Infrastructure automation is an integral part of the DevOps process. It helps teams to manage their workload more efficiently and quickly deploy software. DevOps tools for infrastructure automation provide the automation needed to streamline processes and reduce manual intervention.
With the right tools, DevOps teams can reduce costs and increase their efficiency and velocity. Also, have much-needed control and visibility over their applications and operations.
This article will go over the factors to consider when choosing a DevOps tool for infrastructure automation. It will also categorically (DevOps practices) list the 20 most useful DevOps tools for infrastructure automation with their key features.
There are several important factors your should consider when choosing a tool for automating your infrastructure:
- Compatibility with your infrastructure: Choosing a tool that is compatible with your current infrastructure and can be easily integrated into your existing workflow is crucial.
- Features and functionality: Consider the features and functionality of the tool and whether it meets the needs of your team and your organization.
- Ease of use: Choose a tool that is easy to use and has a user-friendly interface, as this will make it easier for your team to adopt and use it effectively.
- Scalability: Choose a tool that can scale with your organization as it grows and evolves.
- Integration with other tools: Consider whether the tool integrates well with other tools and platforms that your team is already using.
- Support and documentation: Look for a tool with good documentation and a strong support network, as this will be helpful when you encounter any issues or need help using the tool.
- Cost: Consider the cost of the tool and whether it is within your budget.
Finally, you need to know the available options. To help you do so, below is a comprehensive list of the most popular DevOps automation tools with their key features to help you decide based on the above factors.
As stated earlier, this article will categorize the tools in DevOps practices. The following are the DevOps practices:
- Infrastructure as Code (IaC)
- Configuration management
- Continuous integration and delivery
- Container orchestration and image management
- Monitoring and logging
The list of most useful DevOps automation tools includes:
- AWS CloudFormation
- Azure Resource Manager
- AWS CDK
- Google Cloud Deploument
- Red Hat Openshift
Terraform is an open-source infrastructure as code (IaC) tool that allows users to define, provision, and automate infrastructure resources on any cloud using a high-level configuration language called Terraform Language.
It supports a wide range of resource types, including low-level components like storage, networking, and compute instances; and high-level components like DNS entries and SaaS features. Terraform can also be used to provision Kubernetes resources, Helm Charts, and even Spacelift (you will learn more about it later on in this article) resources.
When using Terraform, you write declarative configuration files describing your infrastructure’s desired state, and then Terraform compares the current state of the infrastructure to the desired state and creates or modifies resources as needed to achieve the desired configuration.
Key features of Terraform
- Platform-agnostic: It is not limited to one platform or operating system.
- Multi-cloud support: Terraform can manage resources on multiple cloud platforms, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform.
- Terraform can provision an immutable infrastructure: Most infrastructure provisioning tools create mutable infrastructure, which makes it possible to upgrade but prone to infrastructure drift. With the immutable approach, upon upgrade, the current configuration is replaced with a new one that factors in the changes, and then the infrastructure is reprovisioned.
- Terraform has great documentation with huge community support.
To learn how to use this tool, check out our Getting Started With Terraform on AWS Tutorial.
Key features of Pulumi
- Advanced debugging: Pulumi allows developers to debug and troubleshoot infrastructure using standard programming techniques, such as breakpoints and stepping through code.
- Secure by default: Pulumi follows best practices for security and compliance, allowing users to define their infrastructure’s custom policies.
3. AWS CloudFormation
AWS CloudFormation is an IaC tool that helps you model and set up your AWS resources so you can spend less time managing those resources and more time focusing on your running applications.
CloudFormation allows you to use a template to provision and manage AWS resources in a safe and predictable manner. The template is a JSON or YAML file that defines the resources and their properties, and CloudFormation uses it to create and configure the resources in your AWS account.
Key features of CloudFormation
- Change sets: Allowing you to preview the changes that will be made to your resources before you decide to apply them,
- Stack policies: Allowing you to specify which actions can be performed on your resources, etc. This makes it easier to manage your resources and maintain the integrity of your AWS infrastructure.
Check out the comparison between AWS CloudFormation and Terraform.
4. AWS CDK (Cloud Development Kit)
AWS CDK is an open-source software development framework to define cloud infrastructure in code and provision it through AWS CloudFormation.
You may ask, “why use CDK when you can use CloudFormation directly?” Well, although powerful, CloudFormation has clear weaknesses – it has a challenging learning curve and lacks built-in logic capabilities.
AWS CDK lets developers define and manage their infrastructure based on an imperative approach using programming languages and provisioning through CloudFormation.
CDK or CloudFormation, which to use?
