Demonstrating Unique Instances with Terraform Workspace

Published:25 November 2021 - 6 min. read

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If you are building a huge infrastructure with Terraform, considering multiple Terraform Workspace is crucial. A Terraform workspace provides you with a separate virtual space to store your persistent data.

Throughout this tutorial, you’ll learn how Terraform workspace lets team members or developers work on a code without impacting existing resources.

Sounds interesting? Read on!


If you’d like to follow along in this tutorial, ensure you have the following in place:

  • A code editor – Even though you can use any text editor to work with Terraform configuration files, you should have one that understands the HCL Terraform language. Try out Visual Studio (VS) Code.

Creating Multiple Terraform Workspaces

In today’s automation era, engineers such as Terraform developers need multiple workspaces to test the same scripts and code before building rock-solid resources.

Currently, the following backends support multiple workspaces: AzureRM, Consul, COS, GCS, Kubernetes, Local, Manta, Postgres, Remote, and S3.

To better understand how multiple Terraform workspaces work, create two different workspaces:

1. Open your terminal and run the commands below to create a folder in your home directory, and change the working directory to that folder.

In this tutorial, the folder is called terraform-workspace-demo, stored in your home directory. You can name the folder differently as you prefer. This folder stores your Terraform configuration files.

mkdir ~/terraform-workspace-demo
cd ~/terraform-workspace-demo

2. Next, open your favorite code editor, and copy/paste the command below.

The terraform workspace new command creates a new workspace (workspace1) and switches your current workspace to the newly created workspace.

For this example, the workspace is named workspace1, but you can preferably name it anything.

# Creating the new workspace workspace1 and switching to it.
terraform workspace new workspace1
Creating the new workspace (workspace1) and switching to it
Creating the new workspace (workspace1) and switching to it

Perhaps you want to switch from one workspace to another. If so, run the command below. Replace workspace-name with the actual workspace name. terraform workspace select workspace-name

3. Similarly, run the below command to create another workspace. This time you’ll create another workspace named workspace2.

# Creating the new workspace workspace2 and switching to it.
terraform workspace new workspace2

As you can see below, you created and switched to workspace2 successfully.

Creating the new workspace (workspace2) and switching to it.
Creating the new workspace (workspace2) and switching to it.

If you prefer to delete a workspace you don’t need anymore, run this terraform workspace delete workspace-name command.

Building Terraform Configurations to Launch EC2 Instances

You now have two different Terraform workspaces to work with the same Terraform configurations, but you still need to create an instance. You’ll create the terraform configuration file to create an AWS EC2 instance in two different workspaces.

1. Open your favorite code editor, and copy/paste the configuration below. Save the configuration as inside the ~/terraform-workspace-demo directory.

Terraform uses several different types of configuration files. Each file is written in either plain text or JSON format with a specific naming convention of either .tf or .tfjson format.

The file allows you to create AWS EC2 instances with the AMI and [instance type] declared as variables. These variables have their values defined in another file named terraform.tfvars that you will create later in this section.

You can find Linux AMIs via the Amazon EC2 console.

# Declaring the resource block aws_instance
resource "aws_instance" "my-machine" {
# Declaring the argument ami
  ami = var.ami 
# Declaring the argument instance_type
  instance_type = var.instance_type 
# Tagging the instances 
  tags = {
    Name = "ec2-instance-${terraform.workspace}"

2. Now, create another file named inside the ~/terraform-workspace-demo directory, and copy/paste the content below to the file. The file is a Terraform variables file, which contains all the variables that the configuration file references.

# Creating a Variable for ami
variable "ami" {       
  type = string

# Creating a Variable for instance_type
variable "instance_type" {    
  type = string

3. Create one more file called inside ~/terraform-workspace-demo directory and put in the code below to the file. The file is where you define the AWS provider so that Terraform can connect to the correct cloud services.

Including all configuration values in a single configuration file is possible. But to keep things clear for developers and admins, breaking the logic and variables into separate files is much more preferable.

The code below defines the AWS provider named aws and creates resources in the us-east-2 region.

You can launch aws resources in any regions

provider "aws" {
  region = "us-east-2"

4. Create one last file inside the ~/terraform-workspace-demo directory. Name the file as terraform.tfvars, and paste in the code below. The terraform.tfvars contains the values Terraform uses to replace the variable references inside a configuration file.

ami = "ami-0742a572c2ce45ebf"
instance_type = "t2.micro"

5. Finally, run the tree command below to verify all of the required files are contained in the terraform-workspace-demo folder.

tree terraform-workspace-demo

Below, you will notice that another directory (terraform.tfstate.d) contains two folders (workspace1 and workspace2). Terraform automatically creates these folders as you create the Terraform workspace.

Verifying the folder structure required by Terraform workspace
Verifying the folder structure required by Terraform workspace

Creating Two AWS EC2 Instances in Different Workspaces

You now have the Terraform workspaces and Terraform configuration files ready, so the next step is to launch AWS EC2 instances. You’ll create and launch two AWS instances within two different workspaces.

1. Run the command below to verify the Terraform workspace before you create resources in the AWS account.

# Displays the current workspace 
terraform workspace show

Below, you can see the current workspace is workspace2.

Displaying the current workspace
Displaying the current workspace

2. Next, run each command below to navigate to ~\\terraform-workspace-demo directory and initialize Terraform. Terraform initializes the plugins and providers which are required to work with resources.

Terraform typically uses a three-stage approach, which is terraform initterraform planterraform apply.

cd ~\terraform-workspace-demo
## Initializing Terraform 
terraform init
## Gives you an overview of which resources will be provisioned in your infrastructure
terraform plan
## Tells Terraform to provision the instance
terraform apply

If all goes well after running terraform apply command, you’ll get the Apply complete! Resources: 1 added, 0 changed, 0 destroyed message shown below.

Note the output instance ID as you’ll need them to verify if they exist in the AWS Management Console later. Below, you can see the command displays the output’s EC2 instance ID.`

Creating the AWS instance in Workspace2
Creating the AWS instance in Workspace2

3. Now, run the command below to switch workspace from workspace2 to workspace1. Replace workspace-name with the workspace’s name you want to switch with the current workspace.

terraform workspace select workspace-name
switch workspace from workspace2 to workspace1
switch workspace from workspace2 to workspace1

Finally, rerun the commands below as you previously did (step two). This time, Terraform creates the instance in a different workspace (workspace1).

Creating the AWS instance in Workspace1
Creating the AWS instance in Workspace1

Verifying the Resources Exist in AWS Console

By now, you should have created all the EC2 instances launched with Terraform. But you can verify if all the EC2 instances exist by manually checking in the AWS Management Console.

1. Open your favorite web browser and log on to the AWS Management Console.

2. Now click on the search bar at the top, search for ‘EC2’, and click on the EC2 menu item below.

Opening an EC2 console.
Opening an EC2 console.

Finally, on the EC2 page, verify that all IDs are the same ones that Terraform returned earlier under the “Creating two AWS EC2 instances in different Workspaces” section.

Checking all the instances in the AWS console.
Checking all the instances in the AWS console.


In this tutorial, you’ve learned how to use Terraform workspace to launch unique resources simultaneously using the same Terraform configuration. Now you can work on different workspaces without messing things up!

With this knowledge, take what you have learned and use Terraform to manage your entire infrastructure!

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