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  • DevOps is the new rave among many. Organizations are now keen to adopt DevOps practices such as Configuration Management, rightly into their ecosystems.

    When adopting a DevOps culture, software tools are crucial whether an organization is running its services On-prem or on Cloud. In this article, you’ll learn the best tools available for Configuration Management in DevOps. But let’s first find out what DevOps is briefly.

    Let’s get it on!

    What is DevOps?

    DevOps stems from integrating Developers (Dev) and Operations (Ops) teams’ activities to provide value for customers and create agility in software development.

    DevOps

    DevOps is centered around how people work and collaborate by sharing their thought processes and priorities to fasten software development. As a culture, the main idea behind DevOps is to optimize the functions and efficiency of the teams involved regardless of the tools used. But how did this unified development begin?

    Earlier on, the software development life cycle had developers whose work was to write code as specified by customers without configuring and maintaining an environment for the required software product. The Operations team ran the production activities and maintenance tasks, experiencing all the nightmares involved in the production stage.

    Imagine managing a software product you did not participate in developing!

    Tough, right?

    The Ops team had the burden of realizing bugs, managing infrastructure dependencies, and more like problems related to the software production environment.

    To address this gap, DevOps resulted, meaning a union of people, tasks, and all end-to-end processes required to deliver a thoroughly developed product to customers.

    Why DevOps Matters?

    When teams in any development environment rightly integrate DevOps practices such as Continuous Integration and Configuration management, businesses stand to achieve the following benefits:

    Shorter release cycles for applications

    DevOps serves the purpose of maintaining a ready to deploy code base where at any moment, the DevOps team can run available software versions without product failure.

    CI/CD pipelines having all automation and tests in place ensures a stable software product is sent incrementally to the production, and with this, developers can achieve shorter release cycles.

    Visibility into development processes

    Catching programming defects, detecting security threats, initiating rollbacks, and even responding to incidents can be difficult when the development environment is like a black box.

    Shorter release cycles and Continuous Monitoring in DevOps result in greater visibility of all activities.

    What is configuration management in DevOps?

    Configuration management is all about automating significant and repetitive activities in an IT environment. Configuration management addresses tasks that scale to hundreds and thousands of machines.

    Such tasks may include software installations, upgrades, and updates, patch management, security compliance, user management, among many others.

    With the emergence of container technologies and other infrastructure improvements, System administrators find it an uphill task to provision and configure IT environments without automation tools. Thankfully, there are configuration management tools to create and optimize run time environments.

    Configuration management tools in DevOps provision required Infrastructure through scripts/ Infrastructure as Code.

    Let’s look at the following widely used configuration management tools.

    Ansible

    Ansible automates Infrastructure configuration, application deployment, and cloud provisioning while leveraging the Infrastructure as Code service model.

    Ansible is a helpful tool that DevOps engineers can use to achieve Infrastructure, applications, networks, and container environment automation. Engineers widely use this tool for the automation and configuration of servers.

    This tool scales down repetitive tasks in infrastructure administration through defined playbooks. A playbook, in this case, is a simple YAML script file detailing the activities to be executed by the Ansible automation engine. With Ansible automation, the Operations team can create machine groups to be acted upon by defined tasks and control how machines run in production environments.

    Known companies like Udemy, Alibaba Travels, Tokopedia, among many others, are reported to be using Ansible.

    Features

    • Ansible Tower, a platform within Ansible, is a visualization dashboard for the entire IT environment.
    • Through role-based access control (RBAC), Ansible scope can create users, and the permissions for the environments can operate.
    • Ansible supports both On-premises and Multi-cloud Infrastructure configurations.

    Puppet

    Puppet is another open-source platform suitable for provisioning resilient Infrastructure. DevOps engineers can use Puppet to configure, deploy, run servers and automate the deployment of the applications on the configured servers.

    Through Puppet, it is possible to remediate the operational and security risks in an IT environment through Continuous compliance. It features windows infrastructure automation, patch management, and managed application operations.

    Thousands of companies, including Google, Cisco, and Splunk, use Puppet for configuration management.

    Features

    • Highly extensible, supporting several developer tools and APIs.
    • Puppet features Bolt, a powerful task orchestrator to automate manual tasks.
    • Puppet integrates well with Kubernetes and Docker.

    Chef

    Chef as a tool in DevOps lets you perform configuration management tasks on servers and other computing resources. Chef’s approach to Infrastructure management uses agents such as Chef Infra to automate infrastructure configuration. Using Chef in automation processes is simple. With few clicks, several nodes can be up and running.

    DevOps teams define ‘recipes’ for configuration management. The recipes contain a description of the resources and software packages essential for the configuration of servers. Chef relies on Cookbooks, Chef servers, and Nodes as its essential components for configurations and automation.

    Top companies like Facebook, Slack, and Spotify have employed Chef in their ecosystems.

    Features

    • Chef is an Agent-based automation platform.
    • Chef handles Infrastructure as Code.
    • Supports for all Operating systems and integrates with any Cloud technology.
    • Chef features  Chef analytics for monitoring changes occurring in the Chef server.

    Saltstack

    Saltstack or simply salt is a scalable configuration management and orchestration tool. DevOps teams use salt to manage IT environments such as data centers through event-driven orchestration and remote execution of configurations.

    Salt configuration management framework relies on states and configuration files to show how an IT Infrastructure is provisioned and deployed. The configuration files describe Infrastructure packages to be installed, services to be started or stopped, users and user creation processes, and many other required tasks in provisioning an IT environment.

    Features

    • Salt Cloud platform for provisioning systems on the Cloud.
    • Supports both agent-based and agentless control of nodes.
    • Supports both *NIX and Windows Operating systems.

    CFEngine

    CFEngine is a highly scalable platform for automated management of your IT infrastructure. Teams can perform physical and virtual Infrastructure provisioning, patch management, access control, user management, and system security, all from a single place with CFEngine.

    With CFEngine, autonomous agents are constantly at work to continuously monitor, repair, update and restore an IT infrastructure. Continuous system checks and automated remediation in CFEngine guarantees reliance and consistency across an Infrastructure.

    Features

    • Highly flexible because of the ‘write once use repeatedly’ configuration scheme.
    • Has CFEngine Enterprise Mission Portal, a central dashboard platform for visibility and real-time monitoring of IT systems.
    • Use lightweight automation agents within the WebScale platform to configure and manage several nodes.

    Conclusion

    The best way to find the best tools for your needs is to try them. What works for others may not work for you, so go ahead and try them to see how it works, how it helps your organization to keep the configuration consistent and secure.