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Ansible vs Vagrant: What are the differences?

Introduction Ansible and Vagrant are both popular open-source tools used in the field of DevOps for automating and managing infrastructure. However, there are several key differences between the two.

  1. Configuration Management vs. Virtualization: The primary difference between Ansible and Vagrant lies in their intended purposes. Ansible is primarily a configuration management tool that focuses on enabling the automation of infrastructure provisioning, configuration, and deployment processes. On the other hand, Vagrant is primarily a virtualization tool that enables the creation and management of portable development environments using virtual machines or containers.

  2. Agentless vs. Client-Server Architecture: Another significant difference between Ansible and Vagrant is their underlying architecture. Ansible follows an agentless approach, which means it does not require any agents to be installed on the target systems. It uses SSH for connecting to the remote machines and executes tasks directly over SSH connections. In contrast, Vagrant follows a client-server architecture, where the Vagrant client interacts with a remote Vagrant server that manages the virtual machines or containers.

  3. Declarative vs. Imperative: Ansible operates based on a declarative approach, where the user defines the desired state of the infrastructure or configuration, and Ansible ensures that the current state matches the desired state. It achieves this by idempotent execution of tasks and applying changes only if necessary. On the other hand, Vagrant follows an imperative approach, where the user specifies the exact steps to be executed to provision and configure the virtual environment.

  4. Platform and Environment Independence: Another difference lies in the platform and environment independence offered by Ansible and Vagrant. Ansible can be used to manage a wide range of operating systems, network devices, and cloud platforms, providing a high degree of flexibility and compatibility. Vagrant, on the other hand, is primarily focused on providing developers with a consistent and reproducible development environment, making it more targeted towards supporting specific virtualization or containerization platforms.

  5. Community and Ecosystem: Both Ansible and Vagrant have active communities and a rich ecosystem of plugins, extensions, and integrations. However, Ansible's community is larger, and it has a more extensive ecosystem with a wider range of pre-built modules, playbooks, and roles available for various use cases. Vagrant's community and ecosystem are more focused on the development environment space, providing a variety of base boxes and plugins specifically tailored for virtualization and containerization.

  6. Learning Curve and Complexity: When it comes to the learning curve, Ansible is generally considered easier to learn and use compared to Vagrant. Ansible uses a simple and human-readable syntax (YAML) for defining tasks and plays, allowing users to quickly start automating their infrastructure. Vagrant, on the other hand, requires familiarity with virtualization technologies and may involve more complex configurations depending on the specific use case.

In summary, Ansible and Vagrant differ in their primary purposes, architecture, approach to automation, platform independence, community and ecosystem size, as well as the learning curve and complexity. Understanding these differences can help determine which tool is better suited for specific DevOps requirements.

Advice on Ansible and Vagrant
Needs advice
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)

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

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 Vagrant
  • 284
  • 210
    Great configuration
  • 199
  • 176
  • 155
    Easy to learn
  • 69
  • 55
    Doesn't get in the way of getting s--- done
  • 35
    Makes sense
  • 30
    Super efficient and flexible
  • 27
  • 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
  • 4
    Because SSH
  • 4
    Procedural or declarative, or both
  • 4
  • 3
  • 2
  • 2
  • 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
  • 352
    Development environments
  • 290
    Simple bootstraping
  • 237
  • 139
  • 130
  • 84
  • 81
    Synced folders
  • 69
  • 51
  • 44
    Very flexible
  • 5
    Works well, can be replicated easily with other devs
  • 5
    Easy-to-share, easy-to-version dev configuration
  • 3
  • 3
    Just works
  • 2
    Quick way to get running
  • 1
    DRY - "Do Not Repeat Yourself"
  • 1
    Container Friendly
  • 1
    What is vagrant?
  • 1
    Good documentation

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Cons of Ansible
Cons of Vagrant
  • 8
  • 5
    Hard to install
  • 3
    Doesn't Run on Windows
  • 3
  • 3
    Backward compatibility
  • 2
    No immutable infrastructure
  • 2
    Can become v complex w prod. provisioner (Salt, etc.)
  • 2
    Multiple VMs quickly eat up disk space
  • 1
    Development environment that kills your battery

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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 Vagrant?

Vagrant provides the framework and configuration format to create and manage complete portable development environments. These development environments can live on your computer or in the cloud, and are portable between Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.

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What are some alternatives to Ansible and Vagrant?
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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