9 Configuration Management Tools For DevOps
Virtualization and Containers enable a self-service style data center, makes the process of provisioning a service instance merely simple but having said that – Configuring those services still must be accomplished. To put this in simpler words, once the provision of the service is done there will still be work that needs to go in to complete the same.
Configuration Management is one of the happening words in the technological space, and many as these terms are heard of in any of the meetings – most of them do not understand the perfect meaning or the usage of it in the IT space. In short, configuration management can be termed as the management of hardware and software of a business. Configuration management in general takes the following broad-set activities into consideration:
- Configuration identification
- Configuration control
- Configuration audit
Configuration management is not just about Source Code Management in DevOps, but it spans across various other activities of Software development and Operations phases and hence it is often referred to as “Comprehensive Configuration Management”.
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Let us now take a deeper look into this area where you would love to know that there has been a considerable growth which might have gone unnoticed. Taking this opportunity to the right path, you might be willing to take some learning out of this article and put to use, if you feel like doing so.
Types of Configuration or Provisioning DevOps Tools:
Having discussed in detail about Provisioning Management and Configuration Management DevOps, let us now take a closer lo/ok on all the tools that fall into this category of DevOps tools. We will discuss more in detail about these tools and also will take a look at the advantages that these tools will bring in to your DevOps setup.
RackHD is yet another Configuration Management, Orchestration tool that works through its cohesive APIs. Developers can put to use their APIs to make a larger Orchestration system or to create a User Interface to perform and manage Hardware services regardless of the underlying hardware. RackHD lets you automate a varied range of management tasks including the following (by providing a huge set of REST APIs to leverage upon):
- Install, Configure and Monitor base Hardware
- Let’s you provision and erase server operating systems
- Let’s you install and upgrade firmware
- Provides data feeds for all the alerting mechanisms and raw telemetry from the hardware
Following are some of the advantages of using RackHD, let us now take a look at each and every one of them:
- RackHD is focused to be the lowest possible level of the automation that interrogates hardware and provision machines with the underlying operating systems
- You can parameterize workflows with the usage of REST APIs
- Provision to execute a specific sequence of arbitrary tasks which satisfy the requirements
Related Page: What is DevOps Automation?
An agentless Configuration Management tool and also an Orchestration tool – these are the traits that can be discussed about Ansible. Playbooks, the configuration modules that are written in Ansible are actually in the YAML format which makes it relatively easier to read and write. This is one of the best features that is provided via the YAML scripts than any other Configuration Management DevOps tools present in this space. Ansible can also be used for Cloud Provisioning as well, with very less changes. Alongside that, Ansible can also be counted as a Deployment tool as well.
Ansible is most generally grouped along with other Configuration Management tool as like the Saltstack, Puppet or CHEF for the best of the performance of the amalgam. It can do Provisioning Management, Deployment Management and also Configuration Management when it joins hands with others tools as like mentioned above.
Following are some of the advantages of using Ansible, let us now take a look at each and every one of them:
- One of the biggest advantage of using Ansible is that it is completely agentless, thereby cutting down the requirement to have any further agents, software or additional ports to be opened.
- Use of YAML, a simple human readable scripts called PLAYBOOKS for Ansible makes it very easy to maintain and scale further in future deployments
- With these features, Anisble lets you focus more the topic at hand and thus becomes most powerful and efficient solution in the space of Provisioning, Configuration, Deployment Management DevOps tools
- With no more additional software required along with Ansible itself, makes its usage super clean and proves to the point of efficiency of the same.
Puppet, a Server Configuration Management tool gives you an automated way to inspect, deliver and also to operate your software regardless of its deployment anywhere. It not only provides control over your applications but also provides consistency in entertaining modifications to the ever changing business needs. Even Puppet
is a Ruby like readable language to prepare the deployment of the infrastructure. Puppet ensures that you don’t sacrifice on your security and also at the same time on your stability, by supporting DevOps in supporting automation and enabling faster releases.
Treating infrastructure as code, Puppet ensures that the deployments are much faster and later on reducing the risks of failures by continuously shipping the code. Puppet finds its usages mostly in the Configuration Management, Test Driven Development and also in Automation. It also ensures that the core of your time is being spent on the most important jobs as like your Development than being bothered about the superfluous task that can be automated or handled in a different manner altogether.
Following are some of the advantages of using Puppet, let us now take a look at each and every one of them:
- Puppet has a larger user base than most of its counterparts as like CHEF
- As bigger is its user base, so is the developer base for Puppet – hence Puppet is to stay for longer with such strong developer base for any help or support
- Puppet provides the flexibility to choose the language to configure servers specifically for the task
- There is a very strong and very good documentation available for Puppet than any other DevOps tool available in this space.
- Dependencies can be defined as explicit and also can reorder the resources in the code without affecting the order of the application.
CHEF, a configuration management tool that was written in the Ruby language uses Ruby language itself to write its system configuration recipes in turn. This technology not only streamlines the processes of configuring and maintaining company’s servers but also helps in integrating with cloud based platform as like the Amazon OpenStack
and also Google’s Cloud Platform. With the use of this technology, an individual can manage as many servers that can practically be possible and turn this infrastructure into code. The infrastructure that is in turn described as code can very easily be tested, readable by humans.
Infrastructure automation tools as like CHEF and Puppet make IT management lot easier, efficient and flexible. As mentioned earlier, CHEF has been very well known for its concept of “Infrastructure as Code”.
Following are some of the advantages of using Chef, let us now take a look at each and every one of them:
- Accelerates software delivery to prove time and again how efficient an Organization can go with frequent software deployments within the shortest span of time
- Increasing service resiliency by keeping a close look at the rate at which the newer changes break the system and also the meantime that it takes to recover the system
- CHEF with its infrastructure automation capabilities improves the whole process of risk management
- CHEF allows you to free up your time by automating your cloud infrastructure and also handling your routine manual actions
- CHEF being cloud-agnostic lets you manage both the data center and cloud environments at once, even as you change your cloud providers.
