One of the most challenging (and impactful) aspects of adopting DevOps is building a well-rounded set of tools that fits the team's skills and IT goals. Creating a culture around the wrong platforms leads to slower deliveries and more rollbacks, so a poor choice of tools is enough to compromise your transition to DevOps.
This article reviews the best DevOps tools currently on the market and helps make an informed decision on what tools are worth adding to your stack. We present two to three tools from every major DevOps area, so you'll find everything you need to create an optimal set of platforms.
Thinking about forming a new DevOps team? Our DevOps roles and responsibilities article offers an overview of everyone you'll need in the new department.
Source Code Management Tools
Source code management is a vital aspect of the DevOps culture that includes tasks such as:
- Version control.
- Issue tracking.
- Code review.
- Code packaging.
- Automated tests for code quality.
Below is a list of the best DevOps tools for managing, organizing, and reviewing source code.
Git is an open-source platform for version control that enables DevOps teams to track changes in source code. By default, Git is a distributed SCM command line tool, but developers can also download the Git GUI client with a user-friendly interface.
Integrating Git with a DevOps workflow requires the team to host source code in repositories where developers push their work. The three most popular Git repo hosting services are:
- GitHub (the most popular option with 56+ million users).
- GitLab (around 30 million registered users).
- Bitbucket (over 10 million users).
All three options offer both public and private repositories, plus provide users with additional DevOps features, such as:
Git increases the speed and data integrity for non-linear, distributed workflows no matter what repo you choose.
Main features of Git:
- A free, easy-to-learn tool for source code management that effectively handles projects of all scales.
- Works on Windows, macOS, Linux, Solaris, and AIX.
- Enables users to save different source code versions and revert to a previous commit.
- Teams get to create separate branches and experiment before merging a new feature.
- Direct integrations with IDEs like VS Code, Eclipse, and IntelliJ.
- Multiple DevOps-friendly features (staging environments, multiple workflows, commits, check-ins, local branching, etc.).
Mercurial is an open-source SCM tool that efficiently handles projects of any size. While not as popular as Git, Mercurial is the SCM tool behind several notable projects, including:
- Open JDK.
Like Git, Mercurial is a distributed tool that uses a decentralized model when creating local or private copies of project history.
Main features of Mercurial:
- A free Python-based SCM platform with an easy and intuitive interface.
- Support for all major platforms.
- Every cloned repository contains the whole project history, so user actions occur locally and quickly.
- Actions like committing, branching, and merging occur without the need to establish network access.
- Supports many workflows and practices (scalable workflows, merging and conflict reconciliation, multiple working trees, cloning of a repository to a backup commit, etc.).
- Easy to enhance functionality with extensions (either pre-built Python-based add-ons, custom ones, or from a third party).
- An excellent Quick Start Guide and knowledge base.
Considering adopting DevOps? Our guide to simple DevOps transition offers valuable insights and tips that help you through this challenging IT shift.
Containerization Platforms for DevOps
Containerization is a form of virtualization that packages app components within containers that run seamlessly in different IT environments. An app container stores everything required for software execution, including:
- The source code.
- All supporting files.
- Run time.
- System config files.
The speed and agility of container-based apps make this strategy a natural fit with DevOps, so let's see what platforms you can use to start containerizing software.
Read about container orchestration and see how experienced teams use automation to get the most value out of containerized services.
Docker is an open-source set of PaaS products that enable a team to create container-based apps. With over 11 million users worldwide, Docker is the containerization tool of choice for many prominent organizations, including Netflix, Adobe, and PayPal.
Docker is a containerization tool for packaging, deploying, and running container-based apps, but the platform also has Docker Swarm, a built-in container orchestration tool.
Main features of Docker:
- An easy-to-use platform for designing, shipping, and managing container-based distributed apps.
- Runs on Windows, macOS, and Linux.
- Enables teams to make OS- and platform-independent software.
- Maintains the same environment across every stage of a DevOps pipeline, from development to staging and production.
- Flexible image management with a private registry for storing, managing, and configuring image caches.
- A public registry for collaborating with other users.
- An abundance of built-in orchestration and automation features.
- Integrates with other DevOps platforms (Jenkins, Bamboo, CircleCI, GitHub, etc.).
- A natural fit with cloud computing environments as all major cloud providers have Docker support.
Read about Docker security and see how a team should use the platform to boost security across the software life cycle.
Kubernetes (or K8s) is an open-source platform ideal for managing containers at scale. K8s enables DevOps teams to automate the workflows and processes within environments with hundreds or even thousands of containers.
