Automation software has changed throughout the years based on need. It was a mere three years ago where it was Puppet and Chef clearly in the lead in the automation software race. But, as we all know, three years can be a long time in the technology field, and thus it is not overly shocking if changes occurred throughout that time. No different than when analyzing the competitors in this field. Whereby Puppet and Chef were once a dominate force with the likes of Ansible and Jenkins on the rise, the rankings have been flip flopped. Ansible and Jenkins presently find themselves surging, while Puppet and Chef are slowly moved to the back seat. Why is that the case?
In 2017, we conducted an interview with Greg DeKoenigsberg, at the time the Director of Ansible Community at Red Hat. It was fairly clear throughout that interview that he credited the ramp up time to learn Ansible as being far less than the likes of Puppet. A couple of years later, one can probably attribute that key aspect as a catalyst in its growth. In addition, it surely does not hurt that Ansible is being pushed by the leading FLOSS company in Red Hat. It helps when their install base is as large as it is, and now with the IBM acquisition, it would not be all too surprising to see their lead increase in the coming quarters and years. In total, the three year time line that we are focusing on for this particular analysis, shows that Ansible has seen a 50% uptick.
In addition to Ansible's strong growth rate, Jenkins has nearly matched it over the same time period. One clear cut answer why this might be the case is due to them being used in conjunction with one another. Whereby a firm might decide to use Ansible in lieu of Puppet, it also might utilize Jenkins at the same time. At the end of the day, they each provide different functions. Essentially, a Ansible/Puppet or Ansible/Chef comparison might be considered to apply to apples, while a Ansible/Jenkins comparison literally apples to oranges. Therefore, one can primarily conclude that the reason why both are growing at a decent pace is the result of companies utilizing both.
When we wrote about automation software choices a few years ago, it was clear Puppet and Chef were the dominant leaders, but their numbers had plateaued. Having noted that, there was still no noticeable decline on the horizon. We are now able to confirm that those plateaued numbers have since been trending downward. At their height, Puppet and Chef commanded numbers that fell just shy of where Ansible finds itself today. However, over the course of the last three years, each of them have shown a slow and precipitous decline of about 20%. And, in all likelihood, it appears the downward trajectory will continue. As far as why this has been the case, it appears hard to find one clear cut answer, although it may just be as simple as time to get up to speed.
Ansible has the luxury of being the new kid on the block in this analysis. Chef and Puppet have been around much longer. Thus, as a newer entrant, it provided the developers the ability to tweak what was once considered a challenge when reviewing Puppet or Chef. And, in all likelihood, this comes down to ease of use. Whether it is available documentation or simplicity of its structure, those are pluses for Ansible. Thus, entry level configuration or beyond can be completed by Ansible with the ability to bring the development team up to speed without much complexity. At the end of the day, Ansible is a safe and straightforward decision for DevOps engineers out there, without the worry of asking developers to learn new procedures.