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Comparison of DevOps Configuration Management Tools

The configuration of a single server with the required software might sound like a simple task. However, when several servers need to integrate the same software and configurations, the process can get tedious. It can take several hours before the configuration gets completed, which can also deplete your already strained resources. If you do not implement any kind of automation, the process can become insurmountable.

With these types of tasks in mind, new DevOps configuration management tools emerged. These tools address the constant problem with deploying new servers that do not come with configurations and updates. Nevertheless, these configuration tools facilitate a seamless and more manageable automation process.

DevOps configuration tools like Chef, Puppet, and Ansible ensure that servers across a cloud environment are in sync. These tools get deployed to manage the necessary updates and automate all sorts of complex multi-tier IT application environments.

When considering the right DevOps configuration management tool for you, consider the following aspects each product offers.

Scripting Language

A majority of configuration management tools implement a scripting language to create a valuable logic for automation. When you select the right product for you, it is necessary to consider the difficulty of each tools’ scripting language. This selection allows you to align the tools according to the current knowledge of your in-house developer. At the same time, this gives you an idea of how hard it is to learn their configuration language.

Some configuration tools also accommodate inexperienced users. There are also a handful of devices that use advanced scripting languages to support complex processes. Since Chef is utilizing Ruby DSL, it has a steep learning curve that can be developer-oriented. Puppet has its Domain Specific Language (DSL) running on an administrator-oriented system. It is important to note that this can be difficult to learn as well. Similar to Puppet, Ansible runs on an administrator-oriented system as well. Ansible utilizes Yet Another Markup Language (Python), which is generally easy to absorb. Python is in most Unix and Linux deployments, so it should not be difficult to set up.

Ease of Use

It is integral to consider the capabilities of your organization when selecting configuration management tools. This capability allows you to tailor your product according to their needs and capacity to work with them. Aspects like availability, ease of installation, and management need comparing when deciding on the ease of using Chef, Puppet, and Ansible.

The availability of configuration tools refers to unprecedented circumstances of server failure. It is crucial to look for tools that deploy either a backup server or an alternative master in case this happens. Chef renders support providing a backup server that can take the central server’s place if it goes down. Puppet implements a multi-master architecture, which indicates that another active master deploys when the server fails. Ansible utilizes a single active node termed as Primary Instance. Therefore, it runs a Secondary Instance to replace the primary server when it goes down.

When it comes to setup and installation, Ansible is the easiest to manage. It is because Ansible has “agentless architecture. Unlike Chef and Puppet that utilizes master-agent architecture, Ansible requires no specialized installation. You don’t have to perform a certificate signing between the agent and the master. For this reason, you get to install Ansible faster.

The difficulty of managing configuration management tools depends on the language and configuration. As previously discussed, Ansible uses YAML, which can be manageable even to inexperienced developers. Chef and Puppet run using Puppet DSL and Ruby DSL languages, which require advanced knowledge.

Pull and Push are the two basic configurations that deserve your attention. Pull configurations refer to drawing configurations from a primary server to the slave nodes. When pulling configurations, there are no commands involved. Chef and Puppet employ Pull configurations. On the contrary, Push configurations move configurations to the nodes using specific commands. Typically, push configurations offer more control over the entire system and are usually easier to use. Pull configurations offer easier scalability and make it easier to bootstrap new nodes. Ansible follows both Push and Pull configurations.

Deployment Environment

Some configuration management tools cannot operate across all deployment environments. There are some cases when these tools specialize in specific settings while providing limited support for the rest. With that in mind, consider tools that support the deployment environment of your organization. Chef, Puppet, and Ansible all share similar interoperability features. Servers from all three tools can run on Linux or Unix machines while slaves or nodes work well on Windows.

Another aspect worth considering is the scalability of configuration tools. This aspect determines their capability to handle the configuring of large-scale infrastructures and heavy workloads.

All three tools can manage the burden in scaling configurations. However, Ansible stays on the top, offering higher scalability compared to Chef and Puppet.

Why Use Configuration Management Tools?

Configuration management tools allow the utilization of proven and tested software development practices. These tools are vital to managing data centers in real-time, making deployments faster, scalable, and repeatable. Ultimately, configuration management tools automate the application of configuration processes.

Similar to any other software, these tools can make tasks faster and more seamless. But to be able to make it happen is in the hands of the developers wielding them.

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