DevOps, the software engineering culture initiated to bring developers and operations together, has now become one of the most essential aspects of the software development lifecycle. It is now an integral part of project planning till delivery, from startups to large enterprises.

With the arrival of cloud computing and virtualization platforms, the need for new services has increased. The DevOps automate and monitor the process of software creation, ranging from integration, testing, releasing to deploying and managing it. It reduces the development cycles, increases the frequency of deployment, and complements the objectives of a business.

With the help of DevOps automation or configuration management tools, the machine-level changes can be easily defined and rolled out in multi-server environments.

But embracing the right DevOps platform or configuration management tool is not as candid as purchasing/ subscribing to a set of software tools. There are a number of latest DevOps tools with various features. Read on DevOps tools comparison – Docker vs Ansible vs Chef vs Kubernetes vs Puppet to make things easier for you.

1. Ansible

Ansible is a simple yet powerful server and configuration management tool, that can transform the DevOps of an organization by modernizing IT and enabling faster deployment of applications. It automates configuration management, orchestration, application deployment, cloud provisioning, and a number of other IT requirements.

Docker vs Kubernetes vs Puppet vs Chef vs Ansible
Image source:  https://www.ansible.com/integrations/ 

The difference between Ansible and the above configuration management tools (Puppet, Chef) is that they probably have a better set of features, but Ansible is far simpler than them. It is mostly used for configuration deployment.

It can be used to make changes in newly-deployed machines and reconfigure them. Also, the ecosystem of Ansible is great which comes with the option to write custom applications.

Powered by Red Hat, Ansible Tower enables users to manage and control the multi-tier deployments in a secure manner. It also helps them with collaboration tools so that the team members can be informed using email and Slack with integrated notifications.

2. Chef

Chef delivers fast, scalable, and flexible IT automation, which automates the Web-Scale IT. Chef is also a configuration management tool like Puppet, and uses ‘recipes’ in the form of instructions for web-server configuration, databases, and load balancers. The recipes in Chef define the components in the infrastructure and how those components can be deployed, configured and managed. This diagram shows how you develop, test, and deploy your Chef code.

Docker vs Kubernetes vs Puppet vs Chef vs Ansible
Image source: https://docs.chef.io/chef_overview.html

The configuration policy of Chef allows users to define infrastructure as code. Its development tools can test configuration updates on workstations, development infrastructure, and cloud instances.

Chef packages the configurations into JSON files called ‘cookbooks’, and runs the software in client-server mode (Chef-server) and ‘Chef-solo’.

3. Docker

Docker, the software containerization platform, provides freedom to application/infrastructure developers and IT operation teams so that they can create a model for better innovation and collaboration.

Docker vs Kubernetes vs Chef vs Ansible vs Puppet

It builds on Linux Containers (LxC) to create virtual environments and enables users to create, deploy, run, and manage applications within the containers. The containers are lightweight since they don’t require additional hypervisor load, and run within the kernel of the host machine. Docker provides consistency across a broad range of development and release cycles and standardizes the environment.

Docker Engine includes a daemon process (the dockerd command), a rest API to specify the interfaces that programs use to interact to the daemon, and a command line interface (CLI) client.

Puppet vs Chef vs Docker vs Kubernetes

Because of the standardization, the developers can more efficiently analyze and fix bugs in the applications, and make changes in the Docker images as well. The users can build a single image and use it across every step during the deployment.

The client-server architecture of Docker enables the client to interact with the daemon, which performs the tasks like building, running, and distributing the containers.

Docker vs Puppet vs Chef vs Kubernetes vs Ansible

Docker enables the users to build applications securely both on-premises and the cloud. Its design is modular so that it can integrate with the existing environments easily.

4. Kubernetes

We all are familiar with the issues that enterprises experienced traditionally when they had to migrate their servers from one service provider to another, may be because of better pricing structure or features. Updating and migrating became particularly painful as different websites used specific software versions. But containerization has successfully solved this problem.

The DevOps focus has now shifted to writing scalable applications that can be distributed, deployed and run effectively anywhere. Where Docker provided the first step in helping developers build, ship and run software easily, Kubernetes has helped take a giant leap by helping DevOps run containers in a cluster, manage applications across different containers and monitor them effectively as well. It allows vendors to build systems using core Kubernetes technology as it is built on a modular API core.

Docker vs Kubernetes
Image source: https://kubernetes.io

Kubernetes is an open source system that was developed by Google and was later donated to CNCF (Cloud Native Computing Foundation). It helps developers deploy, scale and manage containerized applications with automation. Kubernetes allows DevOps to efficiently fulfill customer’s demands by deploying applications predictably and quickly, scaling them, launching new features and limiting hardware usage to only the needed resources.

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Kubernetes is portable and can be used with public, private, hybrid, multi-cloud environments; extensible with being pluggable, modular, composable, hookable; and is self-healing with features like auto-replication, auto-placement, auto-scaling, and auto-restart.

5. Puppet

Docker vs Kubernetes vs Puppet vs Chef vs Ansible

It is an open source configuration management tool, using which developers and operations teams can securely deliver and operate software (infrastructure, applications) anywhere.

