DevOps Automation Tools for SaaS Companies
Readers will get a better understanding of DevOps tools for SaaS companies, infrastructure management, infrastructure automation, CI/CD pipelines, and more.
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As DevOps has become mainstream now, it is time for businesses to stop thinking about what DevOps is and start leveraging the amazing benefits offered by DevOps automation tools.
DevOps is a methodology that integrates development and operations teams to seamlessly collaborate throughout the product development lifecycle. While it started with Dev and Ops, the functionality is not limited to these two departments anymore. Based on your project requirements and niche, you can create cross-functional teams composed of members from development, design, testing, QA, security, business, etc. DevOps not only transforms business operations but also brings a culture change across the organization.
Benefits of DevOps Automation
Automation is an important component of today’s IT infrastructure. By incorporating automation across the infrastructure, administrators can run various processes without human intervention. It enables you to build CI/CD pipeline workflows to accelerate software development.
DevOps and automation go hand in hand. Developers can combine API-centric code with automation and deliver software products faster and better. Similarly, administrators can apply Infrastructure as Code (IaC) methods to automate provisioning and deployment with self-service capabilities without human intervention.
DevOps automation tools are, at times, confused with the Infrastructure as Code (IaC) tools. However, IaC is a part of DevOps automation. IaC enables administrators to provision and manage the infrastructure using code while DevOps automation talks about a broader picture of managing the entire software development product lifecycle using DevOps tools for automation that include IaC tools as well.
The key to fully leveraging the DevOps revolution is choosing the right DevOps automation tools for the infrastructure.
DevOps Automation Tools for Infrastructure Management
AWS CloudFormation is a DevOps automation tool from Amazon that enables administrators to model and provision AWS resources by simply describing the target state of the infrastructure as a template. With CloudFormation, you don’t have to configure the remote state. CloudFormation manages the state of the infrastructure out-of-the-box. You can use “Change Sets” to verify changes before applying them. It supports rolling updates for autoscaling groups. You can perform a rollback if needed. CloudFormation works across all the services offered by AWS and is good at handling secrets. This managed service is free and AWS support includes support for CloudFormation.
Benefits of CloudFormation
- CloudFormation supports cross-country and cross-region management, which means you can use a single CloudFormation template to manage AWS resources across multiple regions and accounts.
- You can use YAML or JSON to declare the configuration.
- AWS CloudFormation Designer is a visual designer that lets you visually configure CloudFormation templates.
- Cloud environments can be defined using familiar languages such as Python, Java, TypeScript, and .NET.
- It offers a preview to check how the changes impact the environment.
- AWS Serverless Application Model (SAM) allows you to build serverless applications faster by writing a few lines of code per resource.
- Dependency management is available.
- Good safety controls in place.
- Good document and community support.
Things To Improve
Modularization is not straightforward in CloudFormation. You have to take different approaches, such as using nested stacks or import/export output values, between modules. There is no central place for sharing templates.
Terraform is a popular Infrastructure as Code (IaC) tool offered by Hashicorp Inc. This open-source tool was developed by Mitchell Hashimoto using the Go programming language and was released in 2014. It supports all major platforms, including Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, macOS, Solaris and OpenBSD. In addition to supporting the AWS platform, Terraform also supports other cloud providers such as Google Cloud Platform, Azure, IBM Cloud, OpenStack, Oracle Cloud, Digital Ocean, VMware vSphere, and other third party services.
Terraform uses a declarative model to define the state of the target infrastructure. Hashicorp Configuration Language (HCL) is the domain-specific language you should use to write your configuration files. Optionally, JSON can be used as well. Terraform enables you to efficiently manage high-level components, such as SaaS features and DNS entries, and low-level components such as networking, storage and compute instances.
Benefits of Terraform
- Terraform offers execution plans that let you preview changes before applying them to the infrastructure.
- Terraform proactively monitors infrastructure changes and incrementally creates execution plans to ensure the infrastructure is always maintained in the desired state.
- Efficiently manages multi-cloud environments.
- Integrates well with your existing version control systems.
- HCL code can be translated into JSON format.
- You can lock modules so only one person can apply changes to the infrastructure at one time.
