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Terratest is a Go library that makes it easier to write automated tests for your infrastructure code.
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Terratest is a Go library that makes it easier to write automated tests for your infrastructure code. It provides a variety of helper functions and patterns for common infrastructure testing tasks, including:

  • Testing Terraform code
  • Testing Packer templates
  • Testing Docker images
  • Executing commands on servers over SSH
  • Working with AWS APIs
  • Working with GCP APIs
  • Working with Kubernetes APIs
  • Testing Helm Charts
  • Making HTTP requests
  • Running shell commands
  • And much more

Terratest was developed at Gruntwork to help maintain the Infrastructure as Code Library, which contains over 250,000 lines of code written in Terraform, Go, Python, and Bash, and is used in production by hundreds of companies. See Open sourcing Terratest: a swiss army knife for testing infrastructure code for more info.


The basic usage pattern for writing automated tests with Terratest is to:

  1. Write tests using Go's built-in package testing: you create a file ending in _test.go and run tests with the go test command.
  2. Use Terratest to execute your real IaC tools (e.g., Terraform, Packer, etc.) to deploy real infrastructure (e.g., servers) in a real environment (e.g., AWS).
  3. Validate that the infrastructure works correctly in that environment by making HTTP requests, API calls, SSH connections, etc.
  4. Undeploy everything at the end of the test.

Here's a simple example of how to test some Terraform code:

terraformOptions := &terraform.Options {
  // The path to where your Terraform code is located
  TerraformDir: "../examples/terraform-basic-example",

// At the end of the test, run `terraform destroy` to clean up any resources that were created
defer terraform.Destroy(t, terraformOptions)

// This will run `terraform init` and `terraform apply` and fail the test if there are any errors
terraform.InitAndApply(t, terraformOptions)

// Validate your code works as expected
validateServerIsWorking(t, terraformOptions)


Install requirements

Terratest uses the Go testing framework. To use terratest, you need to install:

  • Go (requires version >=1.10)
  • dep (requires version >=0.5.1)

Setting up your project

  1. Golang requires go source files to be available in the GOPATH. By default this is typically $HOME/go/src. Create a new blank folder in the GOPATH to hold your terraform module and terratest code. For example, if you were developing a VPC module named terraform-aws-vpc, create the folder $HOME/go/src/terraform-aws-vpc to hold your module code.
  2. In the project folder, create three subfolders:
    1. modules: This folder should contain your terraform modules that will be tested.
    2. examples: This folder should contain examples of how to use the modules. These should be self-contained deployable examples. Meaning, it should provision all the resources that are necessary to run the modules in the modules folder.
    3. test: This folder should contain your terratest code.
  3. Copy the basic terraform example into the examples folder.
  4. Copy the basic terraform example test into the test folder.
  5. In the test folder, create a Gopkg.toml file with the following content:
  name = ""
  version = "0.17.4"

Now you should be able to run the example test. To run the test:

  1. Change your working directory to the test folder.
  2. Run dep ensure
    • This will download all the dependencies to the current directory (in this case, the test folder) under the folder vendor. You should only need to run this when you update the Gopkg.toml file, or if you have not run it previously on the machine (e.g in a CI environment).
    • This will create a new file Gopkg.lock. This file acts as an index of all the versions of every dependency you need.
    • You should check in the Gopkg.lock file that is generated so that all future calls to dep ensure will be consistent, but you should NOT check in the vendor folder, as that can be recreated using dep ensure from the Gopkg.lock file.
  3. Each time you want to run the tests, use go test -v -timeout 90m .
    • Note that go has a default test timeout of 10 minutes. With infrastructure testing, your tests will surpass the 10 minutes very easily. To extend the timeout, you can pass in the -timeout option, which takes a go duration string (e.g 10m for 10 minutes or 1h for 1 hour). In the above command, we use the -timeout option to override to a 90 minute timeout.
    • When you hit the timeout, Go automatically exits the test, skipping all cleanup routines. This is problematic for infrastructure testing because it will skip your deferred infrastructure cleanup steps (i.e terraform destroy), leaving behind the infrastructure that was spun up. So it is important to use a longer timeout everytime you run the tests.
    • See the Cleanup section for more information on how to setup robust clean up procedures in the face of test timeouts and instabilities.

