The configuration management market size is estimated to grow from USD 1.6 billion in 2019 to USD 3.3 billion by 2024 globally, at a CAGR of 15.1% during 2019–2024
Before DevOps entered the IT circuit, the development and operations teams worked in their own ways. It was DevOps that acted as the bridge between the two teams and hence came the need for an integrated configuration management system. Configuration management tools are the need for today to design, deploy, configure, and manage servers, infrastructure, etc. These tools are competent in automating and managing multi-tier applications
Teams looking to scale their products and IT ecosystem need effective configuration management tools for the management of their IT components. These tools affect all parts of the digital infrastructure and hence choosing the right one is important. Originally, software configuration management was a part of the software development cycle but as its significance evolved, it became an extensive section with infrastructure-as-a-code.
Before we look at the most popular software configuration management tools today, let us briefly understand what configuration management is.
What Is Configuration Management?
Configuration Management (CM) is a systems engineering process for establishing and maintaining consistency of a product’s performance, functional, and physical attributes with its requirements, design, and operational information throughout its life.
In the world of software engineering, software configuration management is the system engineering procedure to establish and maintain the consistency of performance of a product. It monitors the functional and physical attributes along with its design and requirements. It gets along better cost-efficacy and effective time management. Configuration management offers an abstraction layer within the basic infrastructure level and its preferred state.
Benefits Of Configuration Management
- Better control over competence in reviewing, approving configurable items
- Automation, identification of configurable items throughout the project life cycle
- Cost-effective, good quality output, reliable, stable, and keeps the system up and running
- Ensures that all devices in the network function are in a known and trusted condition
- Helps in project management, auditing, and debugging
- Streamlines organization’s change control process
- Seamlessly integrates with version control systems, testing, and bug tracking tools, etc.
15 Popular Configuration Management Tools For Effective Consistency and Management
Multiple cm tools are being used worldwide and each one of them has its own set of specific features. Yet, below detailed are the top ones that have proven effective for a successful implementation:
- AWS OpsWorks
- Desktop Central
- Octopus Deploy
- PowerShell DSC
Ansible is considered one of the simplest ways to automate applications and IT infrastructure. It is apt for making applications and systems easy for deployment. Released in 2012, now acquired by Red Hat, Ansible has been a favorite for many owing to its salient features. It has been a great helping hand in easing communication between IT teams and non-technical task forces. Being simple to use, easy to read, and agentless, Ansible has a lesser overhead on servers.
It can be combined with other tools like Jenkins, Ansible Works, etc. to develop a centralized console for controlling processes. Ansible has been an ideal open-source, push-based configuration tool for deployment, automation engine, orchestration, offering a lot of productivity gains. It usually connects through SSH, remote APIs, or remote PowerShell. Udemy, Trivago, Tokopedia, Alibaba Travels, Cisco are some of the many organizations leveraging the power of Ansible.
Released in 1993, CFEngine is a leading configuration management tool that offers automated maintenance and configuration of large computer systems, including unified management of systems, servers, mobile devices, networks. Available as an open-source tool and commercial software, it has been considered perfect for process and task management, configuration, and patch management. It is highly scalable, secure, cost-effective, and possesses high-end availability.
As a flexible configuration management framework, CFEngine facilities management of mission-critical tasks with efficiency and security. Developers who are looking for faster configuration management across large- and small-scale deployments often choose this tool. It helps in automatically rolling out updates and changes to nodes as needed. Organizations like Orange, Linked In, PayPal, Locaweb, etc. have been enjoying the benefits of CFEngine.
Chef is an automation and configuration management tool, founded in 2008, that offers a mechanism defining infrastructure as a code. It manages infrastructure by writing code and uses the Ruby language for the same. It undertakes automation of app deployment, infrastructure configuration, and managed configurations across networks. The major components of Chef are Chef Server, Chef Client, Chef Analytics, Workstation, and Chef Supermarket.
Chef is considered as an ideal tool when there are experienced resources in Git and Ruby. It is good for teams that focus on development and for enterprises that are keen on a modern-day infrastructure and an advanced way of working. Airbnb, Upwork, Facebook, Accenture, Shopify, Slack are the leading giants that have been using Chef as their configuration management tool.