Things To Improve
Terraform uses a domain-specific language HCL. It means you need to learn HCL just to manage the infrastructure. Secondly, the infrastructure should always be in sync with the states. There is no error handling and automatic rollback feature. Refactoring or renaming resources is not easy.
Ansible is an open-source provisioning and configuration management tool that was released in 2012 by Ansible Inc. It was written in PowerShell, Python, and Ruby by Michael DeHaan and supports Linux, macOS, and Windows operating systems. Ansible was acquired by RedHat in 2015, and is now included as a part of the Fedora distribution of Linux. Ansible uses an agentless architecture, which means there is no code running on the controlled nodes. During an orchestration task, the module process communicates with the controlled node via a JSON-based protocol. When Ansible is not managing nodes, there is no resource consumption on the node machine. It allows you to describe the configuration in its own declarative language. You can create consistent environments using Ansible. Tasks are stored in YAML files called Playbooks.
Benefits of Ansible
- Free and open-source.
- Secure as there are no agents deployed on node machines.
- Allows you to create consistent environments.
- With minimal dependencies, Ansible is easy to configure and manage.
- There is a minimal learning curve as the descriptive language is YAML-based.
- Without the need to install extra software or daemon on controlled nodes, Ansible optimizes resource usage and improves operational efficiencies.
- Ansible is robust enough to support complex IT workflows and flexible enough to customize and orchestrate the entire app environment.
- Supports a wide range of environments, including bare metals, virtual machines, AWS, Azure, GCP, Oracle Cloud, and other cloud environments as well as VMware and XenServer virtual environments.
- Agentless architecture simplifies IT management.
- Good community support.
Things To Improve
Ansible was initially a CLI tool. Later, AWX GUI was introduced with a GUI capability. The improved version of AWX GUI is now called the Ansible Tower. However, the UI Interface is not visually appealing and can still be improved. You might experience conflicting query results owing to synchronization issues between the GUI and CLI. Windows support is limited. Ansible doesn’t track dependencies, which means there is no notion of state.
Pulumi allows you to define cloud resources more expressively and efficiently using variables and loops instead of just copy-pasting code. You can also use any node library. It automatically checks for errors. Being designed with cloud-native computing in mind, the tool allows you to easily manage containers and serverless architecture to quickly build and deploy apps on a variety of IT environments.
Benefits of Pulumi
- Supports real programming languages such as Go, .NET Core, Node.js, and Python.
- Allows dynamic resource creation at runtime.
- Easy standard utility functions.
- Policy compliance is good. Pulumi creates a preview and checks if it complies with policies before resources are created or modified.
- State management through Pulumi comes by default. Self-management is also available.
- Allows you to work alongside Terraform
- Business-friendly Apache License 2.0.
Things To Improve
When it comes to structuring large projects, Pulumi structures them as multiple micro-projects or a single monolithic project. As such, it becomes difficult to deserialize stack references when trying to map multiple resources via higher-level Pulumi extensions. Compared to big names, like Terraform or CloudFormation, Pulumi documentation and community support is limited.
Bash scripting allows developers to write commands as inputs and execute a specific task. You can write the script once and reuse it again. The length of a Bash script may vary from a few lines to thousands of lines. Using Bash shell scripts, you can automatically provision and manage environments, deploy resources, perform test suites, etc. You can use them in CI/CD pipelines and inside virtual machines as well.
Bash is a popular tool for writing shell scripts and is included in all Unix-like operating systems, enabling you to write portable POSIX scripts. Bash scripting is one of the top ten most popular technologies and offers the highest salaries as well, as reported by Stack Overflow.
There are several reasons to use Bash as a part of your DevOps tools in automation instead of PHP or JSP. It allows developers to derive maximum output from a bare-minimum machine. When you don’t have access to PHP, you can use Bash to retrieve the system info in JSON format and display it as a webpage as well. It works as a time series based data exporter. Bash allows you to write commands using simple grammar, making it easy to learn and use. It also supports basic concepts of programming. It natively supports process execution.
Benefits of Bash
- Easy and readable syntax.
- Available with all Unix-like operating systems.
- Most popular shell script tool.
- Reusable scripts for repetitive tasks.
- Natively supports process execution.
