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Ansible vs Helm: What are the differences?

Ansible is a general-purpose automation tool for configuration management, while Helm is specialized for managing applications on Kubernetes. Let's discuss the key differences between them:

  1. Use Case and Scope: Ansible is a configuration management and automation tool that focuses on orchestrating and automating tasks across servers. It is not specific to container orchestration but is versatile for managing infrastructure and application configurations. Helm, on the other hand, is a package manager for Kubernetes applications. It simplifies the deployment and management of Kubernetes applications by packaging applications into charts, which are shareable and versioned.

  2. Abstraction Level: Ansible operates at a higher level of abstraction, allowing you to define infrastructure and configuration in a more declarative manner using YAML files. It is not tied to a specific technology stack. Helm operates at a lower level, focusing specifically on Kubernetes and providing a way to define, install, and upgrade even complex Kubernetes applications using charts.

  3. Configuration Language: Ansible uses YAML for configuration, making it human-readable and easy to write. It follows a task-oriented approach, defining what tasks need to be executed on the target systems. Helm uses a templating engine and YAML for defining Kubernetes manifests within charts. It allows parameterization and reuse of manifest files.

  4. State Management: Ansible is idempotent, meaning you can run the same playbook multiple times, and it will bring the system to the desired state without causing unexpected changes. Helm is focused on managing Kubernetes application releases, and it tracks the state of releases, making it easy to upgrade or rollback changes to an application.

  5. Ecosystem and Community: Ansible has a broad ecosystem beyond Kubernetes, with modules available for managing various infrastructure components, cloud providers, and applications. Helm is tightly integrated with the Kubernetes ecosystem and is widely adopted within the Kubernetes community for managing applications.

  6. Updates and Rollbacks: Ansible updates configurations on servers by applying changes. Rollbacks might involve reapplying a previous configuration. Helm manages updates and rollbacks specifically for Kubernetes applications, allowing you to upgrade or roll back releases of applications deployed on Kubernetes.

In summary, Ansible is a versatile configuration management and automation tool that supports infrastructure provisioning, while Helm is specialized for managing applications on Kubernetes clusters. Ansible focuses on simplicity and cross-platform compatibility, whereas Helm leverages Kubernetes' ecosystem and built-in features for application deployment and management.

Advice on Ansible and Helm
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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Pros of Ansible
Pros of Helm
  • 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
  • 8
    Infrastructure as code
  • 6
    Open source
  • 2
    Easy setup
  • 1
    Support
  • 1
    Testa­bil­i­ty and re­pro­ducibil­i­ty

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Cons of Ansible
Cons of Helm
  • 8
    Dangerous
  • 5
    Hard to install
  • 3
    Doesn't Run on Windows
  • 3
    Bloated
  • 3
    Backward compatibility
  • 2
    No immutable infrastructure
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    - No public GitHub repository available -

    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 Helm?

    Helm is the best way to find, share, and use software built for Kubernetes.

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    What companies use Ansible?
    What companies use Helm?
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