Top 15 Best Configuration Management Tools in DevOps

Top 15 Best Configuration Management Tools in DevOps.  Configuration management is about managing computer systems (hardware or software) in the desired state. Maintaining it ensures optimal system performance and functionality. It also means end users don’t experience any downtime, or crucial business processes aren’t disrupted. This is where configuration management tools come in place.

In DevOps, configuration management tools provide all capabilities you need to manage your systems. They help avoid lots of error prone manual processes. They help achieve the desired system state continuously and speed up system deployment and configurations. You scale deployments and predict various outcomes. 

Let’s start the Top 15 Best Configuration Management Tools in DevOps.

Top 15 Best Configuration Management Tools

1. Ansible

Ansible is an highly popular DevOps management that automates all repeated processes, allowing you to focus more on deployments and strategy. It automates servers, networking and storage from a single platform. 

With Ansible you establish the desired baselines for system. The tool then manages all configuration and alerts you in case of inconsistencies. 

Well, Ansible is a highly feature rich tool with robust architecture. For instance, use modules and playbooks to kickstart configuration management. Besides, leverage automation analytics to have complete visibility into your automation.

Pros of Ansible

  • Easily use Ansible’s playbooks to configure infrastructure with minimal coding skills.
  • Does not require any agents installed on remote systems.
  • Easily orchestrate the entire application regardless of where it’s deployed.
  • Models complex IT workflows easily.

Cons of Ansible

2. Terraform

Next with article Top 15 Best Configuration Management Tools in DevOps is Terraform. An infrastructure as code (IAC) tool that enables developers to provision and manage cloud resources. Written in HCL, a declarative language to define the desired state of workloads. With relatively simple syntax, it allows for a high-level declaration of the desired state of your infrastructure, which Terraform achieves by creating, modifying, or deleting resources as necessary. It’s built to work with numerous service providers and to handle multi-cloud deployments. This enabling users to manage a wide array of services and orchestrate them to work together.

One of the unique aspects of Terraform is its ability to create a plan before any changes are actually applied. In essence, Terraform predicts possible outcomes of your desired set of changes. When a Terraform configuration file is modified, the tool creates an execution plan describing what it does to reach the desired state. This way, users avoid unwanted surprises and ensure that the changes are as they intended.

Moreover, Terraform also uses a state management system, where it maintains a state file that maps the real resources to your configuration. This state file is used to check for differences in the current and desired state, aiding in making the correct modifications. State management is crucial in configuration management, as it allows for robust tracking of all resources. 

Pros of Terraform

Cons of Terraform

  • Errors are often difficult to debug.
  • The HCL language provides limited programming functionality.

3. Chef Infra

Chef infra Architecture

Chef Infra is a powerful automation platform developed by Chef Software to enable developers streamline configuration and infrastructure management. With Chef Infra, the infrastructure is defined as code in such a way that it is flexible, easy to test and human readable. The tool works by converting infrastructure into code, thereby minimizing manual and repetitive tasks. This approach manages complex environments easily and improves system reliability.

In the Chef environment, configurations are managed through “recipes” and “cookbooks“. A recipe is a collection of resources that describes a particular configuration (like installing a package or running a script). Whilst recipes are bundled into cookbooks that describe a complete scenario. Each cookbook defines a scenario, such as everything needed to install and configure MySQL, and contains everything required to support that scenario. These cookbooks are then distributed to the nodes (servers, containers, network devices, etc.) that they configure.

Also, Chef Infra operates in a master agent model. The Chef Infra Server acts as a hub that is accessible from each node. The nodes have the Chef Infra Client installed, which communicates with the server to pull the necessary cookbooks and apply the recipes. This methodology allows for automated, flexible configuration management. 

Pros of Chef Infra

  • Pre-packaged templates that make it easy to manage complex infrastructure.
  • Large, vibrant community of users.
  • Uses Ruby language for configuration so easy to understand.
  • The concept of recipes allows users to easily update machines with different configurations and operating systems.

