when to use Helm or Terraform
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When to Use Helm or Terraform

Since containerization is being adopted rapidly in the industry, there is a growing need to manage effectively, control, and schedule the Kubernetes open-source system. While there are multiple tools available in the market for the management of Kubernetes, nothing beats the functionality and usefulness offered by Helm and Terraform.

But how do you know when to use Helm or Terraform?

Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered! Read on to learn all the advantages and disadvantages of using Helm and Terraform for managing Kubernetes. Doing so will help you decide which one is better for you.


Terraform is an open-source tool that uses an IaC or Infrastructure as Code approach to automate and manage platforms, infrastructure, and services. It is a valuable tool for engineers and offers numerous features.

Let’s look at the essential features and pros and cons of using Terraform.

Top Features of Terraform

One of the main features of Terraform is that it allows you to spin up virtual containers and machines easily. Moreover, setting up servers is also a hassle-free process.

With Terraform, creating security controls and schemes is easy, and you can also set permissions. Plus, the addition or removal of users is also possible.

Terraform also offers installation and management of dock containers and cloud resources.

The best part is that Terraform can manage as many Kubernetes clusters across the cloud as you want. But declarative language is used when managing Kubernetes. This has made setting up the infrastructure easier for engineers. Rather than defining each step, only the end setup required needs to be input by the developer. As a result, the tool self plans how to provision the perfect environment to recreate the desired results.

With the help of declarative configuration files, one can quickly adjust the files to make changes in the infrastructure without any need for edits in the instructions. Moreover, the files are kept clean and short. You can also easily edit any setups without unnecessary hassle.

A single look at the config file will let you know the current configuration.

After a set command is given for provisioning, the Terraform plan compares the current setup to the desired set up to plan the setup of the infrastructure. If no current setup exists, entirely new infrastructure will be planned and provisioned by the tool.

All the resources are gathered using the Terraform apply command. The resources are gathered through the API of the cloud providers.

Pros and Cons

Here are all the pros and cons of using Terraform’s Kubernetes provider:

  • Clusters and infrastructure can be managed using the same code base and tool
  • Provisioning of the Kubernetes architecture and deployment of apps into clusters is possible using the same language
  • A resource scheduler can be set up as a provider
  • Results of actions can be foreseen before changes are applied
  • Easy to learn and manage Kubernetes clusters
  • It’s still new
  • Complicated to use with beta objects because of lack of support
  • Incomplete support of Google Kubernetes Engine
  • Lack of real-time management of running pods


If you want to deploy repeatable services and apps to clusters, Helm is the ideal choice for managing Kubernetes. The upgrades, definition, and installation of Kubernetes environments are easier using Helm charts. They are packages containing templates and files which can be converted into manifested files of Kubernetes.

Let’s look at the top features along with the pros and cons of using Helm.

Top Features of Helm

The Helm charts contain numerous templates based on YAML. These templates can be used for services, config maps, and deployments. Moreover, they can be nested to improve flexibility. You can manage the charts using only one CLI to make the process simple.

Charts are available for public and custom use.

The Kubernetes can be managed and deployed in different environments with only a single command. Moreover, all complex applications can be packaged into one group. Plus, multiple objects can be upgraded simultaneously. The best part is that changing parameters is a quick process.

Pros and Cons

Let’s look at the pros and cons of using Helm’s Kubernetes provider:

  • Advanced Kubernetes support
  • Pre-built templates and charts for numerous services and apps
  • Easy management of complex apps with reusable charts
  • The Tiller server can directly function from the API calls and from within the Kubernetes clusters
  • Apps can be deployed in different environments
  • Increased flexibility enables standardization of Helm charts
  • More complicated than Terraform in managing Kubernetes
  • New users struggle with using Helm
  • New image composition is needed before executing commands to avoid issues

When to Use Helm or Terraform

Now that you’re aware of both key features and pros and cons, let’s look at when to use Helm or Terraform.

Rather than sticking to one tool, you can use both to manage Kubernetes. You can create and manage Helm resources using Terraform when used in combination. Moreover, to deploy cluster-related applications, Helm can be used within Terraform.

Terraform can also be used to deploy Helm charts to Kubernetes clusters that have been pre-provisioned.

Final Thoughts about Helm or Terraform

Both Helm and Terraform are valuable tools for managing Kubernetes. So, to answer when to use Helm or Terraform, consider integrating both to benefit from the added advantage. Moreover, you can also overcome the shortcomings of Helm and Terraform with simultaneous use.

Of course, the requirements vary from engineer to engineer. Now that you’re aware of Helm and Terraform’s key features, you can quickly decide which one is the better option for you or whether you want a combination of both.

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