Installing the utility binaries

Terratest also ships utility binaries that you can use to improve the debugging experience (see Debugging interleaved test output. The compiled binaries are shipped separately from the library in the Releases page.

To install a binary, download the version that matches your platform and place it somewhere on your PATH. For example to install version 0.13.13 of terratest_log_parser:

# This example assumes a linux 64bit machine
# Use curl to download the binary
curl --location --silent --fail --show-error -o terratest_log_parser
# Make the downloaded binary executable
chmod +x terratest_log_parser
# Finally, we place the downloaded binary to a place in the PATH
sudo mv terratest_log_parser /usr/local/bin

Alternatively, you can use the gruntwork-installer, which will do the above steps and automatically select the right binary for your platform:

gruntwork-install --binary-name 'terratest_log_parser' --repo '' --tag 'v0.13.13'

The following binaries are currently available with terratest:

Command Description
terratest_log_parser Parses test output from the go test command and breaks out the interleaved logs into logs for each test. Integrate with your CI environment to help debug failing tests.


The best way to learn how to use Terratest is through examples.

First, check out the examples folder for different types of infrastructure code you may want to test, such as:

  1. Basic Terraform Example: A simple "Hello, World" Terraform configuration.
  2. HTTP Terraform Example: A more complicated Terraform configuration that deploys a simple web server that responds to HTTP requests in AWS.
  3. Basic Packer Example: A simple Packer template for building an Amazon Machine Image (AMI) or Google Cloud Platform Compute Image.
  4. Terraform Packer Example: A more complicated example that shows how to use Packer to build an AMI with a web server installed and deploy that AMI in AWS using Terraform.
  5. Terraform GCP Example: A simple Terraform configuration that creates a GCP Compute Instance and Storage Bucket.
  6. Terraform remote-exec Example: A terraform configuration that creates and AWS instance and then uses remote-exec to provision it.
  7. Basic Kubernetes Example: A minimal Kubernetes resource that deploys an addressable nginx instance.
  8. Kubernetes RBAC Example: A Kubernetes resource config that creates a Namespace with a ServiceAccount that has admin permissions within the Namespace, but not outside.
  9. Basic Helm Chart Example: A minimal helm chart that deploys a Deployment resource for the provided container image.

Next, head over to the test folder to see how you can use Terratest to test each of these examples:

  1. terraform_basic_example_test.go: Use Terratest to run terraform apply on the Basic Terraform Example and verify you get the expected outputs.
  2. terraform_http_example_test.go: Use Terratest to run terraform apply on the HTTP Terraform Example to deploy the web server, make HTTP requests to the web server to check that it is working correctly, and run terraform destroy to undeploy the web server.
  3. packer_basic_example_test.go: Use Terratest to run packer build to build an AMI and then use the AWS APIs to delete that AMI.
  4. packer_gcp_basic_example_test.go: Use Terratest to run packer build to build a Google Cloud Platform Compute Image and then use the GCP APIs to delete that image.
  5. terraform_packer_example_test.go: Use Terratest to run packer build to build an AMI with a web server installed, deploy that AMI in AWS by running terraform apply, make HTTP requests to the web server to check that it is working correctly, and run terraform destroy to undeploy the web server.
  6. terraform_gcp_example_test.go: Use Terratest to run terraform apply on the Terraform GCP Example and verify you get the expected outputs.
  7. terraform_remote_exec_example_test.go: Use Terratest to run terraform apply and then remotely provision the instance while using a custom SSH agent managed by Terratest
  8. terraform_scp_example_test.go: Use Terratest to simplify copying resources like config files and logs from deployed EC2 Instances. This is especially useful for getting a snapshot of the state of a deployment when a test fails.
  9. kubernetes_basic_example_test.go: Use Terratest to run kubectl apply to apply a Kubernetes resource file, verify resources are created using the Kubernetes API, and then run kubectl delete to delete the resources at the end of the test.
  10. kubernetes_rbac_example_test.go: Use Terratest to run kubectl apply to apply a Kubernetes resource file, retrieve auth tokens to authenticate as the created ServiceAccount, update the kubeconfig file with the authentication token and add a new context to auth as the ServiceAccount, verify auth as the ServiceAccount by checking what resources you have access to, and finally run kubectl delete to delete the resources at the end of the test.
  11. helm_basic_example_template_test.go: Use Terratest to run helm template to test template rendering logic.