Cons of Chef

  • Requires installation on machines as it is not agentless.
  • Need to run the Chef-client agent on the nodes frequently in order to update its state details to master.

4. Helm

Following tool of Top 15 Best Configuration Management Tools in DevOps is Helm. Application package manager running on top of Kubernetes. Basically, it enables developers to package, configure and deploy applications and services onto Kubernetes clusters. Basically, Helm uses a packaging format called “charts”, which are collections of files that describe a related set of Kubernetes resources. A Helm chart is a set of YAML manifests and templates that developers use to configure resources. These charts help in defining, installing, and upgrading even the most complex Kubernetes application, abstracting away the complexity and allowing for easy deployment.

What is more, a Helm chart may contain all the Kubernetes components required for a full web application stack. This includes web server, a database, caching system, and so on. After defining a chart, Helm ensures all these resources are deployed to your Kubernetes cluster in the correct order. It ensure smooth handling of dependencies and versioning, and managing your releases.

Pros of Helm

  • Simplifies the deployment of Kubernetes applications by grouping related resources into a single, manageable unit called a chart.
  • Promotes reusability and collaboration through its chart repository, allowing teams to share and reuse configurations.
  • Makes application upgrades and rollbacks seamless, facilitating version management of your deployments.
  • Supports complex applications through its templating system, which handles varying configurations across different environments.
  • Provides a high level abstraction layer that reduces the complexity associated with managing Kubernetes resources.

Cons of Helm

  • Highly complex and debugging charts is extremely difficult.
  • Steep learning curve.

5. AWS Config

AWS Config is a managed cloud service provided by Amazon Web Services (AWS). This service heps manage and track the configuration of AWS resources within an environment. First, it provides a detailed inventory of AWS resources and their current configurations, while continuously recording changes. This allows users to evaluate the impact of changes or troubleshoot in case of operational issues. Acts as a comprehensive solution for assessing resource configuration and compliance. Besides, it provides a means to visualize resource relationships and trace changes in resource configurations over time.

To help users configure various party of their architecture, AWS Config provides a set of rules to evaluate the configuration of your settings. When AWS resources do not align with these rules, AWS Config flags them as non compliant and sends a notification. This tool integrates seamlessly with other AWS services. Integrate it with S3 to store configuration snapshots or set up Amazon SNS to send configuration stream notifications.

Pros of AWS Config

  • Deep visibility into your AWS resources enabling you to improve security and governance.
  • Provides historical details of configurations, enabling you to effectively track and audit changes.
  • Assess compliance with internal policies and regulatory standards more conveniently.
  • Provides ultimate tools to restore configurations or manage change related incidents thus helping with disaster recovery.
  • Integrates with other AWS services, maximizing the utility and efficiency of your cloud environment.

Cons of AWS Config

  • Only useful for AWS, hence a problem or vendor lock-in.
  • Requires proper knowledge of cloud costs so can get expensive.
  • Steep learning curve.

6. Salt

SaltStack, or Salt, is an open source configuration management tool that automates admin and provisioning of server infrastructure. Developed in Python, Salt is built on a scalable, event driven automation engine which allows IT administrators to manage thousands of servers with ease. With master slave architecture, it ensures efficient management of systems at scale.

Declarative system with high level configuration language that represent the desired state of the system. For instance, a state is a particular software package that shall be installed, or that a service should be running. In essence, states allow system administrators to dictate the desired state of a system.

Apart from configuration management, SaltStack is well-regarded for its remote execution capabilities. Administrators run commands on various machines in parallel with real-time return data. Incredibly useful for task automation and orchestration. With its event-driven architecture, any change in a system can trigger real-time automated reactions, enabling a self healing system that address issues as they occur. Overall, SaltStack presents a versatile toolset for managing complex and large-scale infrastructure, providing both configuration management and orchestration functionalities.

