Atlas Glossary

Atlas, and this documentation, covers a large set of terminology adopted from tools, industry standards and the community. This glossary seeks to define as many of those terms as possible to help increase understanding in interfacing with Atlas and reading documentation.

Authentication Tokens

Authentication tokens are tokens used to authenticate with Atlas via APIs or through tools. Authentication tokens can be revoked, expired or created under any user.


An apply is the second step of the two steps required for Terraform to make changes to infrastructure. The apply is the process of communicating with external APIs to make the changes.


An artifact is an abstract representation of something you wish to store and use again that has undergone configuration, compilation or some other build process. For Atlas, an artifact is typically an image created by Packer that is then deployed by Terraform, or used locally with Vagrant.


Atlas encompasses all the interfaces and services documented here. It is the name of this product.


Boxes are a Vagrant specific package format. Vagrant can install and uses images in box format.


Builds are resources that represent Packer configurations. A build is a generic name, sometimes called a "Build Configuration" when defined in the Atlas UI.

Build Configuration

A build configuration are settings associated with a resource that creates artifacts via builds. A build configuration is the name in packer push -name acemeinc/web.


The box catalog is a publicly available index of Vagrant Boxes that can be downloaded from Atlas and used for development.


A datacenter represents a group of nodes in the same network or datacenter within Consul.


Environments show the real-time status of your infrastructure, any pending changes, and its change history. Environments can be configured to use any or all of these three components.

Environments are the namespace of your Atlas managed infrastructure. As an example, if you to have a production environment for a company named Acme Inc., your environment may be named acmeinc/production.

To read more about features provided under environments, read the Terraform and Consul sections.

Environment Variables

Environment variables injected into the environment of Packer builds or Terraform Runs (plans and applies).


An operator is a person who is making changes to infrastructure or Atlas settings.


Packer is a tool for creating images for platforms such as Amazon AWS, OpenStack, VMware, VirtualBox, Docker, and more — all from a single source configuration.

Packer Template

A Packer template is a JSON file that configure the various components of Packer in order to create one or more machine images.


A plan is the second step of the two steps required for Terraform to make changes to infrastructure. The plan is the process of determining what changes will be made to.


Providers are often referenced when discussing Packer or Terraform. Terraform providers manage resources in Terraform. Read more.


The post-processor section within a Packer template configures any post-processing that will be done to images built by the builders. Examples of post-processing would be compressing files, uploading artifacts, etc..


Often referred to as the "Artifact Registry", the Atlas registry stores artifacts, be it images or IDs for cloud provider images.


A run in Atlas represents a two step Terraform plan and a subsequent apply.


A service in Consul represents an application or service, which could be active on any number of nodes.


Shares are let you instantly share public access to your running Vagrant environment (virtual machine).


Terraform state is the state of your managed infrastructure from the last time Terraform was run. By default this state is stored in a local file named terraform.tfstate, but it can also be stored in Atlas and is then called "Remote state".


Terraform is a tool for safely and efficiently changing infrastructure across providers.

Terraform Configuration

Terraform configuration is the configuration files and any files that may be used in provisioners like remote-exec.

Terraform Variables

Variables in Terraform, uploaded with terraform push or set in the Atlas UI. These differ from environment variables as they are a first class Terraform variable used in interpolation.