Everyone knows they need to automate. That is not a thought-provoking statement. In fact, when we ask infrastructure decision leaders their top priorities, automation shows up at #3, just behind consolidation and implementing operations analytics.

However, when we dig deeper with clients, we find hesitation. I would break their concerns into three broad camps:

  • Some are just starting their journey. For those, I suggest understanding the infrastructure-as-code landscape and learning how their operations people need to become developers. (Even for those well on their way, a refresh on these topics does not hurt).
  • Some have fairly sophisticated DevOps strategies and need to take them to the next level. For those, continuous delivery release automation (CDRA) tools are essential. A Forrester Wave™ by Rob Stroud and myself outlines the best.
  • Most, however, are struggling to achieve an automation baseline. It is not uncommon to see duplicate efforts across the organization using different tools for the same job. Some are using old tools. Some only have half their systems automated. The bottom line: their automation strategy is confused at best and broken at worst.

People are confused, but who can blame them? Between enterprise and open source, there are dozens of options for infrastructure automation. Which ones are best?

To reach that baseline, you need to use so-called “configuration management” tools. This includes well-known players like Chef, Puppet, Ansible and Salt, new players like Normation, and stalwarts like CFengine and Microsoft. In a new Wave, Rob Stroud and I evaluate these using 25 unique criteria, including not only how they handle configurations on-premises and in the cloud, but how to visually edit models, monitoring and governance, and community support. It is not just about keeping configurations in sync – it is how these tools integrate with critical service delivery, DevOps and compliance initiatives.

Whether you are new to infrastructure automation or an old hat, you owe it to yourself to see how these tools scored. You may be surprised.