Pros of SaltStack

  • Lightning fast automation. 
  • Highly scalable and handles thousands of nodes without sacrificing speed, hence ideal for large enterprises.
  • Extensible architecture that allows easy integration with other tools and services.
  • Utilizes a simple, Python based open source language, providing a more intuitive and streamlined experience for developers.

Cons of SaltStack

  • Relatively longer execution time to other configuration management tools.
  • Steep learning curve.

7. Bamboo

Bamboo Data Center is a continuous delivery pipeline that enables developers to automate workflows and scale infrastructure reliably.  With Bamboo, you manage the entire software release from building to deployment. This tool provides all the functionality you need, plus it integrates with other Atlassian tools like Opsgenie, BitBucket, and Jira. Also, it integrates with other thirdparty tools such as AWS CodeDeploy and Docker.

Pros of Bamboo

  • Robust engine and deployment system allows for smooth and reliable continuous integration and deployment. 
  • Multi branch testing and parallel execution.
  • Excellent customization options and extensibility with the support of plugins and custom scripts.

Cons of Bamboo

  • Interface is found cluttered and unintuitive.
  • Limited Microsoft integration and deployment.
  • Relatively costly, especially for small and medium sized companies.

8. Jenkins

Further, with Top 15 Best Configuration Management Tools in DevOps is Jenkins. Popular open source tool for continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) in software development. This tool automates the delivery pipeline, enabling an error free development process. Basically, it enables users to find and solve code issues to improve the quality of software.

Well, Jenkins also facilitates continuous delivery by integrating with a large number of testing and deployment technologies. Using Jenkins, developers automate tasks like building, testing, and delivering or deploying software. This tool is highly extensible and supports integration with almost all types of version control systems and build technologies. In a nutshell, Jenkins integrates with tools such Docker, Maven, and Git. These integrations make Jenskins a popular choice for different projects, from simple web applications to enterprise  grade systems.

Pros of Jenkins

  • Automates the entire software development process hence reducing the chance of errors.
  • Provides real time feedback on software build, enabling quick fixes and maintaining code quality.
  • Offers extensive plugin support to integrate with many other tools.
  • Built in GUI tools that speed up configuration process while reducing the learning curve for new users.
  • Allows for parallel execution of tests, hence speeding up the software testing process.
  • Helps with version control, ensuring that developers easily manage and track changes to the source code.

Cons of Jenkins

  • Challenging configuration and management especially when dealing with complex workloads.
  • Less intuitive interface.
  • Has most plug ins in its library but most of them not regularly updated.
  • Changes in setting causes the pipeline to break.

9. Vagrant

Developed by HashiCorp, Vagrant is an open source software product for managing virtual development environments. Provides an automation workflow, enabling developers to create portable and consistent environments that mirror the production environment. Basically, it provides all OS, accounts, packages, and configurations while enabling developers to leverate their preferred browsers, IDEs, and editors. This enables developers to work on different virtual environment to build and provision environments with ease.

Pros of Vagrant

  • Offers consistent development environments, ensuring all team members work in the same setup.
  • Allows for easy setup and teardown of virtual machines, increasing the efficiency of development workflows.
  • Integrates with other config. tools such as Puppet, Chef, and Ansible
  • Support multiple platforms like VirtualBox, Hyper-V, Docker
  • Supports network settings configuration, allowing users to simulate real world network scenarios for testing.

Cons of Vagrant

  • Lacks a GUI, which makes it difficult for new users.
  • Eats lots of memory and CPU especially when running numerous VMs.

10. TeamCity

Developed by Jetbrains, TeamCity is a CI/CD tool with advanced configuration management capabilities.  Uses a Kotlin-based DSL (Domain Specific Language) for configuring your build infrastructure as code. This DSL configuration feature makes it easy to version control and synchronize settings across multiple servers, thus eliminating the problems associated with manual configuration. Import libraries, create your functions, and leverage autopilot in your IDE.

