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Ansible vs Docker Swarm: What are the differences?

Key Differences Between Ansible and Docker Swarm

Ansible and Docker Swarm are both popular technologies used in the field of DevOps. While they share similarities in terms of automating tasks and managing infrastructure, they have some key differences that set them apart.

  1. Architecture: Ansible follows a push-based architecture, where a control machine sends instructions to remote hosts over SSH. On the other hand, Docker Swarm follows a pull-based architecture, where agents running on each node continuously pull and update the desired state of the cluster from a centralised manager.

  2. Functionality: Ansible is primarily a configuration management tool that allows users to define and apply desired configurations on remote machines. It focuses on managing the state of systems and automating tasks. Docker Swarm, however, is a container orchestration tool that enables the deployment and management of containerized applications across a cluster of machines.

  3. Scalability: Docker Swarm supports horizontal scaling by allowing users to add or remove nodes dynamically. The manager distributes workload and orchestrates containers across the available nodes. Ansible, on the other hand, is not designed for massive scalability as it needs to connect to each remote machine individually. The scalability of Ansible is limited by the capacity of the control machine.

  4. Dependencies and System Requirements: Ansible has comparatively lower system requirements and can be easily set up on a wide range of infrastructure. It only requires a control machine, SSH connection, and Python installed on remote hosts. Docker Swarm, on the other hand, requires a Docker Engine on individual nodes and has higher system requirements as it relies on containerization technology.

  5. Ease of Use: Ansible is known for its simplicity and easy learning curve. It uses a declarative language for defining configurations, making it easier to understand and maintain. On the other hand, Docker Swarm requires some understanding of containerization concepts and a more complex setup process, making it comparatively less user-friendly for beginners.

  6. Community and Ecosystem: Ansible has a mature and active community, offering a vast amount of modules and roles for various configuration management tasks. It integrates well with other tools, such as Jenkins, Git, and various cloud providers. Docker Swarm, being part of the Docker ecosystem, benefits from a large community and a wide range of containerized applications available on Docker Hub.

In summary, Ansible and Docker Swarm differ in their architectural approach, functionality, scalability, system requirements, ease of use, and community support. Ansible focuses on configuration management and task automation, while Docker Swarm is a container orchestration tool for managing containerized applications.

Advice on Ansible and Docker Swarm
Needs advice
on
AnsibleAnsibleChefChef
and
Puppet LabsPuppet Labs

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
on
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
on
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 Docker Swarm
Simon Reymann
Senior Fullstack Developer at QUANTUSflow Software GmbH · | 30 upvotes · 9.7M views

Our whole DevOps stack consists of the following tools:

  • GitHub (incl. GitHub Pages/Markdown for Documentation, GettingStarted and HowTo's) for collaborative review and code management tool
  • Respectively Git as revision control system
  • SourceTree as Git GUI
  • Visual Studio Code as IDE
  • CircleCI for continuous integration (automatize development process)
  • Prettier / TSLint / ESLint as code linter
  • SonarQube as quality gate
  • Docker as container management (incl. Docker Compose for multi-container application management)
  • VirtualBox for operating system simulation tests
  • Kubernetes as cluster management for docker containers
  • Heroku for deploying in test environments
  • nginx as web server (preferably used as facade server in production environment)
  • SSLMate (using OpenSSL) for certificate management
  • Amazon EC2 (incl. Amazon S3) for deploying in stage (production-like) and production environments
  • PostgreSQL as preferred database system
  • Redis as preferred in-memory database/store (great for caching)

The main reason we have chosen Kubernetes over Docker Swarm is related to the following artifacts:

  • Key features: Easy and flexible installation, Clear dashboard, Great scaling operations, Monitoring is an integral part, Great load balancing concepts, Monitors the condition and ensures compensation in the event of failure.
  • Applications: An application can be deployed using a combination of pods, deployments, and services (or micro-services).
  • Functionality: Kubernetes as a complex installation and setup process, but it not as limited as Docker Swarm.
  • Monitoring: It supports multiple versions of logging and monitoring when the services are deployed within the cluster (Elasticsearch/Kibana (ELK), Heapster/Grafana, Sysdig cloud integration).
  • Scalability: All-in-one framework for distributed systems.
  • Other Benefits: Kubernetes is backed by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), huge community among container orchestration tools, it is an open source and modular tool that works with any OS.
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Pros of Ansible
Pros of Docker Swarm
  • 284
    Agentless
  • 210
    Great configuration
  • 199
    Simple
  • 176
    Powerful
  • 155
    Easy to learn
  • 69
    Flexible
  • 55
    Doesn't get in the way of getting s--- done
  • 35
    Makes sense
  • 30
    Super efficient and flexible
  • 27
    Powerful
  • 11
    Dynamic Inventory
  • 9
    Backed by Red Hat
  • 7
    Works with AWS
  • 6
    Cloud Oriented
  • 6
    Easy to maintain
  • 4
    Vagrant provisioner
  • 4
    Simple and powerful
  • 4
    Multi language
  • 4
    Simple
  • 4
    Because SSH
  • 4
    Procedural or declarative, or both
  • 4
    Easy
  • 3
    Consistency
  • 2
    Well-documented
  • 2
    Masterless
  • 2
    Debugging is simple
  • 2
    Merge hash to get final configuration similar to hiera
  • 2
    Fast as hell
  • 1
    Manage any OS
  • 1
    Work on windows, but difficult to manage
  • 1
    Certified Content
  • 55
    Docker friendly
  • 46
    Easy to setup
  • 40
    Standard Docker API
  • 38
    Easy to use
  • 23
    Native
  • 22
    Free
  • 13
    Clustering made easy
  • 12
    Simple usage
  • 11
    Integral part of docker
  • 6
    Cross Platform
  • 5
    Labels and annotations
  • 5
    Performance
  • 3
    Easy Networking
  • 3
    Shallow learning curve

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Cons of Ansible
Cons of Docker Swarm
  • 8
    Dangerous
  • 5
    Hard to install
  • 3
    Doesn't Run on Windows
  • 3
    Bloated
  • 3
    Backward compatibility
  • 2
    No immutable infrastructure
  • 9
    Low adoption

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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 Docker Swarm?

Swarm serves the standard Docker API, so any tool which already communicates with a Docker daemon can use Swarm to transparently scale to multiple hosts: Dokku, Compose, Krane, Deis, DockerUI, Shipyard, Drone, Jenkins... and, of course, the Docker client itself.

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What are some alternatives to Ansible and Docker Swarm?
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