TFZK - A Terraform Provider for Apache ZooKeeper

  • tfzk • terraform • zookeeper • apache • opensource • project
  • 715 words

Gimme the TL;DR

A new Terraform provider is available, designed to interact with ZooKeeper ZNodes: TFZK. The latest stable version is v1.0.3, and you should give it a go.

Ah! And here is the doc.

OK, I got more time - go ahead!

Earlier this year I decided to scratch a long-standing itch: build a Terraform Provider for Apache ZooKeeper. While there was already one, it came with limitations that created issues in production environments:

Enter Terraform Provider ZooKeeper (TFZK) (GitHub repo).

tfzk logo

Wait! What’s ZooKeeper?

From here:

ZooKeeper is a high-performance coordination service for distributed applications. It exposes common services - such as naming, configuration management, synchronization, and group services - in a simple interface so you don’t have to write them from scratch. You can use it off-the-shelf to implement consensus, group management, leader election, and presence protocols.

What does ZooKeeper have to do with Terraform?

Good question.

Terraform is a de-facto industry standard for managing small, medium and even large infrastructure in a declarative manner. In a cloud world, Terraform is a tool to bring order to chaos.

Build a large enough infrastructure, and you will need to come up with ways to dynamically distribute configuration to running systems. Say, you need a way to inform your sharded cloud infrastructure of things like:

  • which shard is in charge of what incoming traffic
  • how services running in one shard, can send data to another one
  • a new shard was deployed
  • an existing shard was retired/drained

You could, in theory, provide your topology to every service, via startup-time configuration. But that comes with a non-zero downtime: you need to modify and distribute the configuration, and then restart your services to read it. Not ideal for your uptime.

That’s where a service like ZooKeeper shines: it’s not designed for high throughput or for storing lots of data. But to be a reliable central place to send services to, so they can coordinate and react to larger infrastructure changes.

So, to answer your question, what does ZooKeeper have to do with Terraform? ZooKeeper can be a perfect place to store a live picture of your infrastructure reality and let services rely on it to listen for changes.

So, what can I do with this provider?

ZooKeeper can do a lot of things, but all are built around the core concept of ZNode:

Every node in a ZooKeeper tree is referred to as a znode. Znodes maintain a stat structure that includes version numbers for data changes, acl changes. The stat structure also has timestamps. The version number, together with the timestamp, allows ZooKeeper to validate the cache and coordinate updates. Each time a znode’s data changes, the version number increases. For instance, whenever a client retrieves data, it also receives the version of the data.

TFZK offers a ZNode CRUD:

Given that a Terraform Provider only “runs” during your plans and applys, its focus is on Persistent ZNodes. For this reason, it can’t support Ephemeral ZNodes, Watchers and other “live” features, that are built for services that hold a persistent connection: those are more targeted at runtime services and applications (i.e. your code).

OK, I’m sold. How do I get started?

At the time I’m writing this, v1.0.3 is out. Start by adding to your Terraform configuration:

terraform {
  required_providers {
    zookeeper = {
      source = "tfzk/zookeeper"
      version = "1.0.3"

provider "zookeeper" {
  # Configuration options

And then head to the official documentation.

It’s great, but it’s missing feature X!

Great, why don’t you help me? I set it up so it should be easy to set up a local dev environment, where you can spin up an ensemble to test against.

There are especially 2 features I’d like to see implemented:

  • Support for full authentication
  • Support for ACLs

And if you are new to Terraform Provider development, take a look at this amazing tutorial. That’s how I got started.