The best DevOps tools for Java applications – 2021
Traditionally, the separation between software development and IT operations teams has caused many problems throughout the development process. In recent years however the concept of ‘DevOps’ has quickly gained traction, bringing a new approach to increasing productivity and efficiency in production environments.
DevOps as a concept, is the integration of development and operations teams to achieve faster and better results during the production lifecycle. Typically when referring to DevOps the focus is on continuity and automation, along with specific tools that can be used to help team members ensure that these elements are implemented as efficiently as possible.
In this list we’re going through some of the best DevOps tools for Java applications that you can use to streamline and improve your team’s workflow.
Git has quickly become one of, if not the, most popular DevOps tools around. As an open source distributed SCM (source code management tool), it gives you complete control over the development and management of your coding work. Due to it’s huge variety of useful features, it’s widely renowned amongst open source contributors and remote teams alike.
With Git you can easily track the progress of your development work, share it with team members, and coordinate projects. You can save different versions of your code and return to previous versions at any time, if necessary. Git is also perfect for experimenting with changes, as you can create separate branches and implement new features only when they’re completely ready to go.
Integrating Git into your DevOps setup requires you to host a repository, such as Github or Bitbucket, where you and your team members can upload work to. These code repositories also have excellent integration with other tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams, which helps to further streamline and simplify your team’s communications.
Puppet is a very popular open-source configuration management system designed to automate the process of analysing, delivering, and operating across the whole lifecycle. This tool allows you to deliver software faster, more efficiently, and more securely.
As a cross-platform tool, Puppet greatly eases the deployment of software by automating the infrastructure management, therefore eliminating the need for system administrators to use manual scripting for configuration changes. In practice this greatly helps reduce the time and cost involved with making minor code changes across many systems, while also maintaining a clear change control mechanism.
While Puppet is available for free, the Enterprise edition should be considered for any larger projects. This Enterprise edition allows for managing multiple teams and thousands of resources at any time. Some additional features are also included such as:
- Node management
- More detailed real-time reporting
- Role-based access control
- Premium product support
For many smaller teams the open-source version ticks most of the boxes, however the additional features and functionality provide a great option for larger or growing businesses. After all, there’s a reason that over 40,000 companies use it in some form!
Jenkins has gradually become the go-to DevOps automation tool for many software development teams, with over 1 million users around the world. It’s an open-source software solution for continuous integration, that orchestrates and automates sequences of actions that enable developers to more reliably build, test, and deploy their software.
In practice, Jenkins allows you to automate the various stages of the software delivery pipeline, and lets you test and report changes in real-time – making it fantastic for quickly finding issues in code. You can also customise each step of the content delivery pipeline to fit your own needs, and you can even configure this to have multiple build jobs in a single workflow.
One of it’s biggest selling points is it’s massive plugin ecosystem, with over 1000 plugins available to choose from. This means it can integrate with nearly every other DevOps tool you can think of, which further expands its capabilities to various stages of the DevOps lifecycle.
Installing Jenkins is also a walk in the park, as it runs out-of-the-box on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X. Typically it runs as its own standalone application with a built-in Java servlet container/application server, called Jetty.
The DevOps tools Docker is a Linux-based open-source platform based on ‘containers’, which are software packages containing applications and all of their related elements and dependencies. Being the most popular container platform since it’s launch, it’s often thought of as one of the most important DevOps tools out there.
Docker containers allow you to package up software and it’s dependencies, and then deploy the entire container as an individual unit. Doing so allows these applications to become more secure, portable, and also means that you don’t need to worry about managing dependencies separately. As all dependencies and elements are packaged into the app’s container, you can easily run the app on any platform or machine without any issues.
Containers are OS and platform independent, can be used with any language, and also integrate very well with a number of other DevOps tools. Using it with automation tools like Jenkins or Ansible also allows you to improve your delivery workflow.
Cloud computing is also something that Docker excels at, with major cloud providers like AWS and Google Cloud adding support for Docker. Docker containers are truly flexible and can be used for nearly anything you can think of – you can even use containers as a replacement for virtual machines!
Ansible is another very popular open-source software provisioning, configuration management, and application deployment tool. Similar to Puppet and Chef, Ansible focuses on deployment automation and easy infrastructure management.
Where this tool really stands out is in its simplicity and ease of use. It’s completely agentless, connecting via SSH or Powershell to execute its tasks, removing the necessity for a dedicated systems administrator. Ansible follows a similar Infrastructure As Code approach as Puppet, however it uses the very simple YAML syntax. With this you can incorporate configurations, deployments, and orchestration rules to execute on Ansible-managed nodes.
As no agents or daemons run in the background, Ansible is considered a highly secure and lightweight solution for configuration management automation. All these factors help to improve the consistency, reliability, efficiency, and scalability of your application deployments.
Monitoring tools can be hugely beneficial in DevOps environments, and the free, open-source tool Nagios is often considered the leader of the pack. Nagios is used to quickly identify and correct problems in networks and infrastructure, with a variety of helpful monitoring features.
