Terraform Lab 3: Core Environment


In this lab we will build out a core environment, with some of the core networking services you would expect to see in a hub and spoke topology. We will start using multiple .tf files, and we’ll make use of GitHub as our repository so that you get the benefits of version control.

This environment will be the basis of the remaining labs in the workshop, so no need to blow it away at the end of the lab!

Creating a GitHub repository

Git is the dominant source code management (SCM) platform in use today. It is an open source project created by Linus Torvalds, the creator of the Linux kernel. Many organisations host their own private Git repositories, including Microsoft. (Microsoft contributed to the Git source code to extend the underlying filesystem in order to host the Windows source code.)

You will create a free public terraform repository on GitHub. GitHub is the largest host of open source code in thed.a world. (This documentation is also hosted on a GitHub repository.)

For this lab you will need to have

  • Git installed locally
  • Ensure the git executable is in the path
    • type git in PowerShell or Command Prompt on Windows
    • type git in the terminal for Linux or MacOS
  • Check Visual Studio Code (vscode)
    • Support for Git is integrated and in-the-box
    • Click on the Source Control icon on the left (CTRL+SHIFT+G)
    • The top of the main pane should display “SOURCE CONTROL: GIT”
  • A GitHub account

OK, let’s create our repository.

New Repository

  • Click on the + at the top right and ‘New repository’
    • Name: citadel-terraform
    • Description: leave blank
    • Public (default)
    • Tick the Initialize this repository with a README check box
    • Create repository
  • Click on the green Clone or download button
  • Copy the repository URL, which should be similar to https://github.com/<githubUsername>/citadel-terraform.git

Repository URL

Clone the empty citadel-terraform repository into vscode:

  • Open vscode
  • Type CTRL-SHIFT-P to open the Command Palette
  • Type clone and select Git: Clone
  • Paste the repository URL and hit enter
  • Select the repository location for the clone
  • Once cloned you should see a toast notification
  • Click Open Repository

Toast Notification

Now that you have cloned the repository locally, your local repository will have an ‘origin’ upstream configured, which is a link back to the original GitHub repository. As you make changes you can commit those to your local repository and then push them upstream to GitHub.

Let’s check that process by modifying the README.md, committing the change and then pushing it upstream:

  • Edit the README.md file in vscode
  • Add in the following text: Lab files for https://aka.ms/citadel/terraform workshop.
  • Save the change
  • Click on the Git icon to bring up the SCM area
  • Hover over the README.md filename and click on the + to stage
  • Type in a commit message, e.g. Updated description
  • Click on the to commit
  • Push up to the ‘origin’ GitHub by either
    • clicking on the arrows in the status bar to refresh (both push and pull), or
    • clicking on the ellipsis (...) in the SCM area and Push from the context menu
  • Once the push has completed then go back into GitHub (https://github.com/\<githubUsername>/citadel-terraform) and refresh
  • Confirm the README file now shows your committed change


OK, so we can save locally and push into Cloud Shell as we move through the lab. Don’t forget to periodically commit your changes locally and push them up into your GitHub repository.

Visual Studio Code has a nice smart commit feature. If you have a number of changed files that you want to stage and commit locallt in one go, then you can add in the message at the top of the SCM sidebar and do CTRL-ENTER then it will prompt you to enable Smart Commit. You then only need to sync in the status bar to push the files up to GitHub. You are still able to chunk your changed files into separate commits. Just stage your selected files and the Smart Commit will only commit those.

The vscode setting (CTRL-.) for that is "git.enableSmartCommit": true.

AzureRM Provider documentation

The main documentation area for the Terraform azurerm provider is on the Terraform site itself. Use this short URL to access it quickly:


In this lab we will be creating the following as part of our core environment:

  • Virtual Network with three subnets
  • VPN Gateway in the GatewaySubnet
  • Network Security Groups
  • Key Vault

Browse the documentation pages for the various provider types. Note that the index on the left lists out the Provider and the Data Sources first. The various Resources are then listed underneath.