TeamCity also facilitates easy backup, restoration, and duplication of settings. Besides, it ensures the scalability of your build infrastructure and simplifies auditing and compliance. 

Each feature is available via a rest API, which allows you to integrate it with your applications. Since it supports all programming languages, you easily use it to create and automate DevOps pipelines with multiple triggers and dependencies, regardless of the scale.

Pros of TeamCity

  • Real time visibility into the build process, offering comprehensive and easily accessible feedback on build health.
  • Integrates seamlessly with popular tools  such as Git, Docker, and AWS to streamline development workflows.
  • Supports parallel and sequential build chains, enabling efficient multi-step build processes.
  • Robust identity management system that ensures absolute access control.
  • Powerful customization and extensibility, thanks to its open API.
  • Built in test reporting to help track and analyse test reports.

Cons of TeamCity

  • Version upgrades are cumbersome and time consuming
  • The debug logs are quite verbose and not well parsed, which makes it difficult to troubleshoot problems
  • It lacks a graphic interface

11. CFEngine

CFEngine is an open source configuration management tool designed to automate and manage IT infrastructure. It ensures team achieve the desired system configurations while also helping correct any differences between the existing and expected state if workload. Besides, CFEngine serves enables system administrators to handle large-scale, complex networks. This tool is written in C, and follows a promise-based management model.

Basically, CFEngine boasts high performance and scalability and capable of managing even tens of thousands of servers. Its lightweight agent-centric architecture enables distributed decision making, meaning each managed node decides its configuration independently, based on the rules defined by the administrator.

Pros of CFEngine

  • Runs faster than most configuration management tools and has fewer dependencies.
  • Small memory footprint as it’s developed in C.
  • Robust version control system.
  • Supports policy driven configuration.

Cons of CFEngine

  • Steep learning curve. 

12. Anthos Config Management

Google Anthos Config Management (ACM) is an essential tool that provides a single interface for configuring and managing policies across different environments. It delivers consistent Kubernetes clusters configurations. This ensures your deployments are uniform, regardless of where they are located, either on-premise, on Google Cloud.

There is a Policy Controller that enables you to enforce fully programmable policies. On top of it is the Config Controller that enables you to manage all Google Cloud resources as you’d manage other Kubernetes resources. With these controllers, you roll out configs to clusters to achieve and maintain the desired state of workloads. 

ACM employs the concept of GitOps, whereby the desired state of the system is declared in a Git repository and the actual state is continuously compared to it. In this mechanism, Git serves as the control mechanism, so that you identify any shifts from the desired state and correct them automatically. This approach ensures that all configurations and policies are version controlled and auditable, providing better security and operational reliability.

Pros of Anthos Config Management

  • Consistently enforce security and compliance. 
  • Centralized configuration and governance across multiple environments.
  • Version controlled system to manage cluster configurations.
  • Continuously monitors environments to help achieve the desired configurations.

Cons of Anthos Config Management

  • Limited documentation. 
  • Takes a lot of time to implement the CI/CD process.

13. AWS CloudFormation

AWS CloudFormation is an AWS service that helps developers provision and manage AWS resources predictably. With CloudFormation, you scale and build highly reliable, high performance, and cost effective applications. Underlying infrastructure is handled by AWS. Instead of manually creating and configuring AWS resources, you describe your desired resources and their dependencies in a CloudFormation template. This file is usually a JSON or YAML formatted text file.

Easily customize these CloudFormation templates to define a wide range of resources. These can be EC2 instances, S3 buckets, and RDS databases, as well as their properties. After creating a template, AWS CloudFormation takes care of provisioning and configuring those resources for you. Ideally, it automatically updates the resources when the template changes.

In addition to these, AWS CloudFormation provides real time monitoring capabilities. 

