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Deploy Kubernetes Apps w. Terraform

Using Terraform to Manage Kubernetes Resources (EKS Version)

Terraform can provision resources on Kubernetes, much in the same way you can provision cloud resources like AWS Cloud, Google Cloud, and Azure.

Why use Terraform?

The most obvious question would be why would you want to do this? The kubectl tool works fine and Kubernetes manifests (YAML), so why not just stick with that?

  • Installing an application that is configured to use provisioned resources, like S3 buckets, SNS, SQS, ECR, IAM User, etc.

Related Article

A while back (about 1.5 years), I wrote a similar article for doing this with GKE (Google Kubernetes Engine):

Required Tools

You will need to install and configure the following tools:

  • EKSCtl (eks-cuttle or exseey-cuttle) tool to easily create an EKS cluster. [Note: this is optional should you want to eksctl to quickly create EKS cluster]
  • KubeCtl (koob-cuttle), the Kubernetes client tool, to interact with EKS
  • Helm to install applications on a Kubernetes cluster (Helm 2 explicitly, see below) [Note: this is needed to demonstrate the Tiller service is working]
  • Terraform CLI to manage Kubernetes and AWS resources, as well as create an EKS cluster.
  • Bash Shell is not strictly required, but the commands in this tutorial are tested with bash [Note: this is default in mac OS and popular Linux distros, or msys2 with Windows].

Getting Helm 2

You can get the download links for Helm2 tarball directly from GitHub:

cd ~/Downloads && curl -sO $URL
tar xvzf ${URL##*/}
sudo cp darwin-amd64/helm /usr/local/bin/helm2
helm2 version | cut -d\" -f2

Part 0: Setup Project Area

In order to organize project files for scripts in this article, we’ll store them in eks-with-tiller directory:

export PROJECT_HOME=$HOME/projects/eks-with-tiller

Part I: Creating a Kubernetes Cluster

The easiest way to create an Amazon EKS cluster is with the eksctl tool. Alternatively, you can use Terraform to stand up Amazon EKS cluster as well.

Method 1: Using EKSCtl for EKS

Run the following command:

eksctl create cluster \
--name=wonderful-unicorn \
# point KUBECONFIG to only our cluster
# test kubectl works on new kubernetes cluster
get all --all-namespaces

Method 2: Using Terraform for EKS

To get started, we’ll create a small terraform file to describe our cluster:

cat <<-CLUSTER_EOF >
variable region {}
variable eks_cluster_name {}
module "eks-cluster" {
source = ""
region = var.region
eks_cluster_name = var.eks_cluster_name
export TF_VAR_eks_cluster_name=wonderful_unicorn
export TF_VAR_region=us-west-2
terraform init
terraform apply
# point KUBECONFIG to only our cluster
# test kubectl works on new kubernetes cluster
get all --all-namespaces

Part 2: Tiller Service Example

Helm is the most popular package solution for Kubernetes and requires the Tiller service to install packages (at least with versions before Helm3).


We want to create the structure we’ll use for these code files that looks like this:

└── tiller/
mkdir -p $PROJECT_HOME/my_modules/tiller/
pushd $PROJECT_HOME/my_modules/tiller/
touch ./{,,,,,}


First we’ll edit the tiller/ that contains the variables we’ll use in this module.


AWS and Kubernetes Providers

Edit tiller/ with the following contents.

  1. Kubernetes Provider: used to change state of resources in Kubernetes.

Tiller Service Account Manifest

Edit tiller/ with the following contents.


Tiller Cluster Role Binding Manifest

Edit tiller/ with the following contents.


Tiller Deployment Manifest

Edit tiller/ with the following contents.


Tiller Service Manifest

Edit tiller/ with the following contents.


Part 3: Deploy the Service with Terraform

We can either use the module directly or create a terraform script that references the module.

Method 1: Directly Use the Module

We can navigate to the module and initialize the dependencies with:

cd $PROJECT_HOME/my_modules/tiller && terraform init
terraform apply \
-var eks_cluster_name=wonderful-unicorn
-var region=us-west-2
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Output of Running Module

Method 2: Directly Use the Module

Instead of running the code directly from the module, we create a Terraform script that references the module:

cd $PROJECT_HOME# create
cat <<-K8SADDONS >
module "tiller_install" {
source = "~/projects/eks-with-tiller/my_modules/tiller"
region = "us-west-2
eks_cluster_name = "wonderful-unicorn"
terraform init
terraform apply -target=tiller_install

Part 4: Testing the Deployed Service

Testing the Tiller Service

If you have Helm 2 installed already, you can install a Helm chart package.

helm2 install stable/spinnakerexport DECK_POD=$(kubectl get pods \
--namespace default \
-l "cluster=spin-deck" \
-o jsonpath="{.items[0]}")
export GATE_POD=$(kubectl get pods \
--namespace default \
-l "cluster=spin-gate" \
-o jsonpath="{.items[0]}"
kubectl port-forward --namespace default $GATE_POD 8084 &kubectl port-forward --namespace default $DECK_POD 9000 &
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Spinnaker Deck UI application

Part 5: Cleanup Resources

Delete Installed Chart

For any helm charts, you can delete it with, with helm delete with the name that was auto-generated:

helm2 delete $(helm2 ls | grep spinnaker | cut -f1)

Remove the Tiller Service

We can remove Tiller with Terraform

terraform destroy -var cluster=wonderful-unicorn

Destroy the EKS Cluster

The EKS cluster we created can be destroyed with the same tool used to create the cluster.

eksctl delete cluster --name wonderful-unicorn
terraform destroy


I hope this is useful tool to add for Terraform and Kubernetes journeys where they may intersect. This particular article leverages uses Amazon EKS, but really you could use other Kubernetes implementations provided that there is a data source to get the credentials to manage the cluster. Otherwise, you need to supply the credentials in another method, such as a kubeconfig file.


I added material for standing up a cluster completely in Terraform at the request of users from Reddit. Thanks for the input.

Written by

Linux NinjaPants Automation Engineering Mutant — exploring DevOps, Kubernetes, CNI, IAC

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