For the sake of time we will actually comment out the VPN Gateway in these labs before applying our configuration as it takes a little while to build and it is one of the pricier resources that we will be using.

Organising your .tf files

As we found in the last lab, Terraform will merge together all of the *.tf files in the current working directory, ignoring any files which have a different file extension. By design, Terraform does not recursively walk the directory structure, so any *.tf files in sub-directories will not be considered.

This provides an opportunity to think about how you would organise your files to suit your purposes.

Some admins prefer to have all of the Terraform stanzas in a single and often very large .tf file, often called main.tf.

Some prefer to split out certain top level keywords, e.g.:

$ ls

Others prefer to break out by service or groups of service, e.g.:

$ ls

You may decide how you want to structure your files. This lab will assume that the variables are in their own variables.tf file, and then we’ll essentially have a file per resource group:

$ ls

The Core resource group will contain our core networking, i.e. the virtual network, three subnets (training, dev and GatewaySubnet) and a VPN gateway.

The NSGs resource group will contain a group of simple predefined NSGs:

NSG Name Protocol Port
AllowSSH TCP 22
AllowHTTP TCP 80
AllowHTTPS TCP 443
AllowSQLServer TCP 1443
AllowRDP TCP 3389

Finally the KeyVaults resource group will contain an Azure Key Vault to store our secrets and keys.

Initial variables.tf

  • Create a variables.tf file
  • Add in the following variables
variable "loc" {
    description = "Default Azure region"
    default     =   "West Europe"

variable "tags" {
    default     = {
        source  = "citadel"
        env     = "training"

We’ll add to that file as we move through the lab.


OK, let’s start with the NSGs. We will hardcode these from the name of the resource group to the names of the NSGs and the security rules within them.

  • Create an nsgs.tf
  • Add in the following text
resource "azurerm_resource_group" "nsgs" {
   name         = "NSGs"
   location     = "${var.loc}"
   tags         = "${var.tags}"

resource "azurerm_network_security_group" "AllowSSH" {
   name = "AllowSSH"
   resource_group_name  = "${azurerm_resource_group.nsgs.name}"
   location             = "${azurerm_resource_group.nsgs.location}"
   tags                 = "${azurerm_resource_group.nsgs.tags}"

resource "azurerm_network_security_rule" "AllowSSH" {
    name = "AllowSSH"
    resource_group_name         = "${azurerm_resource_group.nsgs.name}"
    network_security_group_name = "${azurerm_network_security_group.AllowSSH.name}"

    priority                    = 1001
    access                      = "Allow"
    direction                   = "Inbound"
    protocol                    = "Tcp"
    destination_port_range      = 22
    destination_address_prefix  = "*"
    source_port_range           = "*"
    source_address_prefix       = "*"

resource "azurerm_network_security_group" "AllowHTTP" {
   name = "AllowHTTP"
   resource_group_name  = "${azurerm_resource_group.nsgs.name}"
   location             = "${azurerm_resource_group.nsgs.location}"
   tags                 = "${azurerm_resource_group.nsgs.tags}"

resource "azurerm_network_security_rule" "AllowHTTP" {
    name = "AllowHTTP"
    resource_group_name         = "${azurerm_resource_group.nsgs.name}"
    network_security_group_name = "${azurerm_network_security_group.AllowHTTP.name}"

    priority                    = 1001
    access                      = "Allow"
    direction                   = "Inbound"
    protocol                    = "Tcp"
    destination_port_range      = 80
    destination_address_prefix  = "*"
    source_port_range           = "*"
    source_address_prefix       = "*"

resource "azurerm_network_security_group" "AllowHTTPS" {
   name = "AllowHTTPS"
   resource_group_name  = "${azurerm_resource_group.nsgs.name}"
   location             = "${azurerm_resource_group.nsgs.location}"
   tags                 = "${azurerm_resource_group.nsgs.tags}"

resource "azurerm_network_security_rule" "AllowHTTPS" {
    name = "AllowHTTPS"
    resource_group_name         = "${azurerm_resource_group.nsgs.name}"
    network_security_group_name = "${azurerm_network_security_group.AllowHTTPS.name}"

    priority                    = 1001
    access                      = "Allow"
    direction                   = "Inbound"
    protocol                    = "Tcp"
    destination_port_range      = 443
    destination_address_prefix  = "*"
    source_port_range           = "*"
    source_address_prefix       = "*"


