylinuxvm,
│   on line 71, in resource "azurerm_linux_virtual_machine" "mylinuxvm":
│   71:   provisioner "file" {
│ Upload failed: scp: /var/www/html/file-copy.html: Permission denied

Step-05-02: Continue Case

  • Uncomment on_failure = continue
# Test-2: With on_failure = continue
 # Copies the file-copy.html file to /var/www/html/file-copy.html
  provisioner "file" {
    source      = "apps/file-copy.html"
    destination = "/var/www/html/file-copy.html"
    on_failure  = continue 
# Terraform Validate
terraform validate

# Terraform Plan
terraform plan

# Terraform Apply
terraform apply -auto-approve

# Verify
1. Login to Azure VM Instance
ssh -i ssh-keys/terraform-azure.pem azureuser@<VM-PUBLIC-IP>
ssh -i ssh-keys/terraform-azure.pem azureuser@

2. Verify /tmp - for all files copied
3. Verify /var/www/html - file-copy.html should not be copied
4. File Provisioner didn't do job of file copy but still it didn't get fail due to the fact that we used "on_failure  = continue"

Step-06: Clean-Up Resources & local working directory

# Terraform Destroy
terraform destroy -auto-approve

# Delete Terraform files 
rm -rf .terraform*
rm -rf terraform.tfstate*

Step-07: Roll back change for Student seamless demo

Comment last File Provisioner so that it will be enabled when required by students during the step by step process.

Step-07: Destroy Time Provisioners

  • Discuss about this concept
  • Destroy Time Provisioners
  • Inside a provisioner when you add this statement when = destroy it will provision this during the resource destroy time
resource "azurerm_linux_virtual_machine" "mylinuxvm" {
  # ...

  provisioner "local-exec" {
    when    = destroy 
    command = "echo 'Destroy-time provisioner'"