Though CDK solves some of CloudFormation’s weaknesses, it has its downsides. The following are two major factors to help you decide whether you utilize the CDK or CloudFormation:
- Your team’s experience level with AWS and CloudFormation: If your team is starting their AWS journey, CloudFormation is the way to go, as it is well-supported and well-documented, with lots of sample templates to get started with.
5. Azure Resource Manager (ARM)
Azure Resource Managerhttps (ARM) is a management platform for Azure resources. It provides a consistent management layer you can access through the Azure portal, Azure PowerShell, or the Azure Resource Manager REST API.
Using ARM templates, you can define the infrastructure and configuration of your Azure resources. You can use ARM templates to deploy resources in a repeatable and predictable manner, making it easy to automate the deployment.
Key features of ARM
- Resource groups: Allowing you to manage related resources as a single entity.
- Resource locks: Allowing you to prevent accidental deletion or modification of resources.
6. Google Cloud Deployment Manager
Google Cloud Deployment Manager is a tool that you can use to create, deploy, and manage Google Cloud resources in a declarative way.
With Deployment Manager, you can define your infrastructure as code in a configuration file and use that file to create and manage your resources. This allows you to automate creating and managing your resources, making deploying and managing complex environments easier.
Key features of Google Cloud Deployment Manager
- Repeatability: Deployment Manager can create identical copies of your resources in different environments, such as production and staging. This makes it easier to test changes before deploying them to production.
- Collaboration: Deployment Manager allows multiple team members to work on the same configuration files, making it easier for teams to collaborate on infrastructure changes.
Note: It is important to note that the tools below can function as IaC tools but are predominantly used for configuration management.
7. Ansible automation platform
Ansible is an open-source software platform for configuring and managing computers. It is designed to help automate infrastructure management tasks such as configuration management, application deployment, and provisioning.
Ansible uses a simple syntax written in the YAML language, which makes it easy to understand and use. It uses a push-based model, where a central control machine pushes configuration changes to the managed hosts.
Ansible is often used with other tools, such as Terraform and Packer (you will learn more about it later on in this article), and is a popular choice for configuration management because of its simplicity and flexibility.
Key features of Ansible
- Agentless architecture: Ansible does not require any software to be installed on the managed hosts. This means you can use Ansible to manage systems without installing additional software.
- Very Large community: Ansible is an open-source project with a large community of users and contributors. This means that you can benefit from the knowledge and experience of others, as well as contribute back to the project.
- Flexibility: Ansible includes a wide range of built-in modules for everyday tasks and also supports the use of custom modules. This allows you to automate almost any task and gives you the flexibility to customize your automation to fit your specific needs.
Take a look at the Ansible vs. Terraform comparison.
Chef is an automation platform that helps you manage and scale infrastructure. It provides a set of tools and a domain-specific language (DSL) based on Ruby programming language for writing “Recipes” that define the configuration and management of systems.
Unlike Ansible, Chef uses a pull-based model where nodes pull their configuration information from a central server periodically rather than having the configuration pushed to them. This allows for greater flexibility and scalability, as nodes can be added or removed from the system without the need for manual configuration.
Chef consists of three main components: the workstation, the server, and the nodes. The workstation is the system that allows you to author recipes and administer your infrastructure. The server stores the cookbooks (multiple recipes in a collection). The nodes are the systems you are configuring.
Key features of Chef
- Scalable: Chef is designed to work with large, complex infrastructures and can easily handle thousands of nodes.
- Policy-based management: Chef uses policies to define how servers and infrastructure should be configured, which makes it easy to ensure compliance and consistency across your entire infrastructure.
Like Chef, Puppet is a configuration management tool built in Ruby. You write configuration code for Puppet using its DSL, and wrapped in modules. While Chef is more developer-centric, Puppet was developed with system administrators in mind.
Puppet uses the client-server model. The server is called a puppet master. The puppet master stores the manifests (code containing resources and desired states) for clients. The clients are called Puppet nodes and run a Puppet agent to connect to the puppet master and download the manifest assigned to the node to apply the configuration if needed.
Key features of Puppet
- Centralized management: Puppet allows administrators to manage configurations and policies centrally, making enforcing compliance and consistency across the infrastructure easier.
- Modularity: Puppet’s modular architecture allows you to break your infrastructure into smaller, manageable components, making it easier to manage and scale.
- Role-based access control: Puppet allows for role-based access control, which enables different teams and users to access the infrastructure at different levels.
Spacelift is a collaborative continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD) platform designed to manage infrastructure provisioning workflows. To help modern teams manage their IaC, Spacelift provides an easy-to-use interface that works with cloud-agnostic IaC tools like Terraform and Pulumi and cloud-specific IaC features like AWS CloudFormation and Azure ARM templates.