Founded in 2005, Puppet has been a favorite of many organizations worldwide, some of them being Google, Red Hat, Siemens, Harvard Law School, Cisco, Cognizant and more. There is a strong user base, it has that contributes to its source code. Puppet has been used largely for huge infrastructures with good documentation and community support. It is based on Ruby and leverages a flexible Domain Scripting Language, with easy execution on any platform that supports Ruby.
The major components of Puppets are Puppet Server, Puppet Enterprise Console, Puppet Agent, and PuppetDB. Users who are looking for stability and maturity find Puppet viable, especially large enterprises that have a varied environment and different skills. There is more traditional infrastructure support and helps teams that have different DevOps team skills. It is considered a tool oriented towards operations and sysadmins. It showcases simple installation, setup, and robust reporting capabilities.
SaltStack is a popular configuration management tool that executes on a non-centralized model, based on the Python language. Based on the Salt open-source project, it was initially released in 2011 and offers push and SSH methods for effective client communication. It facilitates a group of clients and makes use of configuration templates to handle the environment parameters with ease.
SaltStack facilitates defining secure software states, implementing them across the IT infrastructure. It offers easy integration with security processes helping in continual conformity. It has tight integration with ServiceNow for IT Service Management (ITSM) for medium to large organizations. Lyft, Linked In, Trivago, Robinhood, Hulu are some of the many companies using SaltStack.
AWS OpsWorks is a known configuration management tool that facilitates managed instances of Puppet and Chef. It gives a great deal of flexibility in defining the application infrastructure, architecture, and resource configuration. It allows you to use Puppet and Chef automating the way servers can be configured, deployed, and managed. It has three components – AWS OpsWorks for Chef Automate, Puppet Enterprise, and Stacks.
Companies like iOLAP, Accenture, Hund, Ohpen, Swingvy, etc. are enjoying the benefits of this tool. It automates different tasks like package installations, database setups, software configurations, server scaling, etc. It scales applications depending upon time or load and takes necessary action based on the state of resources and permissions granted.
Released in 2014, Terraform is infrastructure as a code tool, considered good for configuration management. It is a tool to build, change, and version infrastructure safely and efficiently. It is used for managing current service providers and customized in-house solutions too. Terraform is apt at codifying APIs into declarative configuration files that are shared amidst teams as coded and reviewed.
It generates an execution action plan that shows what steps will be taken to reach the required state and then executes it to create the needed infrastructure. Terraform then creates the incremental execution plans after the relevant changes have been done. It also manages low-level components like storage, networking, and compute instances and high-level components like SaaS features, DNS entries, etc.
Launched in 2013, Docker offers exceptional configuration management and container virtualization facilities as one of the competent technologies. Since it follows the lightweight containerization technology, it shares the OS of hosts and does not execute its own OS. There is a portable container that facilitates hosting applications and permits deploying or relocating any Linux server.
The Docker engine is the heart of this tool that takes care of managing the containers and app deployment. The Docker hub looks after maintaining and managing the repository of applications. Users can share it, ship it, and execute it anywhere with ease and simplicity. Some major companies that use Docker are ING, Spotify, ADP, PayPal, Shopify, Business Insider, etc.
Juju is a popular open-source configuration management tool, developed by Canonical Ltd. It is a service orchestration management tool that facilitates software integrable, deployable and scalable with a fast speed and wide range of cloud servers. It focuses on reducing the operational load of the modern-day software by offering services like faster deployment and performing operational routines on a wide range of public and private cloud services.
Juju has been perfect for running multiple PaaS on a single platform. It has a multimode deployment. JaaS i.e., Juju as a Service has been an effective solution for operating and configuring cloud infrastructure, with scalable and flexible features, perfect for an enterprise running CMS. Because of Juju, relations between the linked charms can be attained automatically, and charms can be configured easily through the inspector.
Bamboo is a well-known continuous delivery tool from Atlassian, that provides great support for release management and regular delivery. It is based on the Java programming language and is cross-platform by nature. The good part of Bamboo is that it offers the users – developers, administrators, testers, etc. a common shared space for sharing work and information that has sensitive data.
It provides effective support for tying automatic builds, tests, and releases for a unified workflow. Companies like Walmart, Target, Kaseya Limited, Zendesk Inc., etc. have been utilizing Bamboo for their configuration management operations. Bamboo is found to fit almost all popular languages and technologies. It offers continuous delivery operations ranging from the source code to implementation that reaches the client.
