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Ansible

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Ansible vs Packer: What are the differences?

What is 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鈥檚 goals are foremost those of simplicity and maximum ease of use.

What is Packer? Create identical machine images for multiple platforms from a single source configuration. Packer automates the creation of any type of machine image. It embraces modern configuration management by encouraging you to use automated scripts to install and configure the software within your Packer-made images.

Ansible belongs to "Server Configuration and Automation" category of the tech stack, while Packer can be primarily classified under "Infrastructure Build Tools".

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, Packer provides the following key features:

  • Super fast infrastructure deployment. Packer images allow you to launch completely provisioned and configured machines in seconds, rather than several minutes or hours.
  • Multi-provider portability. Because Packer creates identical images for multiple platforms, you can run production in AWS, staging/QA in a private cloud like OpenStack, and development in desktop virtualization solutions such as VMware or VirtualBox.
  • Improved stability. Packer installs and configures all the software for a machine at the time the image is built. If there are bugs in these scripts, they'll be caught early, rather than several minutes after a machine is launched.

"Agentless" is the top reason why over 251 developers like Ansible, while over 24 developers mention "Cross platform builds" as the leading cause for choosing Packer.

Ansible and Packer are both open source tools. It seems that Ansible with 38.2K GitHub stars and 16K forks on GitHub has more adoption than Packer with 9.1K GitHub stars and 2.47K GitHub forks.

DigitalOcean, 9GAG, and Rainist are some of the popular companies that use Ansible, whereas Packer is used by Instacart, Oscar Health, and Razorpay. Ansible has a broader approval, being mentioned in 960 company stacks & 587 developers stacks; compared to Packer, which is listed in 115 company stacks and 21 developer stacks.

Advice on Ansible and Packer
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Puppet LabsPuppet LabsChefChef
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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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Pros of Ansible
Pros of Packer
  • 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
  • 27
    Cross platform builds
  • 9
    Vm creation automation
  • 4
    Bake in security
  • 1
    Good documentation
  • 1
    Easy to use

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Cons of Ansible
Cons of Packer
  • 7
    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鈥檚 goals are foremost those of simplicity and maximum ease of use.

    What is Packer?

    Packer automates the creation of any type of machine image. It embraces modern configuration management by encouraging you to use automated scripts to install and configure the software within your Packer-made images.

    Need advice about which tool to choose?Ask the StackShare community!

    What companies use Ansible?
    What companies use Packer?
    See which teams inside your own company are using Ansible or Packer.
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    What tools integrate with Ansible?
    What tools integrate with Packer?

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    What are some alternatives to Ansible and Packer?
    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