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Compare open source orchestration tools for DevOps


The central goal of DevOps is to ensure efficient software delivery through a high degree of team collaboration to develop, test, deploy, and scale IT environments and applications as needed. These environments require dynamic workflows and automation to ensure efficiency and repeatability. Orchestration tools not only reduce workload errors, but they also reduce development and deployment costs and increase productivity.

Choosing the right orchestration approach depends on a number of factors, from organization size and DevOps capabilities to business goals and budget constraints. Business leaders and IT managers can adopt open source tools to alleviate technology or infrastructure deficits posed by limited finances. Let’s take a look at the best open source orchestration tools for transparent CI/CD and explore the key features that set them apart.

CI/CD and the role of orchestration

The process of creating, packaging, testing, and deploying software often happens simultaneously in different domains. These delivery paths are defined as continuous integration and continuous deployment, or CI/CD, pipelines. Designed to automate and streamline the build process, pipelines allow DevOps teams to easily deploy new artifacts.

Successfully running a CD requires in-depth knowledge of the deployed artifacts and their performance to assess whether a particular instance needs to be restored. These features break out of the framework of CI, which is stateless and automatically runs a new pipeline when updating code.

Often, DevOps teams manage multiple pipelines, which dictates the need for streamlined management. Once the automation is in place, an orchestrator coordinates and integrates the repetitive DevOps processes. Teams can easily maintain context and configuration in their pipelines to deliver scalable and highly available applications. For example, orchestration coordinates all automated tasks, ensuring rapid releases of features and fixes while minimizing deployment times and reducing service delivery costs.

Manage with Kubernetes, orchestrate with Rancher and Nomad

Containers are fundamental to today’s software development and distributed applications. These virtualized operating systems provide the executables, binary code, libraries, and configuration files needed to run applications. Via the open source Kubernetes framework, DevOps teams can manage containerized workloads in the form of clusters. Each individual cluster has its own set of users, administrators, assigned storage resources, and security settings.

Kubernetes is useful for cloud-native applications because clusters can span hosts across public, private, and hybrid clouds. DevOps teams use declarative configurations and automation to orchestrate containers, mount and add storage, and scale applications instantly, as well as control deployments and updates.

Opinions on ease of use, however, differ widely. For example, setting up Kubernetes is relatively simple, but securely deploying Kubernetes in production can be more difficult for larger organizations due to the levels of complexity.

Open source Rancher simplifies Kubernetes orchestration by providing a web-based user interface for direct management. Developers can create clusters and manage security using external authentication sources, such as Active Directory, Lightweight Directory Access Protocol, and single sign-on. For example, developers can use the Rancher console to define users, assign permissions, and designate resource usage in clusters.

Rancher enables IT teams to manage workloads and projects without in-depth knowledge of Kubernetes. DevOps practices allow IT administrators to create new pipelines, test code, and deploy workloads by integrating Rancher with GitHub to execute a series of steps and steps. Rancher also offers deployment features for all popular cloud providers, including AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure.

HashiCorp’s Nomad is another open-source orchestration tool, useful for cloud-native applications that require rapid scaling. From version 1.2.4 Release, Nomad offers dynamic application scaling for tracking resource usage, and autoscaling ensures the most efficient levels of resource consumption. DevOps team members can segment workloads and related objects to provide multitenant clusters.

For application deployment, developers use a declarative infrastructure-as-code approach to schedule jobs and improve resource utilization. DevOps teams can also orchestrate containerized and non-containerized microservices and workloads. Nomad provides a lightweight layer for operational simplicity from a single orchestration workflow.

Increase agility with Jenkins, Jenkins X or GitLab CI

Jenkins represents a well-established open source tool that interfaces with and orchestrates a diversity of development approaches. When used conservatively with modern best practices, Jenkins offers a powerful and flexible CI/CD approach, especially for more complex processes and cross-platform builds. However, Jenkins requires the institution of user restrictions as well as attention to the number of plugins used.

Teams can extend Jenkins with simple declarative pipelines and small defined libraries to keep their Jenkins files concise. The result is a powerful and efficient orchestration system for complex processes and cross-platform builds. Teams can also simplify management using the Jenkins Cloud plugin for Docker to provision a container as a Jenkins agent node and use Ansible to manage configurations.

To avoid plugin overuse, DevOps teams can deploy Jenkins X and use its command-line tool to orchestrate CI/CD, import projects, and start cloud-native applications. Jenkins X is native to Kubernetes, reducing the need for in-depth Kubernetes knowledge. It simplifies cluster creation and offers preview environments for pull requests. DevOps teams can use the close affiliation with Git to access Dockerfiles, Jenkinsfiles, or Helm Charts for customizations and workflow adjustments.

From easing configurations to isolating clusters, Jenkins X accelerates task execution and integrates with leading cloud platforms, such as Google, AWS, Azure, and Oracle. Jenkins X also allows for fast checkouts because versions, comments, and trackable information are all accessible through centralized GitOps.

Finally, GitLab CI allows DevOps teams to orchestrate multiple pipelines and rerun specific sections for troubleshooting and verification. Developers use YAML anchors to reuse known good code in their YAML files. Teams using GitLab CI get a single source of truth to verify code changes and collaborate more effectively with built-in automation capabilities and shorter release cycles.

With GitLab CI’s single, distributed version control system, administrators manage development and code generation locally and orchestrate containers for building and testing. Organizations can host GitLab CI on-premises or deploy the tool in tandem with Kubernetes on a public cloud. DevOps teams can access high-level GitLab CI features and 50,000 CI pipeline minutes for free. GitLab CI efficiently provides planning, source code management, configuration control and monitoring to help DevOps teams achieve transparent CI.