What is the Terraform import block and how is it used

Terraform import block-Terraform, an open-source infrastructure as code (IaC) tool developed by HashiCorp, enables developers to define and manage cloud infrastructure using declarative configuration files. Among its powerful features is the ability to import existing resources into the Terraform state, streamlined through the terraform import command and, more recently, the import block. This guide explores the import block, its uses, and how it enhances the Terraform experience.

Introduction to Terraform

Before delving into the import block, it’s essential to understand what Terraform is and why it’s widely adopted. Terraform allows the management of cloud infrastructure through code, promoting consistency, collaboration, and reusability by enabling infrastructure configurations to be version-controlled and shared.

Key Features of Terraform:

  • Infrastructure as Code (IaC): Define infrastructure using configuration files.
  • Plan: Preview changes before applying them.
  • Apply: Provision and manage resources.
  • State Management: Keep track of infrastructure state for incremental updates.

Understanding the Import Block

The import block in Terraform simplifies the process of importing existing resources into the Terraform state. Prior to the introduction of the import block, importing resources involved using the terraform import command in the CLI, a process that could be cumbersome and prone to errors, especially for large infrastructures.

Benefits of the Import Block

  1. Declarative Import: The import block allows imports to be declared in the configuration file itself, aligning with Terraform’s declarative approach.
  2. Version Control: Imports can be version-controlled along with the rest of the infrastructure code, ensuring consistency and traceability.
  3. Automation: Easier automation of imports reduces the need for manual CLI commands, streamlining workflows.

Step-by-Step Guide to Using the Import Block

Step 1: Write Resource Configuration

Start by defining the resource configuration for the existing resource you want to import. This involves specifying the necessary attributes and parameters that describe the resource.

Step 2: Add the Import Block

Next, add the import block to specify the resource and its identifier. This step involves defining the target resource and providing the existing resource’s identifier, such as an AWS instance ID.

Step 3: Run Terraform Commands

Initialize your Terraform configuration and apply the import. Terraform will automatically import the specified resource into the state and configure it according to your resource definition.

Practical Use Cases

Migrating Existing Infrastructure

The import block is particularly useful for migrating existing infrastructure that was created manually or by other tools into Terraform-managed infrastructure. This allows teams to bring legacy resources under version control and leverage Terraform’s management capabilities.

Consolidating Multi-Cloud Environments

Many organizations use multiple cloud providers. The import block helps consolidate resources from different providers into a single Terraform configuration, providing a unified view and management layer.

Auditing and Compliance

By importing existing resources into Terraform, organizations can ensure that their infrastructure complies with internal policies and standards. Terraform configurations can be reviewed, audited, and enforced to maintain compliance.

Common Pitfalls and Solutions

State File Conflicts

When importing resources, ensure that the state file is not in use by other team members or automated processes to avoid conflicts. Using remote state backends with state locking can help manage state file concurrency.

Incomplete Resource Configuration

After importing a resource, ensure that the Terraform configuration accurately reflects the actual state of the resource. Missing or incorrect attributes can lead to unintended changes during subsequent terraform apply operations.

Unsupported Resources

Not all resources are supported by the import block. Check the Terraform provider documentation to ensure that the resource type you want to import is supported.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What resources can be imported using the import block?

Most common resources provided by major cloud providers (AWS, Azure, GCP) and other supported services can be imported. However, it’s essential to consult the specific provider documentation for any limitations or unsupported resources.

2. Can I import multiple resources at once?

Yes, you can define multiple import blocks within a single configuration file to import multiple resources simultaneously.

3. What happens if the resource configuration doesn’t match the actual resource?

Terraform will attempt to align the actual state of the resource with the configuration during the next apply operation. Ensure that your configuration accurately reflects the desired state to avoid unintended changes.

4. How do I handle sensitive information in the import block?

Avoid hardcoding sensitive information directly in the configuration file. Use Terraform variables, environment variables, or secrets management tools to handle sensitive data securely.

5. Is the import block feature stable?

The import block feature is relatively new and may still be evolving. Keep an eye on the official Terraform documentation and release notes for updates and improvements.

External Resources

For more detailed information and advanced usage of the import block in Terraform, consider exploring the following resources:


The import block in Terraform is a powerful feature that simplifies the process of importing existing infrastructure into your Terraform state. By leveraging this feature, you can bring unmanaged resources under Terraform’s control, improve infrastructure consistency, and enhance collaboration within your team. As you integrate the import block into your workflows, you’ll find that it significantly streamlines the management of your infrastructure, allowing you to fully realize the benefits of infrastructure as code.

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