Finally, to see some real-world examples of Terratest in action, check out some of our open source infrastructure modules:

  1. Consul
  2. Vault
  3. Nomad
  4. Couchbase

Package by package overview

Now that you've had a chance to browse the examples and their tests, here's an overview of the packages you'll find in Terratest's modules folder and how they can help you test different types infrastructure:

Package Description
aws Functions that make it easier to work with the AWS APIs. Examples: find an EC2 Instance by tag, get the IPs of EC2 Instances in an ASG, create an EC2 KeyPair, look up a VPC ID.
collections Go doesn't have much of a collections library built-in, so this package has a few helper methods for working with lists and maps. Examples: subtract two lists from each other.
docker Functions that make it easier to work with Docker and Docker Compose. Examples: run docker-compose commands.
environment Functions for interacting with os environment. Examples: check for first non empty environment variable in a list.
files Functions for manipulating files and folders. Examples: check if a file exists, copy a folder and all of its contents.
gcp Functions that make it easier to work with the GCP APIs. Examples: Add labels to a Compute Instance, get the Public IPs of an Instance, Get a list of Instances in a Managed Instance Group, Work with Storage Buckets and Objects.
git Functions for working with Git. Examples: get the name of the current Git branch.
http-helper Functions for making HTTP requests. Examples: make an HTTP request to a URL and check the status code and body contain the expected values, run a simple HTTP server locally.
k8s Functions that make it easier to work with Kubernetes. Examples: Getting the list of nodes in a cluster, waiting until all nodes in a cluster is ready.
logger A replacement for Go's t.Log and t.Logf that writes the logs to stdout immediately, rather than buffering them until the very end of the test. This makes debugging and iterating easier.
logger/parser Includes functions for parsing out interleaved go test output and piecing out the individual test logs. Used by the terratest_log_parser command.
oci Functions that make it easier to work with OCI. Examples: Getting the most recent image of a compartment + OS pair, deleting a custom image, retrieving a random subnet.
packer Functions for working with Packer. Examples: run a Packer build and return the ID of the artifact that was created.
random Functions for generating random data. Examples: generate a unique ID that can be used to namespace resources so multiple tests running in parallel don't clash.
retry Functions for retrying actions. Examples: retry a function up to a maximum number of retries, retry a function until a stop function is called, wait up to a certain timeout for a function to complete. These are especially useful when working with distributed systems and eventual consistency.
shell Functions to run shell commands. Examples: run a shell command and return its stdout and stderr.
ssh Functions to SSH to servers. Examples: SSH to a server, execute a command, and return stdout and stderr.
terraform Functions for working with Terraform. Examples: run terraform init, terraform apply, terraform destroy.
test_structure Functions for structuring your tests to speed up local iteration. Examples: break up your tests into stages so that any stage can be skipped by setting an environment variable.


You can find the GoDoc for Terratest here: This will let you see the methods and types within each package.

Testing best practices

Testing infrastructure as code (IaC) is hard. With general purpose programming languages (e.g., Java, Python, Ruby), you have a "localhost" environment where you can run and test the code before you commit. You can also isolate parts of your code from external dependencies to create fast, reliable unit tests. With IaC, neither of these advantages is typically available, as there isn't a "localhost" equivalent for most IaC code (e.g., I can't use Terraform to deploy an AWS VPC on my own laptop) and there's no way to isolate your code from the outside world (i.e., the whole point of a tool like Terraform is to make calls to AWS, so if you remove AWS, there's nothing left).

That means that most of the tests are going to be integration tests that deploy into a real AWS account. This makes the tests effective at catching real-world bugs, but it also makes them much slower and more brittle. In this section, we'll outline some best practices to minimize the downsides of this sort of testing.