With Nagios you can easily keep records of network events, outages, and failures. On top of that you can also analyze your network infrastructure for any potential outages in the future, and better detect any security threats. Nagios can also be used to monitor additional parts of your development work such as the applications themselves, services, network protocols and more – with comprehensive graphing and reporting systems.
While there are many DevOps tools for infrastructure monitoring, Nagios really stands out due to it’s extensive plugin ecosystem that adds a wealth of extra functionality. Since it’s an older tool that’s been around since 2002, there’s also a thriving community around it with numerous free resources available like add-ons, tutorials, guides and forums.
Nagios offers four different open source monitoring solutions:
- Nagios Core
- Nagios XI
- Nagios Fusion
- Nagios Log Server
Nagios Core is the most basic of the four, being a command line tool that includes all the basic functionalities. If you need a web based GUI and more simple monitoring wizards, then Nagios XI might be the better choice.
For more extensive log data analysis and notifications on potential threats, there’s Nagios Log Server. Finally, Nagios Fusion allows you to monitor multiple networks simultaneously.
One of the newer DevOps tools to gain traction in recent years is Kubernetes, a container orchestration platform aimed at larger or more complex container setups. Initially developed by Google in 2015, it aims to provide a solution for managing containers at a large scale.
Kubernetes works similarly to Docker in terms of the containerisation system, however it’s instead intended to work alongside platforms like these. When you have a complicated application deployment procedure requiring management of many containers, Kubernetes helps automate this process with ease. Instead of having your containerised applications tied to a single machine, Kubernetes instead lets you automate the distribution and scheduling of containers across whole clusters of machines.
A Kubernetes cluster consists of a single master node, and several worker nodes. The master node implements the pre-defined rules, and then deploys the application containers to the worker nodes. Kubernetes as a system is very intelligent, and will automatically restart nodes when they’re down, redistribute the containers when necessary, and even automatically scale resources up or down depending on the demand. This provides a very high level of availability and scalability across your applications.
By orchestrating container creation and deployment, Kubernetes can be an exceedingly useful tool for CI/CD, and countless other aspects of the DevOps process.
Chef is another configuration management tool – similar to Puppet – used to automate the deployment, updating, and management of applications. This is another tool that adopts the Infrastructure As Code approach, allowing you to more easily manage data, roles, attributes, environments and more.
Avoiding manual scripting changes, Chef’s seamless orchestration engine allows engineers to ensure continuous delivery of code releases for applications. This allows Chef to automatically effect changes to the deployment infrastructure, based on pre-configured, customizable policies. Regardless of the size of your infrastructure, Chef helps simplify configuration automation and application deployment, across your entire network.
There are 3 key components which make up Chef:
- Nodes – devices which are configured using Chef
- Chef Workstations – machines that include ‘recipes’ or ‘cookbooks’, which push configurations to nodes on network
- Chef Server – the central command centre where all of the core functions and data for the infrastructure is held
Being a competitor to Puppet, it also supports multiple different platforms and integrates well with many cloud-based platforms like AWS, Rackspace, and Azure.
Selenium is a free, open source portable automated testing framework for web applications. This tool allows you to develop scripts to automatically test web applications for various conditions, and is used by some of the biggest names in the industry like Google and IBM.
It’s very flexible and can be used across multiple operating systems, programming languages, and browsers. A major highlight of Selenium is that it allows for parallel test execution, which further helps to save time when running multiple tests. Functionality can be further expanded with integration for a number of third-party solutions like:
- Jenkins, Maven and Docker for continuous testing ads part of CI/CD processes
- Sikuli for testing images
- LambdaTest for testing across different browsers
Selenium requires less hardware when compared to other test automation tools around, however it should be noted that it does require some level of coding knowledge in order to build the scripts. With that said, Selenium has a huge community across the globe, so there are countless helpful resources available should you need additional support.
Gradle is the gold standard when it comes to open source build-automation software. This tool excels at saving your team precious time by automating many of your crucial day-to-day development tasks.
Unlike other Java-focused automation tools which use XML for configuration, Gradle uses a Groovy-based domain-specific language (DSL). Using these Gradle scripts you can automate tasks – such as copying files from one directory to another before the build happens, for example. Gradle is also very versatile and allows you to write code in a number of different languages like Java, C++, Python, and many more.
Gradle runs on the Java Virtual Machine (JVM), and therefore it requires a Java Development Kit (JDK) installed to use it. Many of the major IDEs allow for the import of, and interaction with, Gradle builds – such as Android Studio, Eclipse, and NetBeans.
One of the biggest benefits of using Gradle is that it uses incremental builds, which saves you a lot of time when compiling software. Alongside it’s build cache and daemon features, it claims to be up to 100 times faster than Maven! As such, this is easily one of the best DevOps applications for Java development on the market.
The tools listed above are just a tiny subset of the DevOps tools available on the market today. Many of these are open source, and are either free or inexpensive. Before choosing the tool you need however, you should properly evaluate your needs, research the tools available, test them in your environment and decide which ones work best for you.
Ultimately, achieving better results with your DevOps strategy isn’t just about selecting the right tools. Chances are, you’ll also need hosting to launch your application.
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We hope this blog was helpful in giving you an idea of some of the most popular tools used by DevOps teams.