While not as user-friendly as Docker Swarm, K8s is currently the market's most popular container orchestration platform. The tool has a vast and loyal user base, so expect a wide selection of third-party tools if you opt for Kubernetes.
Main features of Kubernetes:
- Top-tier orchestration platform for automating container deployments, scaling, and management.
- Runs perfectly on-premises, in public clouds, and within hybrid architectures.
- A master-worker node arrangement for automating container scheduling and deployment.
- Robust monitoring and self-healing capabilities lead to excellent service availability.
- No need to tie containerized apps to a single machine—developers get to deploy to a cluster of computers, and K8s automates the distribution and scheduling of containers.
- Excellent load balancing and service discovery.
- Enables service traffic routing according to cluster topology.
- Allocates IPv6 & IPv4 addresses to services and Pods.
- Works with a range of container tools (including Docker).
- Many cloud services offer a Kubernetes-based PaaS or IaaS.
- Teams can use Helm charts to deploy multiple projects with the same custom apps.
Unsure whether K8s or Docker is the better fit for your DevOps team? Our Kubernetes vs Docker article will break the tie.
CI/CD DevOps Tools
CI/CD stands for continuous integration and continuous delivery, a unified set of software development processes that speed up deliveries via automation. DevOps teams rely on various tools to ensure CI/CD, so let's see which ones offer the best features.
Our article on CI/CD pipelines explains the main concepts and elements of a well-organized software development workflow.
Jenkins is an open-source CI/CD server that enables DevOps engineers to automate different stages of the delivery pipeline (building, deploying, and testing). This Java-based CI/CD server runs natively on:
- Mac OS X.
Jenkins works both as a simple CI server on the development side and as a complete CI/CD solution for managing the entire deployment workflow. The platform has a massive following (over 300,000 installations worldwide) and top-tier documentation.
Main features of Jenkins:
- A free system that runs in servlet containers (i.e., Apache Tomcat) and supports continuous integration and delivery.
- Easy to configure thanks to an excellent web interface (but also offers a CLI and REST API).
- Pre-built packages for simple installation (a WAR file in a JEE container).
- High levels of automation and customization across pipelines.
- More than 1,800 plug-ins (both official and community-based) that enhance code management, sysadmin tasks, UI, etc.
- Integrates with various DevOps tools (Docker, Puppet, Octopus Deploy, Git, Mercurial, etc.).
- Real-time testing and reporting backed by built-in error checks.
Check out our Jenkins tutorial for a crash course on how to use and get the most out of this CI/CD server.
Bamboo is a CI/CD server that ties automated builds, tests, and releases within a single workflow. This platform enables DevOps teams to:
- Automate every phase of software delivery.
- Create build plans in multiple stages.
- Set up various triggers.
- Allocate agents to critical builds and deployments.
Bamboo has both a free and commercial version. The free edition is available for open-source software projects, while the paid version comes with a monthly fee (based on the number of required build agents).
Main features of Bamboo:
- Supports up to a hundred remote build agents.
- Automatically triggers builds based on repository changes.
- Requires less configuration time than Jenkins.
- In-depth code history.
- An intuitive UI with tooltips and auto-completion.
- Parallel batch tests.
- A rich selection of pre-built functionalities, so there's less need to look for and set up plug-ins (Bamboo has around 190 official add-ons).
- Built-in Git and Mercurial branching workflows and test environments.
- Enables teams to deploy apps to the Apple Store or Google Play automatically.
- Supports multiple stacks (Docker, AWS, Amazon S3, Git, CodeDeploy, Mercurial, etc.), plus works seamlessly with JIRA, HipChat, and Bitbucket.
CircleCI is a cloud-native CI/CD tool known for high reliability and speed both in the cloud and on-prem. Although not as popular as Jenkins or Bamboo, Circle CI runs around 35M+ builds per month and is the platform of choice for Spotify, PagerDuty, Ford Motor Company, and Samsung.
Circle CI is an excellent choice for small-to-mid-size projects that value speed and flexibility over a high number of native features.
Main features of CircleCI:
- Runs on Windows, macOS, and Linux, plus supports Docker.
- Enables easy testing by automatically running a CI/CD pipeline in a virtual machine or clean container.
- Teams get to orchestrate and define task execution for better workflow control.
- Powerful caching options that speed up pipelines (caching of source codes, images, customer caches, dependencies, etc.).
- A powerful insights dashboard for tracking statuses and durations.
- Teams get to find and resolve issues using SSH access.
- A great notification system for pipeline failures (the tool integrates nicely with Slack).