  1. Testing environment
  2. Namespacing
  3. Cleanup
  4. Timeouts and logging
  5. Debugging interleaved test output
  6. Avoid test caching
  7. Error handling
  8. Iterating locally using Docker
  9. Iterating locally using test stages

Testing environment

Since most automated tests written with Terratest can make potentially destructive changes in your environment, we strongly recommend running tests in an environment that is totally separate from production. For example, if you are testing infrastructure code for AWS, you should run your tests in a completely separate AWS account.

This means that you will have to write your infrastructure code in such a way that you can plug in (dependency injection environment-specific details, such as account IDs, domain names, IP addresses, etc. Adding support for this will typically make your code cleaner and more flexible.


Just about all resources your tests create (e.g., servers, load balancers, machine images) should be "namespaced" with a unique name to ensure that:

  1. You don't accidentally overwrite any "production" resources in that environment (though as mentioned in the previous section, your test environment should be completely isolated from prod anyway).
  2. You don't accidentally clash with other tests running in parallel.

For example, when deploying AWS infrastructure with Terraform, that typically means exposing variables that allow you to configure auto scaling group names, security group names, IAM role names, and any other names that must be unique.

You can use Terratest's random.UniqueId() function to generate identifiers that are short enough to use in resource names (just 6 characters) but random enough to make it unlikely that you'll have a conflict.

uniqueId := random.UniqueId()
instanceName := fmt.Sprintf("terratest-http-example-%s", uniqueId)

terraformOptions := &terraform.Options {
  TerraformDir: "../examples/terraform-http-example",
  Vars: map[string]interface{} {
    "instance_name": instanceName,

terraform.Apply(t, terraformOptions)


Since automated tests with Terratest deploy real resources into real environments, you'll want to make sure your tests always cleanup after themselves so you don't leave a bunch of resources lying around. Typically, you should use Go's defer keyword to ensure that the cleanup code always runs, even if the test hits an error along the way.

For example, if your test runs terraform apply, you should run terraform destroy at the end to clean up:

// Ensure cleanup always runs
defer terraform.Destroy(t, options)

// Deploy
terraform.Apply(t, options)

// Validate
checkServerWorks(t, options)

Of course, despite your best efforts, occasionally cleanup will fail, perhaps due to the CI server going down, or a bug in your code, or a temporary network outage. To handle those cases, we run a tool called cloud-nuke in our test AWS account on a nightly basis to clean up any leftover resources.

Timeouts and logging

Go's package testing has a default timeout of 10 minutes, after which it forcibly kills your tests (even your cleanup code won't run!). It's not uncommon for infrastructure tests to take longer than 10 minutes, so you'll want to increase this timeout:

go test -timeout 30m

Note that many CI systems will also kill your tests if they don't see any log output for a certain period of time (e.g., 10 minutes in CircleCI). If you use Go's t.Log and t.Logf for logging in your tests, you'll find that these functions buffer all log output until the very end of the test (see for more info). If you have a long-running test, this might mean you get no log output for more than 10 minutes, and the CI system will shut down your tests. Moreover, if your test has a bug that causes it to hang, you won't see any log output at all to help you debug it.

Therefore, we recommend instead using Terratest's logger.Log and logger.Logf functions, which log to stdout immediately:

func TestFoo(t *testing.T) {
  logger.Log(t, "This will show up in stdout immediately")

Finally, if you're testing multiple Go packages, be aware that Go will buffer log output—even that sent directly to stdout by logger.Log and logger.Logf—until all the tests in the package are done. This leads to the same difficulties with CI servers and debugging. The workaround is to tell Go to test each package sequentially using the -p 1 flag:

go test -timeout 30m -p 1 ./...

Debugging interleaved test output

Note: The terratest_log_parser requires an explicit installation. See Installing the utility binaries for installation instructions.

If you log using Terratest's logger package, you may notice that all the test outputs are interleaved from the parallel execution. This may make it difficult to debug failures, as it can be tedious to sift through the logs to find the relevant entries for a failing test, let alone find the test that failed.

Therefore, Terratest ships with a utility binary terratest_log_parser that can be used to break out the logs.

