Let’s automate IT infrastructure.
There was a time when everything related to infrastructure installation, configuration, maintenance was getting done manually. Many people in a team used to get involved. Entire things were manual. This process had a considerable risk of human error, leading to poor application availability, security, and performance.
Not to forget the overall cost of the infrastructure.
But thanks to modern technology and philosophy like DevOps, that’s not a problem anymore.
Now, we have several tools out there to execute Infrastructure creation, deployment, management tasks. By leveraging the right software, one can automate the entire infrastructure with less human involvement. I am not talking about easy stuff but complex tasks like provisioning infrastructure, entire application setup, etc.
Infrastructure automation is the process of deploying hardware/software components, operating system, networking components, data storage component by using IaC (Infrastructure as Code). This process has human intervention only for writing such code, which will have every detail to create and deploy the necessary components.
Here is a list of the most popular infrastructure automation tools widely used in the industry.
Ansible is an open-source agentless IT engine that automates application deployment, configuration management, IT orchestration. It was founded in 2012 and has been written in the most trending language currently, Python. To implement all the automation, Ansible uses a playbook, where all the configurations are written in a human-readable language, YAML.
If you are a newbie then check out this Ansible Introduction.
Ansible has an agentless architecture, which means you do not need to install any software separately on all the servers. It follows a push-based model where you need to have a local system with all the necessary configurations, and those configurations are pushed to the target servers.
- Automation with a simple human-readable language
- Agentless architecture, you can connect to servers by simple SSH.
- The push model pushes the configurations to the server from a local machine operated by you.
- Built on Python, so it supports a lot of python libraries and functionalities.
- A curated collection of Ansible modules by the Red Hat engineering team.
For the enterprise, Red Hat offers the Ansible Tower.
Ansible skill is good for Sysadmin, Developer, Infra engineer and if you need a little bit of headstart, check out this Udemy tutorial.
SaltStack can perform infrastructure management, configuration management, orchestration with speed. Compared to other similar tools like Chef and Puppet, the fast speed of SaltStack is a significant differentiator here. Its initial release happened in 2011, and just like Ansible, it is also written in Python.
It has a master-slave architecture, where Salt Master is the master daemon that manages everything and Salt Minions are the slave daemons installed on every managed system to execute the instructions sent by the Salt Master. Salt Master sends necessary configuration and commands to Salt Minions, and Salt Minions execute them on their machine to apply all the IT automation.
- Designed for scale and speed, it can handle up to 10000 minions per master.
- Very easy to set up, has a single remote execution architecture.
- Configuration files in SaltStack support all kinds of languages.
- It can execute commands on remote systems in parallel, which helps in applying the automation at speed.
- Provides a simple programming interface using Python APIs.
One of the major causes of production incidents is an inconsistent application or infra configuration. This is a common problem, and Chef aims to fix this.
Chef is a configuration management tool for managing the infrastructure. It has been written in Ruby, and the initial release happened in 2009 by OpsCode.
Chef Infrastructure Management product keeps every environment consistent with the same configurations in the infrastructure. It provides various tools like Chef Infra, Chef Automate, Chef Enterprise, and Chef Community for infrastructure management.
Chef Infrastructure Management features:
- Configurations are written in YAML, easy to learn the human-readable language.
- It comes with multiple development tools for writing cookbooks (configurations), testing, and dependency resolution.
- Easy collaboration features in the enterprise edition to handle complex environments with ease.
- Support integration with hundreds of DevOps tools such as GitHub, Jenkins, Azure Terraform.
Bolt is one of the open-source projects of Puppet.
It is an agentless orchestration tool for IT automation. Using Bolt, you can automate all your manual tasks, which you have to do today as per the need-basis. I am talking about the tasks such as deploying an application, troubleshooting servers, stopping to restarting a service, patching and updating the systems, etc.
As Bolt is agentless, you don’t need to install any agent software on the remote target machines. You need to install Bolt on your local system, and you can connect the remote target systems using SSH or WinRM.
- Write bolt plan (a combination of commands, scripts, and tasks) in YAML, straightforward to use and learn.
- A lot of existing plans and workflows are available from Puppet Forge (module library).
- Move your automation from Bolt to Puppet Enterprise with ease for better scalability.
Terraform is an open-source infrastructure provisioning tool used to create and deploy the infrastructure using infrastructure as code (IaC). Hashicorp has developed it, and the initial release happened in 2014.
Check out the Terraform introduction for beginners.
Terraform works pretty well with cloud providers such as AWS, Azure, GCP, Alibaba. You can deploy and manage your infrastructure on any of these cloud providers by using Terraform with ease. Currently, terraform is being widely used by many organizations for managing their Kubernetes clusters.
- Manages configuration of immutable infrastructure with ease.
- Can do complete orchestration of infrastructure, not just configuration management.
- Uses HashiCorp Configuration Language (HCL), which is human-readable and very easy to learn.
- Provides ready-made modules and providers for hundreds of tools and technologies through terraform registry.
Once decided to use it, don’t forget to follow these Terraform best practices.
That was my list of the most popular infrastructure automation solutions that offer products for mid-size organizations to enterprise level. If you are getting into the DevOps domain and looking to automate your infrastructure and the monotonous tasks involved in it, this is the right time to choose one of the solutions mentioned above and start automating.