What Are DevOps Tools?
DevOps tools help simplify and accelerate testing, configuration, deployment, and other software-related tasks required to implement DevOps processes.
Some DevOps tools provide the ability to identify and resolve errors and defects at high velocity and scale. Others add automation to processes such as monitoring, testing, deployment, updates, and infrastructure management, while others facilitate information sharing and improve collaboration.
An effective DevOps toolchain can improve the quality, stability, and reliability of applications, and can help identify and resolve problems earlier in the development lifecycle.
In general, DevOps tools provide the following benefits:
- Reduce repetitive work and optimize processes
- Organize work into structured processes
- Improve collaboration and communication between teams
- Simplify work processes, saving time and effort
- Prevent human errors and misjudgements via automation, while allowing human oversight of processes where necessary
This is part of our series of articles about DevSecOps.
In this article, you will learn:
What Are the Main Types of DevOps Tools?
Let’s briefly review the main categories of tools used by DevOps teams:
- Continuous Integration Tools
- Continuous Delivery and Deployment Tools
- DevOps Security Tools
- Test Automation Tools
- DevOps Collaboration Tools
- DevOps Planning Tools
- Source Control Tools
- Issue Tracking Tools
- Configuration Management Tools
- Database Management Tools
- DevOps Monitoring Tools
Continuous Integration Tools
Continuous integration (CI) is a process in which software developers integrate their code into a shared repository very frequently, commonly after every code commit. While this is a foundation of agile software development processes, if done manually, it can be very cumbersome and inefficient.
CI tools can automate software builds, testing, and reporting. They make it possible to integrate code multiple times a day with a customizable, automated verification process to quickly review and highlight problems in the code. CI tools integrate with many other DevOps tools, such as testing and security tools, and let you run automated checks and fail or pass the build according to your custom criteria.
This makes it possible to develop software rapidly, to quickly provide feedback to developers about issues, and to easily promote successful builds to later stages of the pipeline—staging and production deployment.
Continuous Delivery and Deployment Tools
Continuous delivery / continuous deployment (CD) involves releasing the software to a production environment in an automated manner. CD tools allow teams to release a new version of software to production as soon as it is submitted.
In a continuous delivery model, a new release passes automated tests and undergoes manual review to determine if it should be promoted to production or not. In a continuous deployment model, for every new release, problems are quickly identified, software is either rejected or pushed to production, and issues are resolved in subsequent releases.
DevOps CD pipelines typically focus on small, low risk releases. This makes it easy to adapt software to the changing environment and customer needs. With the right tools, software releases become more frequent and more predictable, and the software itself improves in quality and reliability over time.
DevOps Security Tools
In the past, development teams operated separately from security teams, and security best practices were applied late in the development process. Security was thought to be the enemy of innovation. Today, organizations are merging development and security into one methodology, a pattern known as DevSecOps. Security is “shifting left,” meaning risk analysis is being integrated into the development process from the very beginning.
DevOps Security tools, also known as DevSecOps tools, help to bake security into CI/CD pipelines. They allow code to be automatically analyzed and inspected for vulnerabilities and security best practices, from the planning stage, to initial development stages, to testing and deployment stages. This can help improve security while improving development velocity, and can help an organization more easily meet its compliance obligations.
Test Automation Tools
Test automation reduces manual intervention in the testing process. DevOps teams use automation frameworks and tools to generate test scripts which can verify application functionality.
Test automation makes it possible to automatically detect errors across a large number of software artifacts, without a large manual effort. It also makes it possible to run tests more often—in a CI/CD pipeline, where code is integrated many times a day, test automation makes it possible to run tests with every code commit, providing rapid feedback to developers.
Automated testing and early feedback not only reduce the likelihood of defects, they also dramatically reduce the cost of fixing defects, because they are discovered much earlier in the development lifecycle.
DevOps Collaboration Tools
These tools are essential for DevOps teams to collaborate across locations and time. DevOps collaboration tools are used to organize work, facilitate ongoing communication between team members, push notifications from automated systems to team members, and enable knowledge sharing.
DevOps Planning Tools
In a DevOps culture, teams use agile planning and development practices to clearly identify business goals and to ensure that development projects are aligned with them. DevOps planning tools clarify what work needs to be accomplished by whom, how it is progressing, and where the process is getting stuck due to bottlenecks or conflicting priorities. It makes it possible for teams to collaboratively improve their process and achieve better results.
Source Control Tools
These tools form an integral part of the DevOps process, and can be used to store and manage all assets that are part of software development and operations. Application code, configuration, documentation, databases, and binaries are all managed and versioned by a single source repository. Whenever any artifact is updated or improved, the new version is checked into source code, making it available to all relevant stakeholders.
Issue Tracking Tools
Issue tracking is used to manage changes and to facilitate support activities in CI/CD pipelines. Issue trackers allow teams or end users to create tasks or requests, make it possible to set up automated workflows and notifications to manage tasks, and integrate with other systems to enable traceability and planning of software defects.
Configuration Management Tools
These are used to manage system changes in a systematic, consistent way. They make it possible to track and control changes, and can also automatically reject, approve, and deploy changes. Modern configuration management tools are based on an infrastructure as code (IaC) paradigm, making it possible to represent software configuration as code, save this code in source control, and deploy systems directly from stored configuration.
Database Management Tools
These tools help to manage databases, which are part of almost every software project, in a consistent and scalable way. Database management tools help to define access control, automate deployment, and achieve secure change management. They can handle processes like database validation, database configuration automation, and database versioning using source control.
DevOps Monitoring Tools
Monitoring is a core element in DevOps—DevOps monitoring tools provide information on the entire DevOps pipeline, including development and testing environments, and the performance and availability of systems deployed in production.