Pros of AWS CloudFormation

  • Enables efficient infrastructure management by automating the deployment and provisioning of resources.
  • Increases operational predictability.
  • Supports a wide range of AWS services, making it a versatile tool for building complex cloud environments.
  • Provides reusable JSON and YAML templates, which promotes ease of use, maintainability, and reduces errors during deployment.
  • Consistent logging, helping teams trace changes and troubleshoot issues in real time.

Cons of AWS Cloud Formation

  • Does not provide enough description of failures.
  • You have to delete resources manually, which is time consuming.

14. Azure App Configuration

Azure App Configuration is a Microsoft Azure cloud service designed to manage and distribute application configurations from a central location. Instead of handling application settings locally, Azure App Configuration allows developers to store and manage all application settings in the cloud. This feature enables a secure, unified, and reliable experience for developers working on different parts of the application or for teams working across different environments. It’s scalable and efficient, making it suitable for small projects to large enterprises alike.

What is more, App Configuration is capable of updating dynamically. After making changes to the settings, developers implement these updates without redeploying the application. The changes are the applied across all environments. Supports labelling and versioning, allowing multiple configurations for different scenarios. Besides, you may choose to revert to previous settings if necessary.

Manages feature flags, also known as feature toggles. Feature flags allow developers to turn features on and off dynamically without making code changes. This is particularly beneficial for staged rollouts, testing, and quickly reacting to issues in production. 

Pros of Azure App Configuration

  • Complete data encryption both at rest and in transit.
  • Integrates seamlessly with popular frameworks such as Java Spring and .NET.
  • Compare different sets of parameters depending on date and time, labels, etc.
  • Dedicated UI for feature flag management.
  • Integrates with Azure DevOps.

Cons of Azure App Configuration

  • Relatively complex pricing model.
  • Complex documentation.

15. Pulumi

Last but not least of Top 15 Best Configuration Management Tools in DevOps is Pulumi. Modern infrastructure as code (IaC) platform that allows developers to define and manage resources across cloud platforms. Uses programming languages, like Python, JavaScript, TypeScript, and Go. This is unlike other IaC tools that use domain specific languages or YAML based configuration files. Pulumi’s approach provides the advantage of familiar syntax, error checking, and IDE support to help write, test, and maintain the infrastructure code.

The Pulumi open source SDK includes libraries for defining resources on many popular cloud providers. The libraries provide APIs for creating, configuring, and managing resources. After defining the resources, Pulumi uses its engine to execute the requested deployments and updates.  Furthermore, Pulumi offers features like policy-as-code for enforcing best practices, integration with CI/CD pipelines, and cross language support. 

Pros of Pulumi

  • Allows developers to code in their preferred languages.
  • Real time feedback and error messages, reducing development time.
  • Use Pulumi to manage resources in different cloud providers using a single platform, improving efficiency and control.
  • Supports testing frameworks native to your ideal programming language. 
  • Stack concept enables easy configuration and management of different environments.
  • Robust APIs.

Cons of Pulumi

  • Doesn’t support declarative languages, hence requires proper coding skills.

Thank you for reading the article Top 15 Best Configuration Management Tools in DevOps. We shall conclude the article now.

Top 15 Best Configuration Management Tools in DevOps Conclusion

The above are just some of the top configuration management tool you use for your infrastructure. These tools are essentially different, but provide the ultimate functionality needed to configure and manage your workloads. Some tools such as Ansible, Terraform, and Chef are more geared towards creating and managing resources. Also rely on tools like Jenkins and TeamCity if you are looking to build CI/CD pipelines. On top of that, there are cloud native tools such as AWS CloudFormation and Config, Azure App Configuration, and Google Anthos. All you need is to choose from the above selection of tools and get the job done.

Avatar for Dennis Muvaa
Dennis Muvaa

Dennis is an expert content writer and SEO strategist in cloud technologies such as AWS, Azure, and GCP. He's also experienced in cybersecurity, big data, and AI.

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