Desktop Central is a comprehensive Windows Desktop management solution that offers effective management of software deployment, asset, and patch management, system settings, security policies, remote desktop sharing, active directory reports, service pack deployment, etc. With its collection feature, Desktop Central can deploy a bunch of configurations all at a time.
It is a solution that offers the best of both worlds – the traditional way and modern management feature too, from a single console. The web console of this tool, which can be accessed from anywhere, offers a centralized point from where the admin can perform management of all activities associated with desktop management. Computer-based configurations and user-based configurations are available. It is apt for standardizing OS configurations across networks and for troubleshooting regular problems.
The Rudder is an open-source, multi-platform configuration management tool that offers effective compliance of systems. It clubs the concept of configuration management and continuous audit. Based on a European origin, Rudder has been utilized to fulfill the requirements of production infrastructure and maintain them appropriately. It has the capability to showcase a high-level summary or disseminate noncompliance problems to a detailed level.
Rudder possesses FULL REST API for effective communication with the server. It helps in the dynamic generation of host policies. It takes care of automatic inventory for the software components and hardware ones, as well. Rudder has a drag and drop editor that can enhance its assessment competencies and web management interfaces. The Rudder is written in C and Scala with inbuilt centralized graphical management.
Released in 2006, TeamCity is an experienced continuous integration and build management tool from JetBrains. It executes unlimited builds and offers up to 100 configuration jobs. Being extensible and customizable, it offers enhanced code quality for any project. It looks at delivering good quality software, in a faster manner, encompassing all types of development practices and workflows. Even when no builds are running, TeamCity ensures keeping the continuous integration server stable and working.
Organizations like Twitter, Accenture, Intuit, eBay, Wikipedia, Apple, Craft base, etc. have been leveraging the potential of TeamCity. It allows users to find the status of builds swiftly, understand the basic reason why those got activated, download the current built material, etc. It is called an ‘intelligent CI server’ because of its extended support to integration, without having to install plug-ins or modify build scripts.
Founded in 2012, Octopus Deploy has been an enabler of automation for complicated application deployments, be it on-premises or cloud-based. It is a modern-day configuration management tool that is apt for release management, automated deployments, and runbooks automation. The connection with the software team, managers, and operations teams helps in breaking down the departmental information silos.
Used by multiple companies around the world like Microsoft, Xero, NASA, Disney, Starbucks, Olo, Craft base, etc., Octopus Deploy has been in the limelight owing to its salient benefits. It provides repeatable and accurate deployments, turning complicated deployments simpler. It offers effective support to platforms like ASP .NET, Java, NodeJS, and other scripting languages.
Desired State Configuration (DSC) is a key feature in PowerShell that assists in the automation of configurations like Windows, Linux. It offers a set of PowerShell language extensions, a procedure named declarative scripting, and other cmdlets. DSC is a new management platform in Windows PowerShell that deploys and manages configuration data, along with the environment in which the services operate.
There are mainly three components involved in PowerShell DSC – resources, configurations, and local configuration manager. DSC configurations are the scripts that perform some specialized functions. PowerShell DSC is basically an Infrastructure as Code technology that creates Managed Object Format files and configures Windows-dependent computers.
Why Are Software Configuration Management Tools an Essential?
Software configuration management (cm) tools perform a variety of tasks that ensure consistency within all involved physical and logical components of the entire infrastructure. These tools help users in understanding the impact of change in one configuration item on all other items.
CM Tools Are Needed Because They:
- Offer infrastructure automation, application deployment, automated provisioning, orchestration, node management, and role-based access control
- Enable changes to be fast, scalable, and maintain the desired state
- Adhere to coding standards and maintain the same end state
- Offer distribution design to manage multiple numbers of remote servers
- Lessen the chances of outages and security breaches
- Are cost-effective with faster problem resolution
- Offer high-end process control and effective change management
As We Draw To A Close
As we read through all the above options, we understand the significance of configuration management (cm) tools, more. All of them are competitive and popular and which one to choose is completely up to the organization to decide.
The scope, complexity, costs involved, fundamental needs, organizational workflows, and other important parameters will decide the aptest software configuration management tool.
Also, what is equally important is to have experienced configuration management partners who can guide in this entire process, starting from selecting the technology to implementing it and enjoying its fruits.