Monitoring tools aggregate and analyze data and metrics from multiple sources, enable visualization or key trends, and generate alerts for conditions that require intervention. This allows DevOps engineers to optimize performance, minimize downtime, and troubleshoot ongoing problems.
Top 10 DevOps Tools
Here are some of the tools most commonly used by modern DevOps teams:
Maven is an open source build tool that allows you to build, release, and deploy multiple software projects while improving project management by building and documenting software lifecycles.
Maven is written in Java, and can be used to build projects written in C#, Scala, Ruby, and other languages. It is based on the Project Object Model (POM), which enables reporting, build and test automation.
Maven provides dependency management with automated updating, reporting of errors and integrity issues, parent versioning, and enforces consistent practices across multiple software projects.
Jenkins is a continuous integration (CI) server. It is deployed on one or more physical build servers. It is written in Java and is highly customizable for projects of any size and complexity. Jenkins has a large community which has created over 1,000 plug-ins for different use cases.
Jenkins makes it possible to write scripts that can integrate almost any other tool or automated process into the build pipeline. It provides several interfaces for managing build processes, including a web UI, CLI, and API.
CircleCI is an open source CI/CD tool. It provides job scheduling, resource configuration, caching, debugging, security, and reporting on customizable dashboards. CircleCI integrates with a variety of DevOps tools such as GitHub, Heroku, Slack, and Docker.
CircleCI provides a free edition, which you can use as a cloud service, or run locally on Linux, Mac, or Windows. Paid editions provide more advanced capabilities, such as higher concurrency, Docker layer caching, and 24/7 support.
GitLab is a cloud-based solution for managing git repositories. It covers the entire software lifecycle in one management application. GitLab starts with project planning and source code control, and extends to later stages of the CI/CD pipeline, all the way to production deployments.
GitLab provides planning, creation and management of software artifacts, validation, packaging, release management, configuration, and monitoring capabilities. GitLab’s core competency, Git repository management, supports issue tracking, automated feeds, code review, and wiki for documentation and knowledge sharing.
Puppet Enterprise is a cross-platform configuration management tool that lets you define infrastructure as code (IaC). It can configure, deploy, and manage servers quickly and securely. Puppet automatically configures the hosts that make up your DevOps infrastructure, and can scale resources up or down. It constantly verifies that the configuration is correct and, if not, restores the desired configuration on the host.
Puppet has a leader-follower structure. The leader server stores configurations, and enforces them on hosts, which are Puppet followers. Communication between followers and leaders is done over a secure channel encrypted over SSL.
Puppet Enterprise lets you manage configuration and policies for multiple teams and resources. It provides modules that integrate with many other popular DevOps tools.
Chef is an open source configuration management technology developed by Opscode. It is used for DevOps deployment and orchestration and provides powerful options for automating development and deployment infrastructure.
To avoid managing software changes with scripts that need to be constantly updated and maintained, Chef provides an orchestration engine that supports continuous delivery of code versions. Chef automatically provisions infrastructure using pre-built, customizable templates, in an infrastructure as code (IaC) model.
Chef provides API support for AWS, Azure, and Rackspace, making it easy to extend configuration management to various cloud platforms.
Ansible is an open source software delivery, configuration management, and application deployment tool. It is agentless and connects to systems via SSH or remote PowerShell to perform automated processes. You create a playbook (defined as a YAML file) with configuration, distribution, and orchestration rules and run it on Ansible-managed nodes.
Ansible can improve the scalability, consistency, and reliability of application deployments by automating repetitive administrative tasks. Ansible Tower is a web UI that provides central management for automated tasks across all nodes. Ansible Tower is a commercial product, but you can also use Semaphore, an open source Ansible UI.
Docker helped encourage a massive adoption of containers amid the modernization of software development. Docker containers enable repeatable, consistent deployment of software components in an isolated environment. They are similar to virtual machines, but faster, lighter, and easier to work with because they do not contain an entire operating system.
Docker allows DevOps teams to split an application into multiple containers, in a microservices model, making it more portable and easier to test and maintain. Docker has driven major changes in the software delivery workflow and is considered by many to be the foundation of modern deployment automation.
Docker containers help DevOps teams by providing the same environment at every stage of the DevOps cycle (from development to staging to production). Developers can create Docker images and run them in a development environment. DevOps, IT, and security teams can use the same image to create test and staging environments and deploy software to production.
Vagrant is a DevOps tool that manages and deploys workloads as virtual machines. It runs on all common operating systems, including Windows, Linux, and MacOS.
Vagrant creates a file for each project, which describes the type of computer and software you want to install. It can automatically deploy the project in any environment with a simple, consistent workflow. Vagrant provides plugins that integrate with other popular configuration management tools such as Puppet, Ansible, Chef, and Salt.
Trivy is a comprehensive, easy-to-use open source vulnerability scanner for container images. It detects vulnerabilities in operating system packages – including Alpine, RHEL, and CentOS – and application dependencies, using package managers like Bundler, Composer, npm, and yarn.
Unlike other scanners that can take up to 10 minutes to retrieve vulnerability information when they first run, and which require persistent local storage for vulnerability data, Trivy is stateless and requires zero maintenance and preparation. Trivy integrates with CI tools including Jenkins, CircleCI, Travis, and GitLab, and is a Red Hat certified vulnerability scanner that provides accurate detection, identification, and remediation guidance for Red Hat packages.
DevOps Security with Aqua Security
Aqua Security provides tools to elevate the standard for DevOps security. Designed with the fundamentals of DevSecOps in mind, Aqua solutions integrate through CI/CD pipelines and automate security risk analysis at build, in container registries, in function stores, on VM hosts, and Kubernetes clusters.
Aqua enables DevOps security for containers, serverless functions, and infrastructure as code templates, and helps ensure secure configuration and cloud security posture management for public cloud environments.