- High levels of security (total VM isolation, LDAP user management, etc.).
Looking for more CI/CD platforms? Check out our article on the best CI/CD tools for an in-depth review of every noteworthy option on the market.
Configuration Management Tools
Configuration management tools enable a team to automate infrastructure-related tasks (maintenance, configuration, orchestration, etc.). Below is a close look at the best DevOps tools for configuration management.
Ansible is an open-source configuration management tool that enables teams to configure infrastructure and automate deployments. This Infrastructure as Code (IaC) tool uses the YAML syntax, which makes the platform easy to learn.
In DevOps circles, this Python-based IaC tool is a popular choice for pushing new changes within an existing system or configuring newly deployed machines. Ansible runs on Windows, macOS, Linux, and Unix systems.
Main features of Ansible:
- A free IaC tool for automating development, testing, performance handling, and deployment.
- Users provide instructions via YAML, which is easy to learn and readable to humans (the tool also offers various Playbooks that further streamline day-to-day operations).
- Various software-related services (automation, orchestration, configuration, infrastructure management, etc.).
- Agentless architecture means no daemons or agents run in the background, which makes the tool a lightweight solution for configuration management automation.
- High replication speed ideal for cost-effective scalability.
- Over 750 built-in modules for automating and configuring the infrastructure.
- Connects via SSH/remote PowerShell to complete tasks.
- Integrates seamlessly with Jenkins.
Terraform uses a user-friendly HashiCorp Configuration Language (HCL), a declarative language similar to JSON (with additional data structures).
Main features of Terraform:
- A declarative language that enables concise resource descriptions.
- Consistent staging, testing, and production environments.
- Allows infrastructure provisioning across 300+ public cloud services via a single CLI workflow.
- Auto-rollbacks upon failures.
- Allows variables within templates, which boosts reusability for resources and environments.
- Installation modules from the registry.
- Efficient state management.
Terraform fully integrates with Bare Metal Cloud, phoenixNAP's cloud-native dedicated server platform. This custom integration enables users to deploy new BMC servers in minutes and with only a few lines of code.
Puppet is a cross-platform configuration management tool that enables DevOps teams to manage infrastructure as code. The platform comes in two versions: open-source and enterprise. Enterprise Puppet provides various advanced features helpful for DevOps initiatives, including:
- Real-time reports.
- Role-based access control.
- Node management.
- Product support.
Open-source Puppet is free and open to customization. Go with this option if your team has solid experience with open-source platforms and you're dealing with a smaller infrastructure.
Main features of Puppet:
- Agentless automation for different software life cycle stages (infrastructure provisioning, patching, configuration, management, etc.).
- Works with Windows, Linux, and Unix-like operating systems.
- Relies on its own declarative language for defining system configuration.
- Automatically understands relationships within the infrastructure.
- Skips dependent configurations in case of failure.
- Excellent visual workflows.
- Desired state conflict detection and remediation.
- Real-time context-aware reporting.
- More than 6,700 modules for customization.
Check out our comparison of Terraform and Puppet for an in-depth analysis of how these IaC tools stack up against each other.
DevOps Monitoring Tools
DevOps teams must monitor apps and infrastructure to ensure quick responses to failures and risks. Let's look at the best DevOps tools for real-time monitoring.
Raygun is a full-stack performance and error-monitoring platform that gives real-time insights into the quality of web and mobile apps. This cloud-based platform enables teams to keep track of errors, crashes, cybersecurity risks, and performance dips.
Main features of Raygun:
- A robust suite of built-in monitoring tools for detecting, diagnosing, and resolving issues.
- Diagnoses issues and automatically tracks them back to the exact line of code.
- An APM tool for app performance monitoring (which fits excellently with the error management workflow).
- Automatically identifies highest priority problems.
- Advanced crash reporting and user tracking.
- Simple logging tool for .NET apps.
- Easy to set up and learn.
- Integrates with GitHub, HipChat, Slack, and Jira.
Nagios is a free, open-source monitoring tool that both detects and remedies issues. The tool enables users to monitor:
- Hardware (dedicated servers, workstations, printers, etc.).
- Business processes.
- Software pipelines.
There are two versions of this monitoring tool: Nagios Core (the free edition of the software) and Nagios XI (a paid, extended version of Core).
Main features of Nagios:
- A highly versatile monitoring solution that quickly detects issues thanks to parallel processing.
- Tracks various metrics (disk usage, CPU loads, system availability, response times, network protocols (SMTP, POP3, HTTP), etc.).
- Custom thresholds for all perimeters and metrics.