- Supports loops, if-else, functions, variables, arithmetic operations, etc.
- Easy to write portable POSIX scripts.
Things To Improve
Bash scripts perform slower when compared with other programming languages owing to the lack of a standard API wherein you have to spawn processes to process data. Being a command language, Bash considers everything you write as a command. When the automation logic grows bigger, it becomes a challenge to manage Bash scripts for automation tasks.
Python scripting is a good alternative to Bash scripting. Python is one of the most popular programming languages used by developers across the globe. One of the main reasons for this popularity is that it is developer-friendly. There are hundreds of built-in libraries that help developers quickly and easily write code and deploy products faster. Most of the Unix-like operating systems come preinstalled with a Python interpreter, allowing developers to write portable automation scripts.
For instance, Boto is a Python package that allows you to write scripts for automating AWS tasks such as starting/stopping EC2 instances and managing resources via APIs. Boto3 is the latest Boto version that now supports more than fifty Amazon services spanning storage, compute, network, billing, application, database, etc.
Benefits of Python Scripting
- Python is a popular programming language used by several developers.
- Developer-friendly language.
- Offers a large portfolio of built-in libraries.
- Python interpreter is available with all Unix-like OS’.
- Working with commands and processes is made easy with Plumbum and Shellpy APIs.
- Allows you to connect to AWS resources and manage them with scripts using third party tools such as Boto.
Things To Improve
Python is not a command language, which means you cannot directly execute shell scripts as commands. It does not natively support process execution as Bash does. However, you can use the subprocess module to spawn processes and connect to the input/output and error pipelines to receive the return codes. Python scripts are not readable and the syntax is slightly complex when compared to Bash scripts. However, you can simplify Python scripts using tools like Shellpy. Python execution is slow compared to other scripting languages. When dependent libraries are involved, it gets much slower.
Best Toolset for DevOps Infrastructure Automation
Here are the best toolsets for DevOps infrastructure automation:
Docker for Containerization
Docker is the most popular containerization solution available in the market. It offers a robust and comprehensive containerization ecosystem that lets you manage the entire application deployment lifecycle with ease. Docker is flexible, modular, collaborative, highly-portable, scalable, and enables you to create consistent and isolated environments. With automatic rollbacks and repeatability, it offers a cost-effective way of deploying apps faster and better. While finalizing DevOps tools for automation, Docker should always be an automatic inclusion.
Kubernetes for Container Orchestration
Kubernetes is the leader in the container orchestration segment. It works with almost every container runtime, and is flexible and highly portable. It is battle-tested and proven technology. Lastly, it supports multi-cloud deployments while increasing developer productivity.
CloudFormation for Infrastructure Automation
CloudFormation is a powerful infrastructure automation tool offered by AWS. It seamlessly integrates with AWS services, enabling you to easily connect and collaborate all your development and infrastructure management tasks.
Terraform for Non-AWS Environments
If you use non-AWS environments, such as Microsoft Azure, IBM Cloud, Oracle Cloud, or Google Cloud Platform (GCP) cloud environments, Terraform is a good option to automate infrastructure management tasks. It best suits multi-cloud deployments as well.
Python for Automation Scripts
Python is a popular programming language and is best suited for creating portable automation scripts. You can write shell scripts and use APIs to connect to infrastructure resources and manage them with ease. It is open-source and cost-effective.
DevOps Automation Tools for CI/CD Pipelines
The advent of DevOps has revolutionized the software development segment. Gone are the days when the software was developed through a waterfall approach, wherein the code traveled through different stages of development linearly. DevOps brings cross-functional teams into the picture wherein development and operations teams, along with the testing, security, and business professionals come together to collaborate throughout the application life cycle.
Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Deployment (CD) is an important component of the DevOps continuous delivery model. CI/CD is an innovative approach to delivering applications by incorporating automation into each stage of the application development lifecycle.
Here are some DevOps automation Tools:
- AWS CodePipeline
Continuous integration allows developers to frequently merge the changes onto the main branch while the testing team automatically performs tests to ensure the software is of high quality and is not broken. Similarly, continuous delivery allows automatic deployment of code to the test environment and then to the production environment.
Published at DZone with permission of William Talluri. See the original article here.
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