Aside from the easy-to-use interface, Spacelift offers a perfect blend of regular CI’s versatility and methodological rigor of a specialized, security-conscious infrastructure tool that caters to the unusual execution model and highly stateful nature of IaC tools.
Spacelift is also a solution for organizations with difficulty managing multi-cloud deployment and adding flexibility to infrastructure provisioning. It offers automated workflows and integrates provisioning logs into your Version Control System (VCS) interface for increased transparency.
Unlike some of Spacelift’s alternatives which have some level of integration with Git providers, Spacelift is truly GitOps native. Thanks to its push policies, Spacelift fully supports arbitrary Git flows, including massive monorepos, and gives you ultimate visibility through your Git provider APIs (e.g. GitHub’s Checks and Deployments APIs).
Key features of Spacelift
- Drift Detection and Automatic Reconciliation: Spacelift can detect drift in infrastructure, which is when the actual state of infrastructure differs from the desired state defined in code, and automatically reconcile the drift to bring the infrastructure back in line with the desired state.
- Precise guardrails that you control: Spacelift implements the Open Policy Agent (OPA) framework to introduce guardrails as policies to avoid unintentional changes to your workflow.
- Collaboration and Sharing: Spacelift allows teams to collaborate on and share infrastructure code, facilitating code review, testing, and reuse of code.
- Auditing and Compliance: Spacelift provides detailed auditing and compliance capabilities, which can help users track infrastructure changes and ensure that infrastructure stays in compliance with organizational policies and regulations.
Jenkins is an open-source automation server that helps developers build, test, and deploy their software projects. It is widely used in the software development industry to automate various tasks, including building and testing code, releasing software updates, and deploying applications to production environments.
Jenkins is designed to be highly extensible and flexible, with many plugins available that allow users to customize its functionality. It provides a web-based interface allowing users to create and configure build jobs, essentially automated processes that perform tasks based on event triggers.
Key features of Jenkins
- Distributed Builds: Jenkins can distribute build workloads across multiple machines, allowing for faster builds and increased scalability.
- Extensive API: Jenkins has a comprehensive API that allows for programmatic access to Jenkins functionality, making it possible to integrate Jenkins with other tools and scripts.
Spinnaker is an open-source, multi-cloud continuous delivery platform that helps teams automate the release and deployment of software applications. It is designed to make it easier for teams to manage and deploy applications across various environments, including on-premises, cloud, and hybrid environments.
With the Spinnaker pipeline, you can deploy updates to both applications and infrastructure on demand. To deploy infrastructure updates, you can use a YAML manifest or specify new artefacts such as Docker Images, AMIs or GitHub files. Additionally, you can use Terraform scripts to provision infrastructure on platforms like AWS and GCP.
Key features of Spinnaker
- Multi-cloud support: Support for multiple cloud providers, including AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, and Kubernetes
- Canary deployments: For testing new releases in a small percentage of production before rolling them out to the whole system
- Rollbacks and roll forwards: For easy rollback in case of issues.
Kubernetes (also known as K8s) is an open-source container orchestration system for automating the deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications. It was initially designed by Google and is now maintained by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation.
Kubernetes provides a platform-agnostic way to deploy and manage containers, making it easier to build and maintain scalable, reliable, and portable applications.
Key features of Kubernetes
It provides many features and tools to help you deploy and manage your applications in a distributed environment.
- Self-healing: Kubernetes has built-in self-healing capabilities, automatically replacing and rescheduling failed pods.
- Deployment strategies: Kubernetes provides a variety of deployment strategies, such as rolling updates and blue/green deployments, to help you deploy your applications in a controlled and reliable manner.
- Load balancing: Kubernetes can automatically distribute incoming traffic across multiple service replicas.
- Secrets and configuration management: Kubernetes provides a mechanism for securely storing and managing sensitive information, such as passwords, keys, and application configuration data.
To learn how to use this tool, check out our Kubernetes Tutorial for Beginners.
Nomad is an open-source, simple, flexible workload orchestrator developed by HashiCorp. With Nomad, you can easily deploy and manage containers and non-containerized applications across on-premise and on clouds at scale.
Key features of Nomad
- Nomad runs as a single binary with a small resource footprint.
- Unlike Kubernetes, which specifically focuses on Linux containers, Nomad is more general-purpose (supports IIS on Windows, Qemu, etc.).
- Nomad is designed to be pluggable, allowing users to extend its functionality with custom plugins or integrations with other tools.