  • Save the file
  • Push to Cloud Shell
  • Run through the init -> plan -> apply workflow
  • Check your new NSGs resource group in the portal
  • Update the nsgs.tf, adding in the remaining NSGs
NSG Name Protocol Port
AllowSQLServer TCP 1443
AllowRDP TCP 3389
  • Rerun the plan -> apply workflow

Core networking

OK, time for you to get a little self sufficient and create a coreNetwork.tf file for our core networking. You will need to find the right resource types in the https://aka.ms/terraform documentation area. You may also make use of the snippets that came with one of the modules. Type CTRL-SPACE and then type tf-azurerm_resource_group to get an example snippet copied into your file. The snippets do not cover all resource types - for instance the azurerm_virtual_network_gateway is not currently in the set - but can be useful in quickly creating .tf files.

  • Create a coreNetwork.tf file containing:
    • Resource Group
      • Name: core
      • Location: use the loc variable
      • Tags: use the tags variable
    • Match the Terraform id to the ARM resource name unless specified otherwise
    • Ensure all following resources are in this resource group and inherit the tags and location
    • Public IP
      • Name: vpnGatewayPublicIp
      • Dynamically allocated
    • Virtual Network
      • Name: core
      • Address space:
      • DNS servers: & (the Cloudflare public DNS servers)
    • Subnets
      • GatewaySubnet:
      • training:
      • dev:
    • VPN Gateway
      • Name: vpnGateway
      • Route based VPN on the basic SKU
      • BGP should be enabled
      • IP Configuration:
        • Name: vpnGwConfig1
        • Use the Public IP
        • Use a dynamically allocated private IP
      • Use the GatewaySubnet

If you get stuck then the bottom of this lab has a link to a set of files that you can reference. Visual Studio Code also has a very good compare tool.

Note that we will comment out the VPN Gateway stanza to save time and money Don’t run terraform apply too quickly!

  • Run through the terraform init and plan to confirm that everything will run through ok
  • Use the multiline comment format around the VPN Gateway stanza to comment it out
  • Rerun the plan and confirm that the gateway now won’t be created
  • Apply the configuration

Note that the VPN gateway will take several minutes to build, especially on free accounts that have a lower execution priority. A good opportunity for a coffee…

Azure Key Vault

We will also hard code a default key vault. There are a few core services that we want to be able to assume when we are creating the more flexible Terraform files in the later labs, amd Key Vault is one of them. It also give us an opportunity to introduce service principals, role assigments and scopes.

Note that if you are an organisation looking to centralise your key and secret management whilst using multiple Terraform cloud providers then Hashicorp has a cloud agnostic product named Vault. Use of Vault is outside the scope of these labs.

We’re going to need a service principal (sp) that has permissions to read the Azure Key Vault. If you look at the azurerm_key_vault page then you’ll see we need to specify a tenant_id and an object_id.

The creation of service principals from Terraform is a current enhancement request, so in the meantime we’ll create the service principal via the CLI and use the tenant ID and object ID values in a couple of new Terraform variables.

Note that by default, service principals are created with Contributor role assigned to the root of the subscription, which is far more generous than we want. We’ll therefore initially set it to no role assignment. We’ll then use Terraform to assign a valid role against the keyVaults resource group once that has been created.

