Ansible vs AWS CloudFormation

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Ansible vs AWS CloudFormation: What are the differences?

Ansible: Radically simple configuration-management, application deployment, task-execution, and multi-node orchestration engine. Ansible is an IT automation tool. It can configure systems, deploy software, and orchestrate more advanced IT tasks such as continuous deployments or zero downtime rolling updates. Ansible’s goals are foremost those of simplicity and maximum ease of use; AWS CloudFormation: Create and manage a collection of related AWS resources. You can use AWS CloudFormation’s sample templates or create your own templates to describe the AWS resources, and any associated dependencies or runtime parameters, required to run your application. You don’t need to figure out the order in which AWS services need to be provisioned or the subtleties of how to make those dependencies work.

Ansible and AWS CloudFormation are primarily classified as "Server Configuration and Automation" and "Infrastructure Build" tools respectively.

Some of the features offered by Ansible are:

  • Ansible's natural automation language allows sysadmins, developers, and IT managers to complete automation projects in hours, not weeks.
  • Ansible uses SSH by default instead of requiring agents everywhere. Avoid extra open ports, improve security, eliminate "managing the management", and reclaim CPU cycles.
  • Ansible automates app deployment, configuration management, workflow orchestration, and even cloud provisioning all from one system.

On the other hand, AWS CloudFormation provides the following key features:

  • AWS CloudFormation comes with the following ready-to-run sample templates: WordPress (blog),Tracks (project tracking), Gollum (wiki used by GitHub), Drupal (content management), Joomla (content management), Insoshi (social apps), Redmine (project mgmt)
  • No Need to Reinvent the Wheel – A template can be used repeatedly to create identical copies of the same stack (or to use as a foundation to start a new stack)
  • Transparent and Open – Templates are simple JSON formatted text files that can be placed under your normal source control mechanisms, stored in private or public locations such as Amazon S3 and exchanged via email.

"Agentless" is the top reason why over 251 developers like Ansible, while over 36 developers mention "Automates infrastructure deployments" as the leading cause for choosing AWS CloudFormation.

Ansible is an open source tool with 37.8K GitHub stars and 15.8K GitHub forks. Here's a link to Ansible's open source repository on GitHub.

PedidosYa, Keen, and New Relic are some of the popular companies that use Ansible, whereas AWS CloudFormation is used by TimeHop, Custora, and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Ansible has a broader approval, being mentioned in 955 company stacks & 578 developers stacks; compared to AWS CloudFormation, which is listed in 195 company stacks and 75 developer stacks.

Advice on Ansible and AWS CloudFormation
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Puppet LabsPuppet LabsChefChef
and
AnsibleAnsible

I'm just getting started using Vagrant to help automate setting up local VMs to set up a Kubernetes cluster (development and experimentation only). (Yes, I do know about minikube)

I'm looking for a tool to help install software packages, setup users, etc..., on these VMs. I'm also fairly new to Ansible, Chef, and Puppet. What's a good one to start with to learn? I might decide to try all 3 at some point for my own curiosity.

The most important factors for me are simplicity, ease of use, shortest learning curve.

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Replies (2)
Recommends
AnsibleAnsible

I have been working with Puppet and Ansible. The reason why I prefer ansible is the distribution of it. Ansible is more lightweight and therefore more popular. This leads to situations, where you can get fully packaged applications for ansible (e.g. confluent) supported by the vendor, but only incomplete packages for Puppet.

The only advantage I would see with Puppet if someone wants to use Foreman. This is still better supported with Puppet.

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Gabriel Pa
Recommends
KubernetesKubernetes
at

If you are just starting out, might as well learn Kubernetes There's a lot of tools that come with Kube that make it easier to use and most importantly: you become cloud-agnostic. We use Ansible because it's a lot simpler than Chef or Puppet and if you use Docker Compose for your deployments you can re-use them with Kubernetes later when you migrate

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Decisions about Ansible and AWS CloudFormation
Kirill Shirinkin
Cloud and DevOps Consultant at mkdev · | 3 upvotes · 91.2K views

Ok, so first - AWS Copilot is CloudFormation under the hood, but the way it works results in you not thinking about CFN anymore. AWS found the right balance with Copilot - it's insanely simple to setup production-ready multi-account environment with many services inside, with CI/CD out of the box etc etc. It's pretty new, but even now it was enough to launch Transcripto, which uses may be a dozen of different AWS services, all bound together by Copilot.

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Because Pulumi uses real programming languages, you can actually write abstractions for your infrastructure code, which is incredibly empowering. You still 'describe' your desired state, but by having a programming language at your fingers, you can factor out patterns, and package it up for easier consumption.

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Sergey Ivanov
Overview

We use Terraform to manage AWS cloud environment for the project. It is pretty complex, largely static, security-focused, and constantly evolving.

Terraform provides descriptive (declarative) way of defining the target configuration, where it can work out the dependencies between configuration elements and apply differences without re-provisioning the entire cloud stack.

Advantages

Terraform is vendor-neutral in a way that it is using a common configuration language (HCL) with plugins (providers) for multiple cloud and service providers.