To use the utility, you simply give it the log output from a go test run and a desired output directory:

go test -timeout 30m | tee test_output.log
terratest_log_parser -testlog test_output.log -outputdir test_output

This will:

  • Create a file TEST_NAME.log for each test it finds from the test output containing the logs corresponding to that test.
  • Create a summary.log file containing the test result lines for each test.
  • Create a report.xml file containing a Junit XML file of the test summary (so it can be integrated in your CI).

The output can be integrated in your CI engine to further enhance the debugging experience. See Terratest's own circleci configuration for an example of how to integrate the utility with CircleCI. This provides for each build:

  • A test summary view showing you which tests failed:

CircleCI test summary

  • A snapshot of all the logs broken out by test:

CircleCI logs

Avoid test caching

Since Go 1.10, test results are automatically cached. This can lead to Go not running your tests again if you haven't changed any of the Go code. Since you're probably mainly manipulating Terraform files, you should consider turning the caching of test results off. This ensures that the tests are run every time you run go test and the result is not just read from the cache.

To turn caching off, you can use the GOCACHE environment variable and set it to off:

$ GOCACHE=off go test -timeout 30m -p 1 ./...

Error handling

Just about every method foo in Terratest comes in two versions: foo and fooE (e.g., terraform.Apply and terraform.ApplyE).

  • foo: The base method takes a t *testing.T as an argument. If the method hits any errors, it calls t.Fatal to fail the test.

  • fooE: Methods that end with the capital letter E always return an error as the last argument and never call t.Fatal themselves. This allows you to decide how to handle errors.

You will use the base method name most of the time, as it allows you to keep your code more concise by avoiding if err != nil checks all over the place:

terraform.Init(t, terraformOptions)
terraform.Apply(t, terraformOptions)
url := terraform.Output(t, terraformOptions, "url")

In the code above, if Init, Apply, or Output hits an error, the method will call t.Fatal and fail the test immediately, which is typically the behavior you want. However, if you are expecting an error and don't want it to cause a test failure, use the method name that ends with a capital E:

if _, err := terraform.InitE(t, terraformOptions); err != nil {
  // Do something with err

if _, err := terraform.ApplyE(t, terraformOptions); err != nil {
  // Do something with err

url, err := terraform.OutputE(t, terraformOptions, "url")
if err != nil {
  // Do something with err

As you can see, the code above is more verbose, but gives you more flexibility with how to handle errors.

Iterating locally using Docker

For most infrastructure code, your only option is to deploy into a real environment such as AWS. However, if you're writing scripts (i.e., Bash, Python, or Go), you should be able to test them locally using Docker. Docker containers typically build 10x faster and start 100x faster than real servers, so using Docker for testing can help you iterate much faster.

Here are some techniques we use with Docker:

  • If your script is used in a Packer template, add a Docker builder to the template so you can create a Docker image from the same code. See the Packer Docker Example for working sample code.

  • We have prebuilt Docker images for major Linux distros that have many important dependencies (e.g., curl, vim, tar, sudo) already installed. See the test-docker-images folder for more details.

  • Create a docker-compose.yml to make it easier to run your Docker image with all the ports, environment variables, and other settings it needs. See the Packer Docker Example for working sample code.

  • With scripts in Docker, you can replace some real-world dependencies with mocks! One way to do this is to create some "mock scripts" and to bind-mount them in docker-compose.yml in a way that replaces the real dependency. For example, if your script calls the aws CLI, you could create a mock script called aws that shows up earlier in the PATH. Using mocks allows you to test 100% locally, without external dependencies such as AWS.

Iterating locally using test stages

Most automated tests written with Terratest consist of multiple "stages", such as:

  1. Build an AMI using Packer
  2. Deploy the AMI using Terraform
  3. Validate that the AMI works as expected
  4. Undeploy the AMI using Terraform

Often, while testing locally, you'll want to re-run some subset of these stages over and over again: for example, you might want to repeatedly run the validation step while you work out the kinks. Having to run all of these stages each time you change a single line of code can be very slow.

This is where Terratest's test_structure package comes in handy: it allows you to explicitly break up your tests into stages and to be able to disable any one of those stages simply by setting an environment variable. Check out the terraform_packer_example_test.go for working sample code.

Alternative testing tools

  1. A list of infrastructure testing tools
  2. How Terratest compares to other testing tools

A list of infrastructure testing tools

Below is a list of other infrastructure testing tools you may wish to use in addition to Terratest. Check out How Terratest compares to other testing tools to understand the trade-offs.

