Microsoft Bicep vs HashiCorp Terraform

With the announcement that IBM will acquire HashiCorp, the company behind Terraform, I decided to write about the two tools.

In the world of Infrastructure as Code (IaC), two tools that frequently come into comparison are Microsoft Bicep and HashiCorp Terraform.

Both tools aim to simplify the deployment of infrastructure through code but do so in subtly different ways.

This blog post explores the features, benefits, and differences between Microsoft Bicep and HashiCorp Terraform to help you determine which might be the best fit for your project needs.

What is Microsoft Bicep?

Microsoft Bicep is an open-source domain-specific language (DSL) designed specifically for deploying Azure resources.

It acts as a declarative language, focusing on simplifying the authoring experience and providing a cleaner syntax compared to Azure Resource Manager (ARM) templates.

Bicep automatically compiles down to ARM JSON format, making it fully compatible and interoperative with ARM templates.

What is HashiCorp Terraform?

HashiCorp Terraform, on the other hand, is an open-source tool that allows you to define both cloud and on-premises resources with a high degree of automation. Terraform uses its own configuration language, HashiCorp Configuration Language (HCL), to describe the desired state of various resources across multiple service providers. It not only supports multiple cloud platforms including AWS, Google Cloud, and Azure, but also various SaaS and PaaS offerings.

Key Differences

Language and Syntax

  • Bicep: Uses a simpler, more readable syntax compared to ARM JSON. It is inherently focused on Azure and does not require a state management process, as the state is handled by Azure itself.
  • Terraform: Utilizes HCL, which is JSON-compatible, allowing for more flexible and expressive configurations. It is designed to work with multiple providers, not just Azure.

Multi-Cloud Support

  • Bicep: As a DSL created by Microsoft for Azure, Bicep is exclusive to Azure and does not support other cloud platforms directly.
  • Terraform: Supports a wide range of cloud providers, as well as various data center management platforms. This makes Terraform a more versatile choice for multi-cloud and hybrid environments.

State Management

  • Bicep: Does not require explicit state management because the deployment state is maintained by Azure.
  • Terraform: Maintains state files that help manage the deployments and keep track of the IDs of created resources. This can be crucial for managing large-scale deployments across various platforms.

Community and Ecosystem

  • Bicep: Being relatively new and Azure-specific, the community around Bicep is smaller. However, it is growing rapidly, and being backed by Microsoft ensures good integration with other Azure services.
  • Terraform: Benefits from a large, active community and a broad ecosystem of providers. It is well-established in the DevOps field, with extensive documentation and community support.

Learning Curve

  • Bicep: Easier for beginners, especially those familiar with Azure, due to its simpler syntax and tight integration with Azure.
  • Terraform: May require a steeper learning curve due to its broader scope and the complexity of managing state files and configurations across different providers.


Choosing between Microsoft Bicep and HashiCorp Terraform will largely depend on your specific needs. If your infrastructure is centered around Azure and you prefer a tool that integrates tightly with Azure features, Bicep is the clear choice. However, if you need a tool that accommodates a broader range of platforms and providers with robust community support, Terraform is likely more suitable.

Each tool brings its strengths to the table, and the right choice may even involve using both, depending on the scope and requirements of your projects. As IaC tools continue to evolve, the best practice will always be to choose the tool that aligns best with your operational goals and team skills.

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