Code Your Cloud: Pulumi, Terraform, AWS CDK and AWS Cloudformation Compared for Cutting-Edge Infrastructure Provisioning

July 21, 2023

In the world of AWS infrastructure automation, four main tools have emerged: Terraform, AWS CDK (Cloud Development Kit), AWS CloudFormation and Pulumi. These powerful tools enable software developers and operators to manage and provision cloud resources with ease. In this blog post, we’ll dive into the realm of Infrastructure as Code (IaC) and explore the key features and benefits of Terraform, AWS CDK, AWS CloudFormation and Pulumi helping you choose the perfect tool to orchestrate your AWS infrastructure.



Terraform: The Oldest and Battle-Tested Warrior

As the oldest tool in the trio, Terraform has stood the test of time and is used by countless organizations. With its declarative language, HashiCorp Configuration Language (HCL), Terraform enables you to define your infrastructure as a set of resources, dependencies, and configurations. It has a massive provider ecosystem, offering support for a wide range of AWS services and other cloud systems.

AWS CDK: Infrastructure as Code - With a Twist

AWS CDK simplifies infrastructure provisioning by providing a higher-level programming interface for defining infrastructure. Its key differentiator is the ability to generate CloudFormation templates under the hood. Therefore you can benefit from the vast ecosystem of AWS CloudFormation resources. Furthermore, AWS CDK implements a lot of AWS best-practices and simplifies tasks like applying roles and permissions effectively and efficiently.

AWS CloudFormation: The Native Infrastructure Orchestration Service

AWS CloudFormation is a service provided by AWS that allows users to define and manage infrastructure as code. It enables you to create, update, and delete AWS resources in a repeatable and automated manner, using JSON or YAML templates. With CloudFormation, you can declaratively define your infrastructure’s architecture and resources, specifying the relationships and dependencies between them.

Pulumi: The new kid on the block

Pulumi lets you also use real programming languages such as Python, TypeScript, and Go to describe and provision your infrastructure. This flexibility allows for code reuse, leveraging existing libraries, and even writing custom logic within your infrastructure definition. Pulumi supports a wide range of multiple cloud providers. For AWS it is using the AWS SDK or AWS Cloud Control API under the hood.

Comparison: Battle of Features

Syntax and Language Support

Pulumi and AWS CDK both offer the advantage of using popular programming languages like TypeScript or Python to define infrastructure. This allows for code reuse and leveraging existing libraries. In contrast, CloudFormation and Terraform use declarative approaches. While CloudFormation benefits from the well-known languages YAML and JSON, Terraform relies on its domain-specific language, HashiCorp Configuration Language (HCL), which has its own learning curve.

With tools using a general-purpose programming language like TypeScript or Python developers have the freedom to create their own custom constructs and resources, tailoring their infrastructure to specific needs. Conversely, in Terraform, extending functionality often requires contributing to a provider, which may require more effort and specialized knowledge.

Provider Ecosystem

Terraform boasts a mature and extensive provider ecosystem, with support for a wide range of AWS services. AWS CDK benefits from the rich resources of AWS CloudFormation, providing a vast selection of managed infrastructure resources. Pulumi also offers support for many cloud providers, but its ecosystem is still growing. With regard to AWS, it offers two main providers using the AWS SDK or AWS Cloud Control API, respectively.

State Management

Both Pulumi and Terraform provide state management solutions to track the current state of your infrastructure. Both offer a service-managed state backend (Pulumi Cloud / Terraform Cloud by HashiCorp) as well as remote backends like Amazon S3. Both tools support essential features like state locking and change tracking for infrastructure modifications. However, AWS CDK leverages AWS CloudFormation for state management, benefiting from its proven scalability and reliability.

Community and Support

Terraform has a large and vibrant community due to its longevity in the market. It has a wealth of resources, including extensive documentation, Stack Overflow threads, and active forums. AWS CDK has gained significant traction and is backed by the extensive AWS CloudFormation community. However, Pulumi’s community is relatively smaller, which can make finding specific answers or resources more challenging.


Comparing Terraform, AWS CDK, AWS CloudFormation, and Pulumi each offer distinct approaches to infrastructure provisioning and management. Terraform excels in its broad provider support and maturity, making it a popular choice for multi-cloud and complex deployments. AWS CDK and AWS CloudFormation stand out with their seamless integration with AWS services and extensive ecosystem of constructs. One notable advantage of CDK is its intuitive application of policies, following the principle of least privilege. Therefore, CDK has become a preferred choice for many developers due to its ease of use and expressive programming model, but CloudFormation maintains its significance, particularly in specialized scenarios like stacksets. Pulumi, on the other hand, offers a flexible and language-agnostic approach, supporting multiple clouds.

Ultimately, the choice between these tools depends on factors such as project requirements, team preferences, and familiarity with programming languages. Evaluating the strengths and trade-offs of Terraform, AWS CDK, AWS CloudFormation and Pulumi will help in selecting the most suitable tool for efficiently managing infrastructure and provisioning resources in your specific use case.

We at superluminar are truly passionate about AWS CDK and highly recommend it for infrastructure provisioning. However, we understand that every project has unique needs. That’s why we also work extensively with Terraform and Pulumi to ensure we can provide the best solution for your specific requirements. Whether you’re looking to embark on a new project or gain further insights through a workshop, we are here to help. Get in touch with us to explore the possibilities and unlock the full potential of your infrastructure deployment.

photo of Anne

Anne is a Cloud Consultant at superluminar. With her passion for software development and everything to do with the cloud, she is always striving to learn more about the latest technologies and trends and to expand her skills. In this blog, she shares her insights and her knowledge on AWS-specific topics.