  1. kitchen-terraform
  2. rspec-terraform
  3. serverspec
  4. inspec
  5. Goss
  6. awspec
  7. Terraform's acceptance testing framework
  8. ruby_terraform

How Terratest compares to other testing tools

Most of the other infrastructure testing tools we've seen are focused on making it easy to check the properties of a single server or resource. For example, the various xxx-spec tools offer a nice, concise language for connecting to a server and checking if, say, httpd is installed and running. These tools are effectively verifying that individual "properties" of your infrastructure meet a certain spec.

Terratest approaches the testing problem from a different angle. The question we're trying to answer is, "does the infrastructure actually work?" Instead of checking individual server properties (e.g., is httpd installed and running), we'll actually make HTTP requests to the server and check that we get the expected response; or we'll store data in a database and make sure we can read it back out; or we'll try to deploy a new version of a Docker container and make sure the orchestration tool can roll out the new container with no downtime.

Moreover, we use Terratest not only with individual servers, but to test entire systems. For example, the automated tests for the Vault module do the following:

  1. Use Packer to build an AMI.
  2. Use Terraform to create self-signed TLS certificates.
  3. Use Terraform to deploy all the infrastructure: a Vault cluster (which runs the AMI from the previous step), Consul cluster, load balancers, security groups, S3 buckets, and so on.
  4. SSH to a Vault node to initialize the cluster.
  5. SSH to all the Vault nodes to unseal them.
  6. Use the Vault SDK to store data in Vault.
  7. Use the Vault SDK to make sure you can read the same data back out of Vault.
  8. Use Terraform to undeploy and clean up all the infrastructure.

The steps above are exactly what you would've done to test the Vault module manually. Terratest helps automate this process. You can think of Terratest as a way to do end-to-end, acceptance or integration testing, whereas most other tools are focused on unit or functional testing.

Why Terratest?

Our experience with building the Infrastructure as Code Library is that the only way to create reliable, maintainable infrastructure code is to have a thorough suite of real-world, end-to-end acceptance tests. Without these sorts of tests, you simply cannot be confident that the infrastructure code actually works.

This is especially important with modern DevOps, as all the tools are changing so quickly. Terratest has helped us catch bugs not only in our own code, but also in AWS, Azure, Terraform, Packer, Kafka, Elasticsearch, CircleCI, and so on. Moreover, by running tests nightly, we're able to catch backwards incompatible changes and regressions in our dependencies (e.g., backwards incompatibilities in new versions of Terraform) as early as possible.

Developing Terratest

  1. Contributing
  2. Running tests
  3. Versioning


Contributions are very welcome! Check out the Contribution Guidelines for instructions.

Running tests

Terratest itself includes a number of automated tests.

Note #1: Some of these tests create real resources in an AWS account. That means they cost money to run, especially if you don't clean up after yourself. Please be considerate of the resources you create and take extra care to clean everything up when you're done!

Note #2: In order to run tests that access your AWS account, you will need to configure your AWS CLI credentials. For example, you could set the credentials as the environment variables AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID and AWS_SECRET_ACCESS_KEY.

Note #3: Never hit CTRL + C or cancel a build once tests are running or the cleanup tasks won't run!

Prerequisite: Most the tests expect Terraform, Packer, and/or Docker to already be installed and in your PATH.

To run all the tests:

go test -v -timeout 30m -p 1 ./...

To run the tests in a specific folder:

go test -timeout 30m

To run a specific test in a specific folder:

go test -timeout 30m -run "<TEST_NAME>"


This repo follows the principles of Semantic Versioning. You can find each new release, along with the changelog, in the Releases Page.

During initial development, the major version will be 0 (e.g., 0.x.y), which indicates the code does not yet have a stable API. Once we hit 1.0.0, we will make every effort to maintain a backwards compatible API and use the MAJOR, MINOR, and PATCH versions on each release to indicate any incompatibilities.


This code is released under the Apache 2.0 License. Please see LICENSE and NOTICE for more details.

Copyright © 2018 Gruntwork, Inc.

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