Create a service principal

  • Create a service principal with no role assignment
az ad sp create-for-rbac --name "terraformKeyVaultReader" --skip-assignment

Note that the service principal (or sp) name must be unique within the tenancy for this command to succeed. You can also specify a password using --password, but if not then the command will generate one for you and show it in the output. Note in the output that the sp name is prefixed with http://, so if you were to delete the sp then the command would be az ad sp delete --id "http://terraformKeyVaultReader".

If you run the following command it will query the new sp and give us the values we need for our variables.

az ad sp show --id "http://terraformKeyVaultReader" --output jsonc --query "{tenant_id:appOwnerTenantId, object_id:objectId}"
  "object_id": "6aee7885-a16d-4448-aeca-3788aafda778",
  "tenant_id": "72f988bf-86f1-41af-91ab-2d7cd011db47"
  • Create the two new variables in the variables.tf file
    • tenant_id
    • kvr_object_id

We’ll now use these new variables when creating the Key Vault.

Create the keyvaults.tf

  • Create a new keyVaults.tf file
resource "azurerm_resource_group" "keyvaults" {
    name        = "keyVaults"
    location    = "${var.loc}"
    tags        = "${var.tags}"

resource "azurerm_role_assignment" "keyVaultReader" {
  role_definition_name = "Reader"
  scope                = "${azurerm_resource_group.keyvaults.id}"
  principal_id         = "${var.kvr_object_id}"

resource "azurerm_key_vault" "default" {
    name                = "keyVault"
    resource_group_name = "${azurerm_resource_group.keyvaults.name}"
    location            = "${azurerm_resource_group.keyvaults.location}"
    tags                = "${azurerm_resource_group.keyvaults.tags}"

    depends_on          = [ "azurerm_role_assignment.keyVaultReader" ]

    sku {
        name = "standard"

    tenant_id = "${var.tenant_id}"

    access_policy {
      tenant_id             = "${var.tenant_id}"
      object_id             = "${var.kvr_object_id}"
      key_permissions       = [ "get" ]
      secret_permissions    = [ "get" ]
    enabled_for_deployment          = false # Azure Virtual Machines permitted to retrieve certs?
    enabled_for_template_deployment = false # ARM deployments allowed to pull secrets?
    enabled_for_disk_encryption     = true  # Azure Disk Encryptions permitted to grab secrets and unwrap keys ?
  • Run through the terraform init, plan and apply workflow

The apply should fail on the keyvault resource as the keyVault name is already in use. The key vault service creates a public endpoint, such as https://{vault-name}.vault.azure.net for the public cloud, and therefore the shortname needs to be unique.

  • Create a new rndstr resource using the random_string provider type
    • 12 characters
    • lowercase alphanumerics
  • Append the result to the key vault name
  • Rerun through the terraform init, plan and apply workflow to create the key vault

There are a few new things to note here:

  1. There are implicit dependencies on the keyVaults resource group from both the role assigment and key vault resources
  2. There is an explicit dependency on the role assignment from the key vault, using a depends_on array
  3. There are comments against some of the key vault booleans

There are a couple of ways of commenting in HCL:

# This is a single line comment

/* And this is a multi line
comment */

Use the Azure portal to check the keyVaults resource group. You should see the new key vault within it, but look at the Access Control (IAM) in the blade. It should show the new service principal with the Reader role, similar to the filtered output below:

Access Control

Note that the Reader role is one of many inbuilt roles available. You can also create custom roles via either the CLI or Terraform.

End of Lab 3

We have reached the end of the lab. You have started to use GitHub and work with multiple resource groups, resources and .tf files. We also have a set of core resources that we will leverage in the following labs.

Your .tf files should look somewhat similar to those in https://github.com/richeney/terraform-lab3, although you may have spread your Terraform stanzas across your .tf files differently dependent on how you have it organised.

In the next lab we will look at some of the meta parameters that you can use in Terraform to gain richer functionality.

◄ Lab 2: Variables ▲ Index Lab 4: Metas ►