DevOps as it’s said in not only a methodology but a mindset as well. Therefore, several teams need to work as a union of development and operations. Also, DevOps has quite a few components that need to merge seamlessly to get what is required. A key element, which usually serves as the center of the DevOps “structure,” is configuration management.
So, what is this configuration management?
Configuration management can refer to something unique in different industries. In the software industry, it refers to managing any item that is configured for the sake of the project. For example, source codes, property files, binaries, servers, and tools can all be configuration items for a software firm. This solely can decide the future of the project. As we know for software to be developed successfully various factors are taken into account. But the most critical is the configuration as it varies in all aspects.
Comprehensive Configuration Management
DevOps, as we know, is an alliance between development and operations. Therefore, it is only obvious that configuration management also spans over both sections.
Configuration management ranges over three broad sections
- Artifact Repository- It is a database of files that are not always in use. Like libraries, or test data. DevOps is a continuous process, so, it is always producing such files. These required to be stored but not necessarily be accessed.
- Source Code Repository- It is the opposite of the above. This is a database to store the working codes. It also stores configuration files and various scripts.
- Configuration Management Database- It is a relational database that ranges over several systems and applications related to configuration management, including services, servers, applications, and databases, and many more.
Configuration Tools- Puppet, Ansible, and Salt Stack
With the basic know-how of configuration management. Let us look into a few tools used in this process: Puppet, Ansible, and Salt Stack. For that, we will take a comparative approach. We will be looking into these tools concerning a few metrics:
Availability– These tools are the heart of servers of huge enterprises. The entire development process depends on the configuration because from source codes to the prod servers to the hosts all of them are controlled by these. Therefore, it is very important that whenever any part of it fails, back-up is readily available.
- Puppet- It works on master-slave architecture. It has a multi-master approach. Whenever the active master crashes, the other takes over the charge.
- Ansible- It has only one active node, primary instance. But it does provide a secondary instance in any such cases for back-up.
- Salt Stack- It is capable of configuring multiple masters. Hence, it has multiple main servers to maintain the configurations across.
Ease of Setup– Though this is a small price to pay for all the hectic workload that gets automated with the use of these tools. But for someone doing this for the first-time ease of setup does matter.
- Puppet- It has multiple masters at its call. Also, Puppet’s main server runs on the master machine and Puppet client runs as a slave on each machine. Therefore, the set-up seems quite a task.
- Ansible- It works on a single active- node, and no agents running on the slave machines. Therefore, no separate VM is required on each of the client machines. This approach makes it easier in terms of setup.
- Salt Stack- It also works on the master-slave architecture, it also, has multiple servers at its disposal. Host servers are known as salt masters, and clients are called salt minions. It is also a heavy setup to succumb.
Management– There are two types of configurations push and pull. The push configurations principle is that the servers push the configurations to the nodes connected. In pull configurations, the nodes pull the configurations from the central servers to themselves without any command.
- Puppet- It follows a pull configuration. It has its unique Domain-Specific Language- Puppet DSL. It is known as the system-administration oriented tool. Immediate remote execution is also not available in Puppet.
- Ansible- It follows the push configuration. It uses YAML- Yet another Mark-up Language, Python which is quite user-friendly. Also, it provides immediate remote execution.
- Salt Stack- It also follows push configuration, and uses YAML.
Interoperability: Another Aspect is the interoperability of all the above-mentioned tools. All of these tools have the same condition. The main/central server or the master has to operate on Linux/Unix. Whereas the slave or client machines can work on windows.
Scalability: Scalability is another highly valuable aspect. All of these tools are equally well equipped to handle any kind of scalability whether scale-up or scale-down. You would have to just specify the IP addresses and the hostname of the nodes to be configured.
Functions of the Configuration Management Tools
Now after comparing all the tools, we have understood these are responsible for deploying, configuring, and managing the servers. Now, I will list out the functions these tools perform:
- They provide centralized control over all the machines configured through any of these tools. Hence, no fuss in implementing any change. Any change in the main server can propagate the change in all.
- Defines the configuration of the host servers, also keeps close tabs for any changes. In case of any changes, they are equipped to fall back to the default configuration.
- It can scale-up or scale-down servers depending on the requirement.
DevOps starts with configuration and ends with it too. Also, in between the start and end, it remains configured. The main objective of DevOps is to develop software at the earliest. This calls for an outstanding and flawless (well almost) approach. Configuration management is an indispensable part of that approach. We cannot forget that even if we can replicate the client environment by placing our applications in containers but that is not enough. The configurations of each machine will always differ. We cannot separate configuration management from DevOps, doing so would be a faulty perspective towards DevOps.
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