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With so many different DevOps orchestration tools available, figuring out which is right for you is tough. You know you want to automate and integrate tasks across the DevOps lifecycle but need to figure out which tool is best. I've got you! In this post I'll help make your choice easy, sharing my personal experiences using dozens of different DevOps orchestration software with various teams and projects, with my picks of the best DevOps orchestration tools.

What Are DevOps Orchestration Tools?

DevOps orchestration tools are software that streamline and synchronize various DevOps processes. These tools automate tasks, manage complex workflows, and integrate different stages of the software development lifecycle, from coding and building to testing and deployment.

The benefits and uses of these tools are manifold. They enhance efficiency by reducing manual efforts and errors, ensuring consistent and faster deployment of applications. These tools also improve collaboration across teams, facilitate continuous integration and delivery, and support scalability and adaptability in complex projects.

Overviews Of The 10 Best DevOps Orchestration Tools

In this section, I go over each DevOps orchestration software solution, providing a brief description, then highlighting significant features and noteworthy use cases.

1

QuerySurge

Best for building tests "on the fly" with large result sets

This is an aggregated rating for this tool including ratings from Crozdesk users and ratings from other sites.
4.4
4 reviews

15-day free trial

Pricing upon request

QuerySurge is an end-to-end solution equipped with smart data testing software that is capable of automating the validation and testing process of critical data. It is a premier full DevOps solution for continuous data testing and orchestration. QuerySurge DevOps is capable of automating various tasks and processes, including software development, testing and other IT-related operations, effectively reducing the development lifecycle while delivering quality features, updates and fixes that are in alignment with operational goals and objectives.

QuerySurge also offers DevOps for data, also known as DataOps, which is a DevOps-type of automated process for critical data. It essentially applies various DevOps tools and approaches to the validation and testing of data. QuerySurge’s DevOps continuous testing solution executes various automated tests, which are triggered by predefined processes. This is a highly effective strategy as it generally provides immediate feedback on potential risks.

DevOps for Data is a fairly new release from QuerySurge. It enables testers to choose between a RESTful API and a Command Line API, while providing access to more than 60 API calls with close to 100 different properties. QuerySurge’s licensing and pricing options are quite transparent, starting from $11,493/user for the perpetual licensing option or $5,747/user for the subscription package with a minimum of two full users.

2

Ansible

A simple and easy-to-use automation and configuration-management tool

60-day free trial

From $5000/year

Ansible is an open-source, simple to use, and agentless automation tool from Red Hat. It has a light footprint, requiring less maintenance overhead because it doesn’t need any Ansible agent to be installed or deployed on the host machine.

Ansible is used to manage, scale, and automate complex deployments. It is often used for app deployment and continuous delivery pipeline automation. It can be used by those with little or no scripting or coding experience because it uses the declarative configuration in YAML-based files known as Playbooks.

However, you need to use SSH, which is already a dependency, for communication and have Python installed. The downside to agentless automation is that connecting to thousands of boxes across your IT infrastructure via SSH doesn’t particularly scale well.

While Ansible is free, there’s commercial support for the Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform in two editions. The standard edition is designed for enterprise IT processes while the premium version caters to mission-critical DevOps.

Both offer customized pricing upon request.

3

Red Hat OpenShift

Full-stack solution for building both traditional and cloud-native apps

Red Hat OpenShift is a flagship enterprise container management and Kubernetes platform built for a hybrid-cloud strategy. OpenShift is suitable as either an on-premise or public cloud hosting platform where developers can build, test, run, and deploy apps.

As a platform-as-a-service application tool, OpenShift contains plenty of rich features that makes it useful for developers and DevOps teams who need to straddle both traditional and modernized IT infrastructure. It provides support for popular tools like Java, Jira, Gitlab, and Jenkins.

Most importantly, it allows you to start where you are at and grow from there, automating everything from upgrades, installation, and lifecycle management.

