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Provision infrastructure with Terraform and manage configuration with NixOS.


nix-env -i -f


Declarative style infrastructure provisioning is really nice! So is declarative configuration management.

This makes Terraform and NixOS a nice match, being able to define the result you want in code and realizing it with one command (more or less :P).


I've been using NixOps for my deployments for some time.

But infrastructure provisioning is hard and needs a big community effort to cover cloud provider API's. Therefore carving out the provisioning part of NixOps replacing it with Terraform gives access to the rich provider support of the Terraform community.

This leaves implementing a bridge between Terraform and managing NixOS configurations.

This is mostly what Nixiform does. It takes the output from Terraform (or any other source really) and installs NixOS on the nodes provisioned if needed and then pushes each corresponding NixOS config defined in a nixiform.nix file.


First we need to declare our infrastructure on which we will push our configuration to.

We do this using Terraform, although Nixiform despite it's name is agnostic to who provisions the infrastructure. The only requirement is that Nixiform gets information about how to connect to the nodes it will push to.

provider "hcloud" {

First off we need a SSH key pair for Nixiform to use when pushing it's config.

Nixiform does not manage SSH keys for you so you will need to generate and add it to your SSH agent manually before pushing.

locals {
  ssh_key = file("${path.module}/")

resource "hcloud_ssh_key" "default" {
  name       = "Nixiform SSH key"
  public_key = local.ssh_key

Provision two Hetzner Cloud nodes with Ubuntu, because most providers don't support NixOS we select Ubuntu which can be replaced with NixOS automatically by Nixiform on first config push.

resource "hcloud_server" "ubuntu" {
  count = 2
  name = format("server_%02d", count.index + 1)
  server_type = "cx11"
  image = "ubuntu-16.04"
  ssh_keys = []

In order for Nixiform to know how to connect to the nodes provisioned by Terraform we have to give it some input.

By setting the output property nixiform in the Terraform config, Nixiform will be able pick up the relevant data.

The value of nixiform can be a single node or a list of nodes with the keys name, ip, ssh_key, provider.

  • name: the node identifier to map against a NixOS config in nixiform.nix
  • ip: a node IP which can be connected to via SSH
  • ssh_key: the public SSH key for which will be allowed access
  • provider (optional): determines which configurator will be used to generate a NixOS hardware config
output "nixiform" {
  value = [for node in hcloud_server.ubuntu : {
    name =
    ip = node.ipv4_address
    ssh_key = local.ssh_key
    provider = "hcloud"


This is the file which maps which NixOS configuration will be pushed to which provisioned node. Analogous to NixOps' network file.

  webpage = content: pkgs.runCommand "http-server-content" {} ''
    mkdir -p $out
    cat > $out/index.html <<EOF
in input: {

Define a node, the attribute name corresponds to the value of nixiform.*.name in the terraform output.

The value is the nodes NixOS configuration, same as a NixOS module or what you would have in your configuration.nix. Additional arguments passed is input and node.

Where node is data about the specific node from the Terraform output, in this case the value of nixiform.* where nixiform.*.name is equal to "server".

And input is the value of the entire nixiform property from the Terraform output, i.e. data about all the provisioned nodes in the network.

  "server_01" = { config, input, node, ... }: {
    networking.firewall.allowedTCPPorts = [ 80 443 ];
    services.nginx = {
      enable = true;
      virtualHosts.localhost = {
        locations."/" = {
          root = webpage "${node.ip}";

  "server_02" = { config, pkgs, input, node, ... }: {
    networking.firewall.allowedTCPPorts = [ 80 443 ];
    services.nginx = {
      enable = true;
      virtualHosts.localhost = {
        locations."/" = {
          root = webpage "${node.ip}";
      environment.systemPackages = [ pkgs.htop ];

Now that we have declared our infrastructure and configuration we can start to realize them.

We start by provisioning our Hetzner Cloud nodes:

terraform init
terraform apply

Then we will tell Nixiform to take any Terraform output from the current directory and connect to each node to get information about the hardware which we will need in order to build the NixOS config.

nixiform init

Building the configs, this step is optional as it will be done automatically before each push but it can be helpful to check that the configuration is correct.

nixiform build

Finally we push each nodes configuration and if the node doesn't have NixOS yet it will be installed replacing whatever OS is currently on there. (Note: only some Linux distributions are supported to push over, Ubuntu is the simplest choice.)

Warning: Any previously installed OS will be wiped.

nixiform push

More examples in the examples directory.