- In-depth analysis of events, outages, and failures.
- An archive of configuration snapshots for rollbacks.
- Enables users to keep up with performance trends through graphs and reports.
- Support for both agent-based and agentless configurations.
- A highly customizable UI with robust multi-tenant capabilities.
Our Nagios tutorial is an excellent starting point for newcomers to this monitoring tool.
DevOps Collaboration & Planning Tools
Tools for collaboration and planning are vital to a well-run DevOps culture as they enable staff members to centralize communication. Let's look at the best DevOps tools for collaboration and planning.
Confluence enables DevOps teams to centralize company info. This content-based platform encourages developers to share knowledge with coworkers, which is an essential trait for a well-run DevOps team.
Main features of Confluence:
- A platform for centralizing all DevOps-related info (meeting notes, pipeline designs, sprint goals, project plans, requirement documents, concept notes, release notes, roadmaps, etc.).
- Enables the entire team to see how an idea flows from strategy to execution.
- High levels of customization (layouts, schemes, stylesheets, remote interfaces (SOAP, XML-RPC, REST), etc.).
- A highly granular permission system.
- Single sign-on (SSO) feature with Jira.
- Macros that add dynamic content and extra functionalities.
Jira is a project management platform for assigning and prioritizing tasks. This tool enables a DevOps team to:
- Assign tasks to different staff members.
- See the development status of projects in context.
- Create branches.
- Track errors.
- Pull requests.
- View commits.
- Manage dependencies and releases.
Jira is the project management solution of choice for several big names, including Spotify, eBay, Cisco, and LinkedIn.
Main features of Jira:
- A project management tool that boosts collaboration and provides an overview of tasks.
- Works both as SaaS and on-prem.
- A configurable and customizable platform ideal for DevOps dynamics.
- Various out-of-the-box templates, roadmaps, and reports.
- An advanced engine that enables team members to build automation rules via a drag-and-drop interface.
- Single sign-on (SSO) feature with Confluence.
- Integrates with BitBucket and GitHub, which allows teams to set up a backlog for deployment traceability.
- A vast set of ready-made add-ons (including Scrum and Kanban boards).
Slack is the backbone of modern-day workplace communication, and the DevOps sector is no exception. This platform centralizes messaging and reduces the need for email exchanges, which positively affects both software development speed and security.
Main features of Slack:
- A simple collaboration and communication platform that enables both group and one-on-one messaging.
- Integrations with third-party platforms (Google Drive, Trello, Dropbox, IBM Bluemix, GitHub, Runscope, Zapier, etc.) enable teams to centralize all DevOps-related notifications.
- Works perfectly both on mobile devices and desktops.
- Audio and video conferencing.
- Powerful search capabilities ease document tracking, management, and file sharing.
- Various extra features (workflow builder, notification add-ons, note-taking, a transcription bot, etc.).
- Ample storage space (for the paid version of the tool).
- An API for creating custom apps and automating processes (i.e., sending alerts on specified conditions or automatically creating support tickets).
How to Choose the Right DevOps Tool
Answer the following questions whenever deciding if a tool is a good fit for your current DevOps stack:
- What's the purpose of adding a new tool? What are you hoping to achieve (and can the new platform realistically deliver expectations)?
- Can the new tool integrate with the current dev stack, IDEs, and management platforms?
- Can the tool work on your current infrastructure?
- How much customization will the new tool require?
- Will the new tool disrupt the current workflows and CI/CD?
- How popular is the tool? Is there enough documentation and resources the team can turn to if they hit a roadblock?
- Does the publisher provide support for the platform?
- Does the tool have any major updates or planned EOL in the near future?
- How much time would the team need to allocate to set up and manage the new tool?
- Does the team have hands-on experience with the tool (or a similar platform)? Are staff members on-board with adopting the new software?
- Does the tool fit in the allocated budget?
- How would the platform impact security? Would it add some new risks?
- Are there any worthwhile alternatives to the tool (preferably cheaper or easier to implement)?
Keep in mind that open-source tools take more time to set up and configure than paid tools. Consequently, free platforms require more time to become impactful. On the other hand, most paid DevOps tools have free trials that allow you to test and evaluate the software free of charge. Use that opportunity to see what a tool offers at no cost before committing.
Tools Are the Cornerstone of Successful DevOps
There's no successful DevOps without a well-rounded set of tools that fits software delivery requirements and the team's experience. Use the reviews of the best DevOps tools above to set a sound foundation for the IT culture shift and drastically improve your odds of seeing success from DevOps.