Atlas vs. Cloudformation, Heat, and Other Infrastructure Management
Tools like CloudFormation, Heat, etc. allow the details of an infrastructure to be codified into a configuration file. The configuration files allow the infrastructure to be elastically created, modified and destroyed.
Atlas provides similar functionality by using Terraform to change and manage infrastructure. However, Terrraform differs in this regard in that it goes further by being both cloud-agnostic and enabling multiple providers and services to be combined and composed. For example, Terraform can be used to orchestrate an AWS and OpenStack cluster simultaneously, while enabling 3rd-party providers like CloudFlare and DNSimple to be integrated to provide CDN and DNS services. This enables Terraform to represent and manage the entire infrastructure with its supporting services, instead of only the subset that exists within a single provider. It provides a single unified syntax, instead of requiring operators to use independent and non-interoperable tools for each platform and service.
Additionally, using Terraform inside of Atlas provides a place for collaboration on plain text configuration, with powerful planning, auditing, and version control integrations.
Using infrastructure management tools without an interface like Atlas requires workflows that are typically created on a per organization basis and often have steep learning curves. Atlas provides a consistent and polished platform, backed by a large open source tool and community, to begin managing infrastructure in a codified manner.