Terraform remote state

Setting up and using terraform remote state


For an Amazon AWS project, we are setting up a complete Amazon AWS infrastructure with Terraform. The first step was to setup a VPC, ELBs, RDS and basic EC2 instances.

I started looking into the remote state capabilities of Terraform together with S3 storage, because it lets us work together without the need to check-in the Terraform state files to our source control, while still saving it at a central place.

Putting your Terraform state file on Aamazon S3 has an other advantage: you can use Terraform outputs into other projects. This solution came in handy when we wanted to setup blue/green deployment with AWS autoscaling.

By dividing the static parts (ELB, RDS, VPC, …) from the dynamic parts (Autoscaling groups), we created an extra security layer. When we automate the blue/green deployment through job servers (Jenkins, TravisCI, CircleCI), we have an extra security layer, where we can’t destroy the static parts by accident when deploying a new version of the software.

Configure remote state

First make sure you have AWS API credentials defined in your AWS CLI tool or as environment variable. You need to do this as Terraform remote state does not use your Terraform variables but the system AWS credentials. If you have different AWS accounts where you deploy your infrastructure, you can still put every state file in the same S3 bucket.

Now configure the remote state. This command will automatically detect if there is a current state file on your local disk. If there is one available on your local disk, it will upload that state file to S3. When there is a file on S3, it will download that file to your local disk. S3 state files are saved in the .terraform folder.

The key value is how you want to name your state file in the AWS S3 bucket. You can choose this freely, as long as the key is unique for every Terraform project.

terraform remote config -backend=s3 -backend-config="bucket=mybucketname" -backend-config="key=nam_of_key_file"

Using remote state in other Terraform projects

You can use a state file and its outputs with other projects.

Define some outputs of values you want to use in other projects.

After a terraform apply run you will see the following.

In a new terraform project you can do the following, to use these two outputs.

Little side note: To use outputs of modules in other Terraform projects you will also need to define those outputs in your main terraform file. For example:


It is true what Hashicorp says: Putting your state somewhere remote (S3, Atlas,Consul) improves safety and teamwork and I see a lot of advantages for the Terraform remote state. I hope that sometime in the near future we can configure the remote state through config file instead of command line, see the following GitHub issue.

My current blue/green Terraform deployment is mostly based on @phinze example.