Comprehensive Guide to Terraform Providers: All the Essential Information

Terraform is a powerful infrastructure-as-code management tool. Its declarative syntax enables quick and repeatable resource provisioning across several cloud providers and services.

One of the primary elements that make Terraform so adaptable is its usage of providers, which are plugins that allow the tool to communicate with certain cloud platforms and services. 

What are the Providers in Terraform?

Providers in Terraform are plugins that let the program communicate with particular cloud services and platforms.

They provide communication between Terraform and a variety of infrastructure elements, including virtual machines, load balancers, databases, and many more.

Depending on the infrastructure they support, providers in Terraform might take many different forms.

  • While some providers are developed and maintained by members of the open-source community and third-party suppliers, others are built by the Terraform team.

  • Terraform is able to manage and communicate with the infrastructure components supported by each provider using a set of resources and data sources that each provider has available. 

  • The HashiCorp Configuration Language is a domain-specific language (DSL) used to describe these resources and data sources.

What is the purpose of  Providers in Terraform?

Providers enable Terraform to interact with different infrastructure components and cloud platforms.

  • Providers act as plugins that allow Terraform to manage and provision resources in a consistent and repeatable manner across multiple cloud environments.

  • Providers abstract away the details of how to interact with different cloud platforms, providing a unified interface for managing infrastructure resources.

  • Providers make it easier for infrastructure engineers and developers to define, configure, and manage their cloud infrastructure as code.

  • Providers provide a way to manage infrastructure resources as a single configuration, rather than having to deal with multiple cloud-specific tools and interfaces.

  • Providers enable teams to manage their infrastructure resources in a more holistic and unified way, improving collaboration and consistency across cloud platforms.

How do Providers work in Terraform?

  1. 1

    Configuring a Provider

    Before you can use a provider in Terraform, you must first configure it by defining the provider type and any required configuration options. 

  2. 2

    Provider Plugins

    Once a provider has been configured, Terraform will download and install the relevant provider plugin, which provides the logic for interfacing with the infrastructure component or cloud platform. 

  3. 3

    Provider Resources

    Provider resources allow Terraform to manage specific infrastructure components, such as virtual machines, load balancers, and databases. Each resource is defined using the HashiCorp Configuration Language.

  4. 4

    Provider Data Sources

    Providers also provide data sources that allow Terraform to retrieve information about specific infrastructure components or cloud platforms.

  5. 5

    Provider Operations

    Finally, once you have configured a provider and defined your resources and data sources, you can use Terraform to perform operations on your infrastructure, such as creating, modifying, or deleting resources. 

How many Terraform Providers are there?

Terraform, a well-known infrastructure as a code tool, officially supports around 130 providers. The tool also has a page for community-supported providers, which lists 160 additional providers.

While some of these providers only provide a small number of resources, others, like AWS, OCI, and Azure, provide hundreds. 

Some of the providers include:

  • AWS Provider

  • Google Cloud Provider

  • Microsoft Azure Provider

  • Docker Provider

  • GitHub Provider

  • Kubernetes Provider

  • VMware vSphere Provider

  • Heroku Provider

  • DigitalOcean Provider

  • Cloudflare Provider

What are the most popular Terraform Providers?

According to community usage and contributions, some of the most popular Terraform Providers are:

  • AWS

    One of the most well-known providers, the AWS Provider is used to control Amazon Web Services (AWS) resources like EC2 instances, S3 buckets, and more.

  • Microsoft Azure

    The Azure Provider is used to manage resources there, including virtual machines, storage accounts, and more.

  • Google Cloud

    The Google Cloud Provider is used to manage resources in the Google Cloud Platform (GCP), including Compute Engine instances, buckets for Cloud Storage, and more.

  • Kubernetes

    The Kubernetes Provider manages Kubernetes cluster resources such as pods, services, and deployments.

  • GitHub

    To administer repositories, organizations, and teams on GitHub, utilize the GitHub Provider.

What are the main use cases of these Providers in Terraform?

  1. 1

    Infrastructure provisioning

    Providers are used in various cloud environments to provision infrastructure components such as servers, virtual machines, load balancers, and databases.

  2. 2

    Configuration management

    Providers are also used in different cloud environments to configure infrastructure components such as firewalls, network settings, and storage options.

  3. 3

    Continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD)

    Providers can be used to automate the CI/CD process by allowing Terraform to manage the entire infrastructure stack from development to production.

  4. 4

    Infrastructure as code (IaC)

    Providers allow developers to describe infrastructure components declaratively and automate their deployment and management.

    This method is known as Infrastructure as Code (IaC), and it aids in the implementation of infrastructure changes in a predictable, reliable, and repeatable manner.

  5. 5

    Support for multiple cloud platforms and environments

    Providers enable Terraform to manage infrastructure across multiple cloud platforms and environments by providing a consistent interface and abstraction layer for infrastructure management.

A step-by-step guide on how to configure Providers in Terraform?

  1. 1

    Choose the provider

    Determine which provider you want to use for your infrastructure. You can find a list of available providers on the Terraform Registry.