OpenShift provides autoscaling functionality by enabling clustering and allowing the automatic scaling of app resources through adding more instances to your application.

OpenShift has been recognized as a leading multi-cloud container development platform provider by Forrester Wave Report.

OpenShift offers customized pricing upon request.

4

Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS)

Fully-managed Kubernetes

$0.10/hour for each Amazon

Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS) typically operates as a fully managed, cloud-native Kubernetes service. EKS is also tightly integrated with the robust Amazon Web Services (AWS) ecosystem, thus allowing you to take advantage of its efficient computing resources to provision your Kubernetes infrastructure.

But it also provides customers with other choices, including on-premises, hybrid environments, and deployment options with your own tools. This added flexibility means EKS doesn’t require you to migrate your workloads to AWS.

As a Kubernetes orchestration platform, EKS removes the burden of orchestrating the deployment of apps. Like its Azure counterpart, EKS also manages the Kubernetes control panel on your behalf. As a result, you can focus on your web applications instead of worrying about the performance of your nodes.

With EKS, you have the best of both worlds, by getting the benefit of AWS-supported products, in addition to the open-source solutions built by the Kubernetes community.

EKS provides an AWS Pricing Calculator to estimate how much you’ll be charged given the resources you’ll consume. As a flat rate, EKS charges customers $0.10 per hour for each Amazon EKS cluster they create.

5

Minikube

Customizable, lightweight virtual machine for running a local Kubernetes cluster

Minikube enables you to create and deploy a lightweight Kubernetes implementation. As a local Kubernetes engine, Minikube gives you the flexibility to do this via a virtual machine created on a local host computer.

With this single node cluster on your local machine, Minikube allows you to run stripped-down Kubernetes operations without having to invest the time or provide the systems resources necessary for a full-blown Kubernetes installation.

In addition to bootstrapping operations, you can also configure Minikube’s resource constraints from the convenience of the command line. This is vital since resources like disk usage, memory, and CPU are often correlated and tightly coupled with your source code.

Minikube also gives you other flexible choices, such as determining what version of Kubernetes you want, so you don’t have to be stuck with the specific version published by Docker Edge desktop distribution. In addition, Minikube can be installed on Windows, Linux, and macOS systems.

Minikube is ideal for beginners since it’s much easier to bootstrap and learn Kubernetes on a simplified local machine installation instead of getting overwhelmed by the steep learning curve of Kubernetes on commercial products.

The advantages of Minikube also double as its downsides. For instance, while it provides you with some functionality of Kubernetes, you can’t avail yourself of external resources like cloud load balancers.

Minikube is open source and free.

6

Rancher

Nimble solution that lowers the entry barrier for container management adoption

Rancher is an open-source orchestration tool for container management, especially for running containers in production. Rancher is versatile, providing full support for a range of container-based tools such as Kubernetes, Docker Swarm, and Apache Mesos.

Instead of single cloud-hosted environments, Rancher excels in multi-cloud and hybrid deployments, equipping DevOps engineers with a common platform to manage their Kubernetes distributions.

Rancher comes with various installations to suit your cloud infrastructure needs. Among these Kubernetes distributions are K3s for running workloads at the network edge or inside IoT appliances, RKE for running containers, and Hosted Rancher for the control panel.

Rancher performs as a simple, easy-to-use, next-gen platform for full-stack teams that adopt container app deployment. So, Rancher provides your development environment with DevOps tools to facilitate the development process.

In addition to a CLI tool to manage clusters, Rancher has an intuitive GUI with deployment tools such as native Docker API tools. This GUI provides convenience and a streamlined approach to managing a group of clusters from a central location.

Although Rancher is free, you have to pay a fee for support. This makes it an ideal technology for managing Kubernetes clusters for price-sensitive customers.

7

Docker Swarm

Lightweight, cost-effective tool for running containerized Docker applications

As containers gained preference over virtual machines, they became a vital part of DevOps solutions and workloads. Accordingly, most people familiar with containerization have most likely used or heard of Docker. As an orchestration management tool, Docker Swarm runs on the Docker engine.

