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Vault vs etcd: What are the differences?

Introduction

Vault and etcd are both open-source tools used for managing and securely storing secrets, keys, and certificates. However, there are several key differences between these two tools that set them apart. In this article, we will explore and outline the main differences between Vault and etcd.

  1. Purpose and Functionality: Vault is primarily designed as a secure secrets management tool, offering features such as dynamic secrets generation, encryption as a service, and secure storage. On the other hand, etcd is a distributed key-value store used for storing and retrieving configurations and other metadata.

  2. Consistency Model: While both Vault and etcd offer strong consistency guarantees, Vault achieves this by default through its use of a highly available and distributed storage backend. Etcd, on the other hand, provides a consistent view of the distributed key-value store utilizing a modified Raft consensus algorithm.

  3. Access Control and Authentication: Vault provides robust access control mechanisms, allowing fine-grained access policies to be defined based on roles and user groups. It also supports various authentication methods, including tokens, username/password, and AWS IAM. Etcd, while it does provide basic access control capabilities, lacks the same level of granularity and flexibility in defining access policies.

  4. Secrets Encryption: Vault provides built-in encryption capabilities for secrets stored within its secure storage backend, ensuring that sensitive information is securely protected at rest. Etcd, on the other hand, does not offer native encryption for stored data, requiring additional measures or external tools to ensure data confidentiality.

  5. High Availability and Scaling: Vault is designed to be highly available and scalable, providing both active-passive and active-active deployments. Its architecture allows for seamless failover and replication, ensuring that secret data remains accessible even in the event of node failures. Etcd also supports high availability and scalability; however, its clustering model and architecture may require additional configuration and setup compared to Vault.

  6. Audit Logging and Compliance: Vault offers extensive auditing capabilities, allowing organizations to track and monitor all access and changes to secrets. These audit logs can be integrated with external monitoring and logging systems for compliance purposes. Etcd, while it does provide basic logging functionality, lacks the same level of audit logging features as Vault.

In summary, Vault is a comprehensive and feature-rich secrets management solution, providing advanced access control, encryption, and auditing capabilities. Etcd, on the other hand, is focused more on distributed key-value storage and retrieval, with less emphasis on advanced security features. The choice between Vault and etcd largely depends on the specific requirements of the use case and the level of security and scalability needed.

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Pros of etcd
Pros of Vault
  • 11
    Service discovery
  • 6
    Fault tolerant key value store
  • 2
    Secure
  • 2
    Bundled with coreos
  • 1
    Consol integration
  • 1
    Privilege Access Management
  • 1
    Open Source
  • 17
    Secure
  • 13
    Variety of Secret Backends
  • 11
    Very easy to set up and use
  • 8
    Dynamic secret generation
  • 5
    AuditLog
  • 3
    Privilege Access Management
  • 3
    Leasing and Renewal
  • 2
    Easy to integrate with
  • 2
    Open Source
  • 2
    Consol integration
  • 2
    Handles secret sprawl
  • 2
    Variety of Auth Backends
  • 1
    Multicloud

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What is etcd?

etcd is a distributed key value store that provides a reliable way to store data across a cluster of machines. It’s open-source and available on GitHub. etcd gracefully handles master elections during network partitions and will tolerate machine failure, including the master.

What is Vault?

Vault is a tool for securely accessing secrets. A secret is anything that you want to tightly control access to, such as API keys, passwords, certificates, and more. Vault provides a unified interface to any secret, while providing tight access control and recording a detailed audit log.

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What are some alternatives to etcd and Vault?
Consul
Consul is a tool for service discovery and configuration. Consul is distributed, highly available, and extremely scalable.
Zookeeper
A centralized service for maintaining configuration information, naming, providing distributed synchronization, and providing group services. All of these kinds of services are used in some form or another by distributed applications.
Redis
Redis is an open source (BSD licensed), in-memory data structure store, used as a database, cache, and message broker. Redis provides data structures such as strings, hashes, lists, sets, sorted sets with range queries, bitmaps, hyperloglogs, geospatial indexes, and streams.
MongoDB
MongoDB stores data in JSON-like documents that can vary in structure, offering a dynamic, flexible schema. MongoDB was also designed for high availability and scalability, with built-in replication and auto-sharding.
Cassandra
Partitioning means that Cassandra can distribute your data across multiple machines in an application-transparent matter. Cassandra will automatically repartition as machines are added and removed from the cluster. Row store means that like relational databases, Cassandra organizes data by rows and columns. The Cassandra Query Language (CQL) is a close relative of SQL.
See all alternatives