  2. 2

    Initialize the working directory

     Run the terraform init command in your working directory. This command will download the necessary plugins and initialize the working directory.

  3. 3

    Configure the provider

    In your Terraform code, add a provider block and configure the provider with the necessary settings. Here's an example for configuring the AWS provider:

    provider "aws" {

      region     = "us-west-2"

      access_key = "ACCESS_KEY"

      secret_key = "SECRET_KEY"


    In this example, the aws provider is configured with the region, access_key, and secret_key settings.

  4. 4

    Authenticate with the provider

    If necessary, authenticate with the provider using your credentials. 

  5. 5

    Utilize the provider resources

    After configuring the provider, you can utilize its resources in your Terraform code. For instance, you can add a resource block like this to create an EC2 instance using the AWS provider:

    resource "aws_instance" "example" {

      ami           = "ami-0c55b159cbfafe1f0"

      instance_type = "t2.micro"


  6. 6

    Plan and apply changes

    After configuring the provider and defining your resources, run the terraform plan command to preview the changes that will be made. Then run the terraform apply the command to apply the changes to your infrastructure.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of Providers in Terraform?

There are several pros and cons of providers in Terraform. Here's a breakdown of the advantages and disadvantages.


  • Flexibility

    Terraform can interact with a wide range of cloud platforms, services, and infrastructure components, allowing for greater flexibility in infrastructure management.

  • Consistency

    Providers offer a consistent user interface and abstraction layer for managing infrastructure, which makes managing infrastructure across various environments simpler.

  • Automation

    Providers enable Terraform to automate the provisioning, configuration, and deployment of infrastructure components, which helps reduce the risk of human error and improve efficiency.

  • Infrastructure as Code

    Providers enable infrastructure to be managed as code, which makes it easier to track changes, collaborate, and maintain consistency across environments.

  • Multi-Cloud Support

    Providers enable Terraform to manage infrastructure across multiple cloud platforms, allowing organizations to avoid vendor lock-in and choose the best cloud platform for each use case.


  • Learning Curve

    Learning how to configure and use providers in Terraform can be challenging, particularly for those who are new to the platform or new to the cloud provider.

  • Abstraction Limitations

    Providers abstract the underlying infrastructure components, which may limit the control that users have over those components. In some cases, this can make it difficult to customize or fine-tune the infrastructure.

  • Configuration Complexity

    Configuring providers in Terraform can be complex, particularly for complex infrastructure environments with many providers and dependencies.

  • API Limitations

    Providers rely on APIs provided by the cloud platform or infrastructure component, which may limit the functionality and capabilities that Terraform can access.

Best strategies to troubleshoot common issues when using Providers in Terraform

When using providers in Terraform, it's important to have a strategy for troubleshooting common issues. To assist you in troubleshooting issues with Terraform providers, consider the following best practices:

  • Check the provider documentation

    Verifying the provider documentation is the first step in troubleshooting a provider issue. Detailed instructions on how to set up and use a provider are frequently included, along with advice on how to solve common problems.

  • Check the Terraform logs

    The Terraform logs contain comprehensive details about the operations Terraform carries out and any errors it may encounter. Examine the logs to find the precise error message and the situation that led to it.

  • Involve the provider community

    Suppliers frequently have a user and developer base that may offer further support and troubleshooting advice. To get assistance with troubleshooting the problem, think about interacting with the provider community through forums, chat rooms, or other channels.

  • Verify the Terraform code

    Check the code to make sure it is correctly set up and free of syntax or logical issues. This will help to easily troubleshoot the issue.

  • Check the provider configuration

    Check the provider setup to confirm that all relevant settings and authentication credentials are present. This is considered to be an important step in order to find out the issue.


To sum up, Terraform providers are essential for managing infrastructure as code, enabling Terraform to interact with a wide variety of cloud platforms and infrastructure components.

This comprehensive guide has provided essential information on what Terraform providers are, their use cases, and how to configure and use them in Terraform. 


Can I use 2 providers in Terraform?

Yes, Terraform allows you to use multiple providers in a single configuration file. This can be useful when you need to manage resources in multiple cloud platforms or infrastructure components. 

Where are Terraform providers stored?

Terraform providers are typically downloaded and installed locally on the machine where Terraform is running. They are stored in the .terraform/providers subdirectory of your Terraform project directory.

What is the difference between a provider and a provisioner in Terraform?

A provider in Terraform is responsible for managing resources in a specific cloud platform or infrastructure component, while a provisioner is responsible for configuring or managing a resource after it has been created. 

What is the difference between Terraform provider and module?

A Terraform provider is responsible for managing resources in a specific cloud platform or infrastructure component, while a Terraform module is a reusable set of Terraform configuration files that define a specific infrastructure component or application.

What is the difference between Terraform provider and Ansible?

Terraform providers and Ansible are both tools for infrastructure automation, but they have different focuses and use cases.

Terraform providers focus on declarative configuration management and infrastructure as code, while Ansible focuses on procedural configuration management and task-based automation.

About the author


Youssef is a Senior Cloud Consultant & Founder of

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