The Top 5 Configuration Management Tools for 2024

What Are Configuration Management Tools?

In the world of IT and DevOps, configuration management involves tools and practices that automate managing configuration items within IT infrastructure. This helps through the development and deployment processes. Configuration management software tools are applications that help automate the process of setting, checking and maintaining software, hardware and system configurations within an IT environment.

These tools help maintain system consistency and allow for efficient and controlled changes. They are essential in modern DevOps practices, providing capabilities for version control, automated provisioning and maintaining configuration consistency across various environments.

Key Functions of Configuration Management Tools

Configuration management software tools help in:

  1. Automation: Automate repetitive tasks such as setting up servers, installing software and configuring systems.
  2. Change Management: Implement configuration items in a controlled and documented manner while being able to track and manage changes to configuration items.
  3. Version Control: Maintain versions of configurations, enabling rollbacks to previous states if needed.
  4. Consistent Configurations: Reduce “it works on my machine” issues by maintaining consistent configurations across different environments (development, testing, production).
  5. Compliance and Auditing: Provide detailed logs and reports of configuration changes, aiding in compliance with regulatory standards and facilitating audits.
  6. Infrastructure as Code (IaC): Treat infrastructure configurations as code, allowing them to be versioned, tested and deployed using the same tools and practices as software development.

Best Configuration Management Tools for 2024

As of 2024, the landscape of configuration management tools continues to evolve, with several standout options catering to various DevOps and IT infrastructure management needs. Here are some of the best configuration management tools for 2024:

1. Progress Chef

Progress Chef is a configuration management tool that writes configuration policies on Ruby-based Domain Specific Language (DSL). It offers open-source and enterprise versions.

Key Features:

  • Infrastructure automation
  • Compliance and security features
  • Dashboards for end-to-end visibility and control
  • Job Orchestration and Node Management
  • Application Deployment
  • Flexibility of both agent-based and agentless architecture
  • Strong focus on test-driven infrastructure
  • Available as a SaaS deployment

Chef is ideal for organizations with a code-centric approach to configuration management and infrastructure automation. Customers use Chef because of its scalability and ability to handle complex infrastructures. Learn more.

2. Ansible

Ansible is a configuration management tool by Red Hat (and now IBM) that uses a simple, human-readable language (YAML) for automation and configuration management.

Key Features:

  • Agentless architecture
  • Extensive modules and playbooks
  • Strong community support
  • Easy to learn and use

Ansible is known for automation, orchestration, and configuration management in environments ranging from small to large enterprises. Learn more.

3. Puppet

Puppet is a mature configuration management tool that uses declarative language to manage infrastructure.

Key Features:

  • Model-driven approach
  • Extensive ecosystem of modules
  • Enterprise-grade features like role-based access control and reporting
  • Strong support for compliance and audit requirements

Puppet is used by companies with complex infrastructure and a need for detailed compliance reporting. Learn more.

4. Terraform

Terraform by HashiCorp (and now IBM) is an open-source tool for managing infrastructure as code using a declarative configuration language (HCL).

Key Features:

  • Provider ecosystem for multi-cloud and on-premises environments
  • State management and versioning
  • Strong support for infrastructure provisioning
  • Works well with other HashiCorp tools (Vault, Consul, etc.)

It is used for multi-cloud and hybrid cloud environments that require robust infrastructure provisioning and management.

5. SaltStack (Salt)

SaltStack, now part of VMware and Broadcom, provides event-driven automation for cloud operations and configuration management.

Key Features:

  • Real-time configuration updates
  • High scalability and performance
  • Powerful event-driven architecture
  • Extensive modules and states

It is used by organizations needing real-time configuration management and event-driven automation.

How to Choose Your Configuration Management Tool

To choose the right configuration management tool for your organization, you must evaluate several factors to proper alignment with your specific needs and environment. To help guide your decision to choose a configuration management software consider the six factors:

1. Define Your Requirements

  • Scope: Determine the scope of what you need to manage—servers, network devices, applications, cloud infrastructure, etc.
  • Scale: Assess the size and complexity of your environment. Are you managing a few servers or thousands of nodes?
  • Frequency of Changes: Consider how often configurations change and need to be updated.

2. Evaluate These Key Features

  • Automation: Look for tools that can automate repetitive tasks and complex workflows
  • Agent vs. Agentless: Decide if you prefer agent-based tools or agentless tools
  • Ease of Use: Consider the learning curve and ease of use not only while starting to use the product but also later when scalability becomes a priority. Tools like Ansible use YAML syntax and can be easy to start, while others like Chef use Ruby, which makes scaling and managing complex infrastructure easier.
  • Integration: Check for compatibility with your existing tools and platforms (e.g., CI/CD pipelines, monitoring tools).

3. Consider Organizational Factors

  • Team Skillset: Choose a tool that matches the expertise of your team.
  • Budget Fit: Evaluate the initial and annual costs of the tool, including licensing, support and potential training.
  • Regulatory Requirements: Do some due diligence on how your tool can help you meet any industry-relevant compliance and audit requirements.

4. Pilot and Test

  • Proof of Concept (PoC): Conduct a PoC with a few selected tools to evaluate their performance in your specific environment.
  • Evaluate Usability: Test the tool’s ease of use, integration capabilities and overall performance while handling scalable complex infrastructures.
  • Feedback from Team: Gather feedback from your team on the tool’s usability and effectiveness. Will they want to use it? Will it increase their productivity?

5. Review Documentation and Support

  • Documentation and Resources: Check the availability of documentation, tutorials and other learning resources.
  • Community: A vibrant community can provide support, modules and plugins that enhance the tool’s functionality.
  • Vendor Support: Evaluate the quality of vendor support, including response times and expertise.

6. Explore the Long-term Viability

  • Updates and Roadmap: Research to see if the vendor invests in future development and maintenance while having a clear product roadmap.
  • Scalability: Choose a tool that can grow with your organization and handle increased complexity and scale.

Chef for Configuration Management

DevOps teams who are seeking a more user-friendly way to handle infrastructure configurations, Chef is a go-to option. It also provides orchestration, continuous compliance, and application deployment capabilities. Chef is also available as a SaaS solution—completely managed by Chef—that makes it easy to get started and prove its value. the value of using it.

Companies like Meta praise Chef for its incredible flexibility. Customers like Carfax have used Chef to reduce the time to complete a new server build task from days to minutes and to bring engineering and developers closer, accelerating iteration and innovation. Talk to us to learn more about how Chef can help in your configuration management and automation journey.

You can look into the 2024 Gartner Market Guide for Infrastructure Automation and Orchestration Tools to know more about configuration management tools.

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Jnanankur Ghosh

Jnanankur is a Senior Product Marketing Manager at Progress responsible for the Chef portfolio. He has worked in product marketing roles in telecom, biometric security, cloud computing, and voice technology domains and takes a keen interest in traveling and sports.