You can use Docker Swarm to create, deploy, and manage a cluster (or swarm) of Docker engines.

Since Swarm uses Docker as its native clustering engine, installing Docker is a prerequisite. There isn’t much separation between Docker and Swarm as current versions of Docker now include Swarm mode.

To support load balancing and service discovery, Swarm uses DNS through a DNS server under the hood. Swarm also has a faster deployment time compared to other container orchestration tools.

Although Docker Swarm is useful and lightweight, it is very limited compared to Kubernetes. Docker Swarm doesn’t have in-built monitoring; this can only be achieved through third-party APIs. Also, it lacks the robust features of Kubernetes and its functionality is largely limited because it’s tied to the Docker API.

Swarm offers customized pricing upon request. Contact them for details.

8

Nomad

Flexible, yet powerful independent-minded container orchestrator with universal

Nomad is a simple, lightweight workload orchestrator for both container and non-container apps. Nomad can also be deployed in various configurations, whether on-premise, as a multi-region service, on the cloud, or even as multi-cloud federation worldwide.

Nomad’s major strengths are its universality, simplicity, flexibility, and minimal overhead. It is deployed as a single binary, so its light footprint integrates easily into your existing infrastructure. Support is provided for Windows, Java, and VMs while orchestrating support for Docker containers and other types of services.

Nomad doesn’t have the breadth of features of other orchestration tools on the list but it strives to do a few things particularly well.

Nomad is created by HashiCorp, so it integrates natively with the products like Terraform, providing infrastructure as code to manage jobs and cloud resources as added benefits. Others include leveraging HashiCorp’s Vault for ACL management and Consul for service discovery.

Nomad is well-suited for users and situations where Kubernetes is overkill for their needs and requirements.

Nomad has two editions: its Open Source edition is free, while you’ll need to contact the sales department for the Enterprise pricing.

9

Azure Kubernetes Services

Customizable, serverless Kubernetes allows you to quickly deploy and manage clusters

Microsoft’s Azure Kubernetes Services (AKS) provides users with a managed, cloud-based container orchestration platform based on Kubernetes. It is used to quickly create, deploy, and manage Kubernetes clusters. AKS essentially enables you to build and deploy scalable apps with Docker and Kubernetes on top of Microsoft Azure’s cloud platform.

But why not choose Kubernetes directly instead of through AKS data centers? Well, AKS provides you with a variety of advantages that aren’t readily available when you directly manage Kubernetes. AKS is run by a capable cloud vendor that robustly supports the underlying architecture.

AKS’ serverless Kubernetes means you don’t have to worry about hardware concerns. This provides you with elasticity in provisioning and more capacity in terms of adding additional resources without the need to actively manage your infrastructure.

AKS is ideal for those who want to avoid or at least minimize the hassles of hands-on management of the clusters.

For instance, AKS allows you to use Kubernetes while saving you the trouble of managing the Kubernetes API or the cluster state. Because AKS abstracts the task of the Kubernetes control panel, all a customer has to do is select a server type of their choice and run workloads on their machine nodes.

AKS combines cluster auto-scaling pools with an automatic repair feature for nodes.

However, there are downsides to running managed Kubernetes service. The onus is on you and your provider to ensure Kubernetes updates are diligently applied. Therefore, though AKS has enterprise-grade security and governance, you’ll still need to ensure Kubernetes security patches are applied.

AKS offers customized pricing upon request.