Terraform keeps track of the previous state of the deployment and applies incremental changes, resulting in faster deployment times.

Terraform allows us to share reusable modules between projects. We have built an impressive library of modules internally, which makes it very easy to assemble a new project from pre-fabricated building blocks.

Disadvantages

Software is imperfect, and Terraform is no exception. Occasionally we hit annoying bugs that we have to work around. The interaction with any underlying APIs is encapsulated inside 3rd party Terraform providers, and any bug fixes or new features require a provider release. Some providers have very poor coverage of the underlying APIs.

Terraform is not great for managing highly dynamic parts of cloud environments. That part is better delegated to other tools or scripts.

Terraform state may go out of sync with the target environment or with the source configuration, which often results in painful reconciliation.

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I personally am not a huge fan of vendor lock in for multiple reasons:

  • I've seen cost saving moves to the cloud end up costing a fortune and trapping companies due to over utilization of cloud specific features.
  • I've seen S3 failures nearly take down half the internet.
  • I've seen companies get stuck in the cloud because they aren't built cloud agnostic.

I choose to use terraform for my cloud provisioning for these reasons:

  • It's cloud agnostic so I can use it no matter where I am.
  • It isn't difficult to use and uses a relatively easy to read language.
  • It tests infrastructure before running it, and enables me to see and keep changes up to date.
  • It runs from the same CLI I do most of my CM work from.
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Pros of Ansible
Pros of AWS CloudFormation
  • 278
    Agentless
  • 205
    Great configuration
  • 195
    Simple
  • 173
    Powerful
  • 151
    Easy to learn
  • 66
    Flexible
  • 54
    Doesn't get in the way of getting s--- done
  • 34
    Makes sense
  • 29
    Super efficient and flexible
  • 27
    Powerful
  • 11
    Dynamic Inventory
  • 8
    Backed by Red Hat
  • 7
    Works with AWS
  • 6
    Cloud Oriented
  • 6
    Easy to maintain
  • 4
    Because SSH
  • 4
    Multi language
  • 4
    Easy
  • 4
    Simple
  • 4
    Procedural or declarative, or both
  • 4
    Simple and powerful
  • 3
    Consistency
  • 3
    Vagrant provisioner
  • 2
    Fast as hell
  • 2
    Masterless
  • 2
    Well-documented
  • 2
    Merge hash to get final configuration similar to hiera
  • 2
    Debugging is simple
  • 1
    Work on windows, but difficult to manage
  • 1
    Certified Content
  • 43
    Automates infrastructure deployments
  • 21
    Declarative infrastructure and deployment
  • 13
    No more clicking around
  • 3
    Any Operative System you want
  • 3
    Infrastructure as code
  • 3
    Atomic
  • 1
    CDK makes it truly infrastructure-as-code
  • 1
    Automates Infrastructure Deployment
  • 0
    K8s

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Cons of Ansible
Cons of AWS CloudFormation
  • 7
    Dangerous
  • 5
    Hard to install
  • 3
    Doesn't Run on Windows
  • 3
    Bloated
  • 3
    Backward compatibility
  • 2
    No immutable infrastructure
  • 4
    Brittle
  • 2
    No RBAC and policies in templates

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No Stats
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What is Ansible?

Ansible is an IT automation tool. It can configure systems, deploy software, and orchestrate more advanced IT tasks such as continuous deployments or zero downtime rolling updates. Ansible’s goals are foremost those of simplicity and maximum ease of use.

What is AWS CloudFormation?

You can use AWS CloudFormation’s sample templates or create your own templates to describe the AWS resources, and any associated dependencies or runtime parameters, required to run your application. You don’t need to figure out the order in which AWS services need to be provisioned or the subtleties of how to make those dependencies work.

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What companies use Ansible?
What companies use AWS CloudFormation?
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What are some alternatives to Ansible and AWS CloudFormation?
Puppet Labs
Puppet is an automated administrative engine for your Linux, Unix, and Windows systems and performs administrative tasks (such as adding users, installing packages, and updating server configurations) based on a centralized specification.
Chef
Chef enables you to manage and scale cloud infrastructure with no downtime or interruptions. Freely move applications and configurations from one cloud to another. Chef is integrated with all major cloud providers including Amazon EC2, VMWare, IBM Smartcloud, Rackspace, OpenStack, Windows Azure, HP Cloud, Google Compute Engine, Joyent Cloud and others.
Salt
Salt is a new approach to infrastructure management. Easy enough to get running in minutes, scalable enough to manage tens of thousands of servers, and fast enough to communicate with them in seconds. Salt delivers a dynamic communication bus for infrastructures that can be used for orchestration, remote execution, configuration management and much more.
Terraform
With Terraform, you describe your complete infrastructure as code, even as it spans multiple service providers. Your servers may come from AWS, your DNS may come from CloudFlare, and your database may come from Heroku. Terraform will build all these resources across all these providers in parallel.
Jenkins
In a nutshell Jenkins CI is the leading open-source continuous integration server. Built with Java, it provides over 300 plugins to support building and testing virtually any project.
See all alternatives