Introduction

In this writeup, we shall look at some of the top SCM tools and their features, but before that a short introduction on SCM.

SCM tools or Software Configuration Management tools involve tracking changes and maintaining full control over changes in the software environment. SCM includes the establishment of baselines and revision control. It is SCM that keeps track of changes to the software environment, and if something goes wrong, SCM can figure out the changes made and determine the best corrective action to take. SCM, which handles multiple hosts, can also replicate any configuration that is working best for the business, across the board.

You might be able to understand SCM better if you understand the goals of SCM tools in general. Here are some of the goals of SCM summarized below.

Identification of Configurations – This involves different configurations that are identifiable and enumerable, keeping a track of standard configurations within an organisation.

Control of configurations- Ensuring that configurations do not undergo inadvertent changes, and thus keep tight control on any changes to the configuration.

Accounting of configuration status- Reporting on the status of the development process.

Audit configurations- Ensure configurations include all intended parts and in line with the specifications and requirements.

Management of Build tools- Manage processes and tools critical for builds.

Ensure development is in line with the processes laid out.

With the definition of SCM and the goals of SCM behind us, let’s look at some of the best SCM tools available today.

List of SCM Tools

  1. SolarWinds Server Configuration Monitor
  2. CFEngine
  3. Puppet SCM
  4. CHEF
  5. Ansible
  6. Saltstack
  7. Juju

1. SolarWinds Server Configuration Monitor

An affordable SCM, SolarWinds is designed for multiple projects and is aimed at small to mid-sized enterprises. Some of the key features of SolarWinds are,

The software provides alerts and reports for any deviations from the baseline

It can track changes on both the server and client

Any small changes in the configuration are picked up

Features enhanced change auditing capabilities

The tool also provides the facility to track inventory of both hardware and software

2. CFEngine

CFEngine is designed to deal with large setups that include unified management of servers, users, systems, and networked devices. CFEngine provides several features that are relevant in a large enterprise and include Process Management, Task management, and patch management, along with SCM.

CFEngine brings in automation that helps system admins handle many more servers. In some cases, businesses have saved over 2 million in salary in a single year. CFEngine designed for larger enterprises is massively scalable with up to 5000 agents allowed per hub

3. Puppet SCM

Puppet is an open-source SCM tool. Using a master-slave architecture, Puppet helps to deploy, configure and manage various configurations on servers. Some of the important features of Puppet are

Easy to learn DSL a programming language. PuppetSCM also enjoys large community support.

Puppet is one of those tools, that offers real-time visibility over the status of your infrastructure. Other stands out features of Puppet are

Automated provisioning

Even inspection

Orchestration

4. CHEF

Chef is an automation platform that also provides configuration management. Chef works on Ruby and supports DSL is used for writing configurations. Chef also supports multiple platforms like Microsoft, Free BSD, and Ubuntu. Chef works on a push model and enables cloud adoption. Infrastructure as code allows configuration management by code rather than manual implementation. Chef also enjoys a large and growing community support.

5. Ansible

Ansible is one of the most popular configuration management tools. Ansible is open-source and also helps with orchestration and deployment, making it a complete automation engine. A push-based configuration tool, Ansible connects through SSH, PowerShell, or APIs. Some of the features worth mentioning are

Ansible operates on an agentless model, thereby making for virtually zero footprints on client machines,

Ansible follows a push-based architecture allowing users to control the changes on servers.

A short learning curve gets you up and running quickly with Ansible.

6. Saltstack

Saltstack is a decentralized master client configuration management tool. Based on Python, Saltstack relies on the push method to communicate with clients. Saltstack allows the grouping of clients and configuration templates. Some of the important features of Saltstack are

Saltstack works on minions installed on clients that can check files, processes

Orchestration allows Saltstack to the deployment of complex configurations by executing simple single-line commands.

Saltstack also integrates with Google Cloud, AWS and others. Using YAML, Saltstack input and output configs are consistent and stable.

The introspection feature allows you to look at what is happening within Saltstack.

7. Juju

Juju a popular configuration management tool, is an open-source tool, that focuses on reducing the operational overhead by providing quick configuration, deployment, scaling, integration with support for both public and private cloud services. Some important features of Juju are

It is capable of software provisioning,

Instant integration and scale

Supports Kubernetes cluster deployment

It provides TLS based communication between nodes, improving security

Conclusion

This brings us to the end of our discussion on SCM tools. With a slew of configuration management tools flooding the market, it gets difficult to choose which tool to get hands-on experience with. Also, it is a constantly evolving space with constant updates. To stay up to date with the most current updates and get to learn the best SCM tools, log onto Jigsaw Academy for more complete training in DevOps and its tools in release, configuration management, orchestration, and monitoring.

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