15. Red Hat OpenShift
OpenShift is an enterprise-ready Kubernetes container orchestration platform with full-stack automated operations to manage hybrid cloud, multi-cloud and edge deployments.
Openshift is more than just the Kubernetes you read earlier; it’s a collection of other software such as Tekton, Grafana, Prometheus, RHEL CoreOS, and CRI-O together as a single set of software to run Kubernetes in production easily.
Key Features of Red Hat Openshift
- Automatic scaling: OpenShift’s built-in scaling features allow for the automatic scaling of applications based on load, ensuring that resources are always available when needed.
- Integrated CI/CD: OpenShift includes built-in support for continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) workflows, making it easy to build, test, and deploy applications.
- Self-service provisioning: OpenShift’s self-service provisioning allows developers to easily provision and manage the resources they need to build and run applications without needing to go through IT.
Take a look at the comparison between OpenShift and Kubernetes.
Packer is a tool developed by HashiCorp that you can use to create identical machine and container images for multiple platforms from a single source configuration.
With its “Images as Code” approach, Packer standardizes and automates the process of building machine images.
Key features of Packer
- Packer is extendable: By adding new builders, provisioners, post-processors, and data sources, you can extend Packer’s capability without changing its core.
- Image security and compliance: With Packer, you can create one compliance and security workflow for images that are provisioned across multiple clouds.
- Automate image updates across provisioning pipelines and downstream builds.
Vagrant is a tool for building and managing virtual machine environments in a single workflow. It is designed to work with various infrastructure providers, such as VirtualBox, VMware, and AWS.
Vagrant provides a simple, easy-to-use command-line interface to manage the lifecycle of virtual machines, allowing developers to create and configure lightweight, reproducible, and portable development environments.
Key features of Vagrant
- Single workflow: Vagrant has a single workflow to build and manage virtual machine environments.
- Vagrant mirrors production environments by providing the same operating system and configurations, all while allowing users to use their favorite editor, IDE, and browser.
Prometheus is an open-source systems monitoring and alerting toolkit originally built at SoundCloud. It helps you collect and track metrics from your applications and infrastructure and can be used to identify and troubleshoot issues.
Prometheus provides a fast and straightforward functional query language called PromQL (Prometheus Query Language) for selecting and aggregating time-series data in real-time. It can also trigger alerts based on certain thresholds or patterns you define.
Prometheus is widely used in cloud-native environments and is a popular choice for monitoring Kubernetes clusters.
Key features of Prometheus
- Because Prometheus uses a time series database to store metrics effectively, tracking and monitoring how datasets change over time is easy.
- The pull-based monitoring system: so applications that need monitoring won’t require configuration to push metrics by themselves.
- Centralized control server: for monitoring metrics. Developers don’t have to configure applications one by one.
- Alert manager: to manage and send notifications.
Sensu is an observability platform that helps you monitor and troubleshoot issues in your infrastructure and applications. It allows you to collect and track metrics, set alerts, and visualize your data in various ways.
Sensu is highly scalable and flexible and can monitor a wide range of systems and services, including bare metal and cloud-native environments.
Key features of Sensu
- Consolidates monitoring tools: Sensu consolidates monitoring tools like Prometheus to fill gaps in observability by eliminating data silos and bringing:
- Automate diagnosis and
- Self-healing capabilities.
- Observability control plane: to manage infrastructure complexity at scale.
Nagios is an industry-standard IT infrastructure monitoring tool. With Nagios solutions, you can monitor your entire IT infrastructure, quickly sort log data, or analyze your bandwidth.
Nagios alerts administrators when things go wrong or when predetermined thresholds are reached. Nagios can monitor a wide range of resources, including servers, switches, applications, and services on-prem and on the cloud.
Key features of Nagios
- Detailed reporting: Nagios provides detailed reports on the status of your network, servers, and applications, including historical data and trend analysis.
- Scalability: Nagios can scale to monitor large networks with hundreds or thousands of devices, making it suitable for use in enterprise environments.
- Automation: Nagios can be integrated with other tools and automated processes, allowing you to automate incident response and remediation tasks.
Infrastructure automation is a critical aspect of modern software development and DevOps practices. The 20 tools outlined in this blog provide a wide range of options for automating various aspects of infrastructure management, including provisioning, configuration management, continuous integration and delivery, and monitoring.
Whether you are a small startup or a large enterprise, a tool on this list can help you automate your infrastructure and improve your overall development and operations workflow.
The most Flexible CI/CD Automation Tool
Spacelift is an alternative to using homegrown solutions on top of a generic CI. It helps overcome common state management issues and adds several must-have capabilities for infrastructure management.