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Last updated: 11 Aug 2021

govuk-infrastructure: 3. Split terraform state into separate AWS cluster and Kubernetes resource phases

Date: 2021-08-11




Our Terraform will require the use of at least the aws and kubernetes providers, with EKS infrastructure resources defined via aws and in-cluster resources and configuration defined via kubernetes. As the kubernetes provider requires arguments that are determined from AWS resource outputs, a naïve implementation would look something like this:

provider "aws" {
  region = var.region

resource "aws_eks_cluster" "cluster" {

provider "kubernetes" {
  host                   = aws_eks_cluster.cluster.endpoint
  cluster_ca_certificate = base64decode(
  token                  = aws_eks_cluster.cluster.token

As Terraform providers are not fully handled as nodes in the TF plan graph it cannot be guaranteed that AWS resources will be fully created at the point that Terraform configures the kubernetes provider, which will lead to non-deterministic behaviour, race conditions, etc. Because of this, Terraform providers should only use config values that are known ahead of time.


Split Terraform resources into two separate states and phases (actual names TBD):

  1. cluster-infrastructure - EKS cluster and associated AWS resources. No kubernetes provider should be defined.
  2. cluster-services - Kubernetes resources (e.g. ingress controllers) and in-cluster configuration (e.g. aws-auth ConfigMap), with the kubernetes provider configured via TF remote state, after cluster-infrastructure has been applied. No aws provider should be defined, unless we identify a need to access AWS data sources for use in k8s resources (e.g. obtaining current AWS region).


The EKS module's manage_aws_auth input variable must be set to false to prevent the module attempting to create aws auth ConfigMap objects.

This should also prevent potential issues when tearing down an EKS cluster with deployed workloads. As ingress controllers and k8s Service objects commonly provision AWS load balancers themselves, Terraform does not know about these LBs and therefore does not include them in the plan graph, which can lead to Terraform attempting to delete a cluster with references to detatched AWS resources.

This decision also introduces a clear boundary and separation of concerns between k8s cluster provisioning and in-cluster resources and configuration. This is an important and useful divison to enforce, as it keeps the largely generic cluster infrastructure separate from the GOV.UK-specific configuration and supporting services. This in principle provides a path to switching from an EKS cluster to any other Kubernetes cluster in any environment, as well as providing a baseline EKS cluster that could in future be used for other non-GOV.UK purposes.