- CHEF provides a provision, a pipeline for continuous development and deployment that can be used to achieve more and make much better decisions in the future endeavors.
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One of the oldest Configuration Management tools that is available in the market within the DevOps space of Provisioning and Configuration Management. CFEngine runs on C as opposed to any of the other DevOps tools that fit in to this space. Since that the tool in itself is written in C, the corresponding learning curve to get yourself acquainted is quite steep – which can be tough sometimes. If you look on the brighter side of the picture, it also ensures that the CFEngine has a smaller memory footprint – which in turn means that is faster and runs with lowest number of dependencies altogether.
Following are some of the advantages of using CFEngine, let us now take a look at each and every one of them:
- It has a significantly smaller memory footprint
- Runs faster and with very low number of dependencies
- CFEngine supports various UNIX platforms as clients and provides limited support to Windows based clients
- CFEngine has the longest development and usage tradition, basing its roots in the 1990’s
- CFEngine has a very broad user community that is willing to help
- There is a provision for optional Commercial support available for CFEngine
- It is a very valuable tool for managing configurations of many nodes.
Vagrant comes as the best choice to set up virtual machines for a Development environment, and this comes with utmost ease. One of the best features that one can think of is that it runs on top of the vM solutions as like VirtualBox, vMWare
and hyper-V etc. Uses the Vagrantfile that holds all the configuration that needs to go into the building of a vM. A machine that gets created can be shared with the other developers to have similar developer environments.
Vagrant impresses with its easy to use workflow and the focus on automation, eases the whole process of building and managing virtual machine environments. Having said that, it reduces the time taken to setup a development environment and thereby increases the productivity parity.
Following are some of the advantages of using Vagrant, let us now take a look at each and every one of them:
- Provision to configure, reproduce portable work environments that is built on top of industry standard technology
- One of the biggest advantages of using Vagrant, is that it is designed for everyone (easiest and the fastest way to create virtualized environments).
- One another advantage of Vagrant is that is totally open source, free to use!
- It reduces the setup time of an environment
- Repeatability (once created, the others can be reproduced with the same configuration and the like)
- Provides a provision to create Production like environments within minutes
Saltstack, a Python based open source configuration management tool that helps maintain remote nodes in defined states. Saltstack
was developed bringing in more than one solution found for the remote execution and to make it faster, reliable and better. Saltstack attempts to accomplish this Herculean task through its core abilities to handle humongous loads of information and servers in the numbers of thousands through its simple and manageable Python interface.
Unlike the other tools in the same space as like the Chef, Puppet – Saltstack supports remote execution of the commands. Code for execution will be pulled from the Servers in the case of Chef and Puppet but in the case of Saltstack, the code will be pushed to many of the adjoining nodes simultaneously. The code compilation and the required configuration is pretty fast in the case of Saltstack.
Following are some of the advantages of using Saltstack, let us now take a look at each and every one of them:
- Saltstack provides the versatility with massive scale deployments, but the fact that this whole thing can be done with utmost ease using the Saltstack tool.
- Saltstack ensures the execution happens parallel instead of serially
- Provision of simple Python web interface and also the execution routines can be written as simple Python modules.
- Saltstack brings in the best from the world of remote execution, expands its horizons by amplifying their capabilities – further making itself faster, reliable and better
- One of the other advantages of using Saltstack is that it comes in use for both Open and Proprietary projects.
Cobbler is a well classified Linux provisioning server which facilitates and caters towards automation of the network-based system installation of multiple computer operating systems. Cobbler, a tool for automating and facilitating systems installations, uses network boot to control and initiate the installations. Alongside that, Cobbler also facilitates Repository mirroring, kick-start templates, manages connectivity with the available power management systems. One of the best ways to see Cobbler is the way that it eases the life of System Administrators. There are lot of features that make it even more powerful like the XML RPC APIs, Configuration management and the KOAN client etc.
Following are some of the advantages of using Cobbler, let us now take a look at each and every one of them:
- One of the biggest advantages is that it is completely an open source offering with no enterprise or other subscription models available. Alongside that, its user community provides all the help and support that one needs or requires.
- Cobbler configuration management is written in Python, hence it is lean and fast
- Cobbler supports any Linux distribution that is similar to Red Hat Enterprise Linux as like CentOS, Scientific Linux
9. Secured Shell (SSH):
SSH is an acronym that stands for Secured Shell, is a software package that enables secure system administration and file transfers over insecure networks. Using SSH, you can issues commands to the server from just a command prompt just the same way as if, if you were sitting in front of the server itself. As time passes by and also after you get better command overs the basic commands, you can work faster than the cPanel GUI as well.
Following are some of the advantages of using SSH, let us now take a look at each and every one of them:
- IP source routing is used to alter the path of a network signal if it fails, can then be used by hackers to falsify to think as if it is communicating with another user
- SSH avoids DNS spoofing where malicious data is put in to a Domain Name System name server’s cache database.
- SSH avoids data manipulation of things like Routers all through the network
- SSH enforces that there is no eavesdropping or sniffing of the transmitted data
- SSH avoids IP address spoofing where malicious packets are introduced with forged source IP address.
Frequently Asked DevOps Interview Questions & Answers
In this article, we have briefly introduced into the concepts of Provisioning Management and also Configuration Management DevOps tools. We have discussed about the various tools that fall into this space of DevOps tools and about their implementation, tried to provide the advantages of each of these tools. You can go through this article to gain the basic details of many of these tools that prevail in the space of Provisioning and Configuration Management DevOps tools.