10

Marathon

Apache Mesos framework for container orchestration on Mesos

Free Version

Pricing is not listed

Marathon is an orchestration tool designed as a fundamental building block for Apache Mesos and Mesosphere’s Datacenter Operating System (DC/OS). As a result, Marathon provides first-class support for Mesos containers using Docker and cgroups.Marathon has a well-designed UI with clean functionality, which provides intuitively clear insight and visibility of what is happening with containers. It binds persistent storage volumes directly to your application, along with providing application and disaster recovery capabilities. Marathon provides other pertinent cloud features including load balancing and service discovery.Marathon is equipped with several HTTP methods, which allows you to perform HTTP or TCP health checks on applications and subscribe to events in order to receive notifications. The availability of endpoints are useful for integrating with external load balancers.Marathon is also compatible with databases such as MySQL and Postgres, with their storage accounted for by Mesos. Querying metrics is as simple as using JSON formats, which can be pushed to monitoring and observability services like Datadog or Graphite studio. Marathon’s API can also integrate with Docker, Prometheus, JBoss Portal, among others.Marathon operates a free version and has not listed other pricing information publicly.

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Other Options

Here’s a few honorable mentions that didn’t make the list.

  1. Kubernetes

    The most popular container orchestration platform for managing node clusters at scale

  2. Containership

    Deploy containerized workloads using docker without needing to understand or learn docker

  3. QA Wolf

    End-to-end testing solution with a team of QA experts for support

  4. TestRail

    Best DevOps orchestration tool with built-in test management functionality

  5. Cloudify

    Uses environment-as-a-service technology to turn existing cloud infrastructure into a self-managed environment.

  6. GKE

    Google Kubernetes Engine is a fully-automatic Kubernetes platform.

Best DevOps Orchestration Tools: Comparison Criteria

Below is the summary of the evaluation criteria that guided my selection of the top ten tools.

  1. User Interface (UI): A tool’s UI/UX interface is typically its first contact with its customer. Therefore, I looked for easy navigation with a clean, inviting, and user-friendly layout.
  2. Usability: DevOps orchestration tools handle fairly complex tasks like configuring build processes. The best tools are relatively simple to use and easy to learn and paired with rich features to work and collaborate effectively.
  3. Integrations: The best DevOps tools have the ability to support a wide range of popular tools and environments. It should offer compatible support for CI tools and version control systems like GitHub, Jenkins, Bitbucket, and Docker. It must build partner ecosystems to provide apps that aren’t in its wheelhouse.
  4. Value for Pricing: Affordability is always a vital factor in making business purchases. Therefore, I look for cost-effectiveness and the value for money a tool provides. 

DevOps Orchestration Tools: Key Features

These are the key features DevOps orchestration tools need to remain competitive.

  1. Integrated automation: In order to be an effective orchestration platform, a tool needs to have automation pervasively interwoven into the fabric of its operations, especially those that have a disproportionate impact on productivity and cost-effectiveness. Examples include test automation and testing tools such as Jenkins, Terraform, Bamboo, among others.
  2. CI/CD pipeline: DevOps tools are largely synonymous with continuous integration and continuous delivery functionality. Therefore, an orchestration tool should be equipped with robust CI/CD pipelines that facilitate the creation and delivery of well-tested, high-quality software at high velocity.
  3. Support for cloud-native technologies: Let’s face it, software has migrated to the cloud. Thus, orchestration tools strive to make the “build once, deploy everywhere” mantra a reality. So, in addition to on-premise system deployment, support for cloud computing should be a centerpiece.
  4. Container management: Orchestration tools must be adept at running microservices and container-based infrastructure. This feature is important as Kubernetes and containers have become the preferred way to modernize legacy apps and build software at scale.

What Do You Think About This List?

This is my top ten DevOps orchestration tools list. It bears the imprint of my personal imprimatur and possible biases. Nevertheless, it was well-researched and based as much as possible on objective fact. Consequently, I'd like to hear your opinion and get your feedback.

I also encourage you to check out a related article on the 10 Best DevOps Automation Tools for Software Development. And while you’re at it, subscribe to The QA Lead newsletter or listen to any of our top-notch podcasts.

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By Eze Onukwube

Eze has a master's degree in communications with over 10 years of experience as a software engineer. His playground is at the intersection of technology, process improvement, and simplifying IT concepts.