It enables users to understand and act on the changes that take place in applications along with the in-depth reports and real-time alerts. Users can identify those changes, and remediate the issues.

The infrastructure is treated as a code by Puppet, which helps in easier reviewing and testing of configurations across all the environments- development, test, and production.

Puppet contains a daemon called Puppet agent that runs on the client servers. It has another component which contains configuration for all hosts, called Puppet master. The Puppet agent and Puppet master are securely encrypted using the SSL.

Comparing top DevOps tools: Ansible vs Chef vs Docker vs Kubernetes vs Puppet

Sr. No.DockerPuppetChefAnsibleKubernetes
1.It’s a container technology.Configuration management tool.Configuration management tool.Configuration management tool.Configuration management tool.
2.Written in Go programming language.Ruby-DSL (domain-specific language) language.Ruby and Erlang.Python.Written in Go programming language.
3.Easiest to manage, understand and isolate.Difficult for beginners.Complex from the development perspective.Easy for configuration management.Setting Kubernetes requires a lot of planning, in terms of defining nodes and manual installation.
4.It’s a separate beast having several components.It’s more targeted towards operations that don’t require development background.It’s similar to Puppet.It’s more appropriate for front-end developers, where some programming might be needed.Kubernetes is suitable for developers of modern applications.
5.It delivers configuration for one process at a time, making Docker files simpler than bash script for process configuration.It may configure more than one process at a time, and make the dependencies a bit complex.Builds a pipeline of processes.It is similar to Puppet in producing files.Kubernetes brings a lot of complexity as it is a larger project with more moving parts than any other DevOps tool, but that also leads to latency in executing commands, making troubleshooting and monitoring cumbersome.

Assume, we have an application named DHN. We have ten developers to contribute to DHN which has been designed to run on Azure. It will have two ends- front-end (DHN-Front) and back-end (DHN-API), and we assign five developers to each end. To understand Puppet vs Chef vs Docker vs Ansible better, let’s take an example.

(Note: We can do this in many ways, it’s just an example.)

We would use Docker for DHN-Front and DHN-API. Further, we would prefer Ansible to set up a development environment for developers. The Ansible will start up the virtual machines, install Docker, fetch the Docker images for DHN-Front and DHN-API, and configure network ports to various components.

We will use Chef or Puppet on the infrastructure side to configure the multiple environments- production, stage, and development. Then, the Chef/Puppet will install Docker on application servers, apply security settings, etc.

The servers and patches can be updated or added using any configuration management tool. At every step, Docker ensures that none of the environment contains any application difference.

The above example was to make a comparison between different DevOps tools – Chef vs Kubernetes vs Puppet vs Ansible vs Docker easier. Below are three more tools that are used widely by the DevOps teams:

6. Nagios

Docker vs Kubernetes vs Puppet vs Chef vs Ansible

Nagios is an industry standard tool that helps DevOps teams to monitor the desktop and server operating systems, like service states, system metrics, applications, and services.

DevOps teams can detect and identify the problems in IT infrastructure, and correct them using the log monitoring from Nagios. These problems may exist because of the data-link overloads, network connections, switches, etc.

Nagios provides Nagios XI, Nagios Log Server, and Nagios Network Analyzer for all the monitoring operations. Nagios solutions currently support Windows, Linux, Unix, AIX, Mac OS/X, Solaris, and HP-UX operating systems.

7. Jenkins

Top DevOps tools

It is another option for DevOps teams for monitoring execution of repeated jobs. Jenkins offers hundreds of plugins that help dev side of DevOps teams to build, deploy, and automate the projects.

It is a self-contained, extensible automation server which can be used as CI (continuous integration) and CD (continuous delivery) server, or can be turned into some continuous delivery hub to build, test, deliver or deploy software. Jenkins supports Windows, Mac OS X and UNIX operating systems.

It can be installed via native system packages, Docker, or can be run standalone by a machine with Java Runtime Environment (JRE).

8. Git Central Repository

Released under the GNU General Public License version 2.0, Git is an open source distributed version control system that’s easy to learn, provides high performance and can handle projects of all sizes with efficiency and speed.

It provides a number of features including local branching model, multiple workflows, convenient staging areas etc.

Git helps DevOps to have different local branches independent of one another. It takes seconds to create, merge and delete those lines of development. With this, you can do things like:

  • DevOps tool 2018
    Creating a branch for a new idea, committing few times and joining back from where you branched and switch back to merge it in.
  • Creating role-based codelines for different tasks like production and testing etc.
  • Creating new branches for all new features and switching between them, deleting branch when merging feature in the main line.
  • Experimenting and deleting when needed.

Git’s features help it outclass other Software configuration management (SCM) tools like Subversion, Perforce, CVS and ClearCase.

If you have something to add, please do so in the comments section.

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Virendra Soni

Virendra Soni, an Electronics engineer, is a technical content writer and blogger. Other than technical content, he likes to pen down what he observes.
In leisure, Virendra loves to read books, watching cricket, and listening to music. Reach him on Instagram @theburning.desirer
Virendra Soni