Skip to main content

Best Configuration Management Tools Shortlist

Here are the configuration management tools I evaluated and liked and where I believe they work best:

  1. Ansible - Best automation features
  2. Auvik - Best network monitoring features
  3. SysAid - Best configuration management database software
  4. ManageEngine ServiceDesk Plus - Best for companies with highly mobile teams
  5. Octopus Deploy - Best for cross-platform deployments
  6. CFEngine - Best for DevSecOps teams
  7. Puppet - Best for companies with complex infrastructure
  8. Chef - Best for companies in industries with strict security regulations
  9. Rudder - Best patch management features
  10. Vagrant - Best for companies using virtualized development environments
  11. Terraform - Best for companies with cross-cloud dependencies
  12. Kubernetes - Best for scaling companies

Over the years, I’ve found that the particulars of internal systems might vary between companies, even if they’re in the same industry — something that might make it difficult to choose a configuration management tool. To help you make the right choice, I’ve drawn on my experience for this article that contains my top picks, where I recommend you use them, and the methods I used to make the selections.

What Is Configuration Management?

Configuration management is a process that involves maintaining a digital system, hardware or software, to achieve or retain a desired level of performance and functionality. Configuration management tools like the ones in this article allow you to do this by, for example, automating the process or giving you status reports on configuration items (CIs).

Overviews of the 12 Best Configuration Management Tools

Here are the configuration management tools that stood out to me the most in my evaluation, what I think they do best, and their pros and cons.

1. Ansible - Best automation features

Ansible screnshot
The Content Collections you can automate with Ansible. (Source)

Ansible is an open-source automation platform that allows you to automate tasks such as configuration management, infrastructure orchestration, and application deployment.

Why I Picked Ansible: I chose Ansible because of its event-driven automation features that can trigger a chain of events from a single action. This allows you to reduce the amount of time you spend on low-level tasks to instead spend on other areas of your operations.

Ansible Standout Features and Integrations

Features I liked from Ansible include the agentless architecture, which makes it easy to deploy into your environment with a low chance of system incompatibility. It also provides automation execution environments that apply uniform configurations across your platforms so you can remain compliant on all of them.

Integrations are pre-built for SAP, VMware, Red Hat Virtualization, Vagrant, Xenserver, ServiceNow, NGINX, AWS, Google Cloud, and Azure.

Pricing: Pricing upon request

Trial: 60-day free trial


  • Agentless architecture
  • Robust automation features
  • Relatively gentle learning curve


  • Does not provide real-time system updates
  • Does not perform as well outside of Red Hat platforms

2. Auvik - Best network monitoring features

Auvik screenshot
Network monitoring with Auvik. (Source)

Auvik is a cloud-based network management and monitoring solution that provides a comprehensive view of your network infrastructure.

Why I Picked Auvik: I chose Auvik because of its automation features for IT management and network visibility. I automated various processes, including documentation, inventory, and discovery, and I got real-time status updates throughout.

Features I liked for network management with Auvik include the disaster recovery elements, such as snapshots with my complete configuration history, that allowed me to restore my system to a previous historical point if need be. TrafficInsights allowed me to keep an eye on activity in my networks by tagging individuals and traffic flows.

Integrations are pre-built for Slack, SolarWinds Passportal, Pagertree, BrightGauge, ArcusTeam, Pagerduty, ScalePad, ITGlue, Liongard, and Freshdesk.

Pricing: From $150/month

Trial: 14-day free trial


  • Tracks and reports several metrics
  • Robust network automation features
  • Network configuration backups allow for disaster recovery


  • Expensive
  • Complex UI

3. SysAid - Best configuration management database software

SysAid screenshot
Relationship maps for CIs in SysAid. (Source)

SysAid is an IT service management platform that can streamline and automate service delivery processes, including in problem management, asset management, and self-service portals.

Why I Picked SysAid: SysAid’s configuration management database (CMDB) software caught my attention because of how easy it made it to keep tabs on my systems' CIs. At the start, it automatically imported the items after a systemwide network discovery exercise and allowed me to bring in any leftover CIs from CSV files.

SysAid Standout Features and Integrations

Features I liked while evaluating SysAid’s CMDB software include the asset inventory management function that automatically mapped all the components on my network along with their relationships. This made configuration management easy because I could access an up-to-date list of CIs from a single hub.

It also has a solid root cause analysis system in place, which color codes CIs according to their health status and turns red if it’s critical. You also get a map of other relationships that would be affected if it fails.

Integrations are pre-built for Google Apps, Jira, OpenAM, Microsoft Exchange, Office 365, Microsoft Teams, Nagios, Team Viewer, Azure Active Directory (AD), and Shibboleth.

Pricing: Pricing upon request

Trial: 7-day free trial


  • Robust network discovery features
  • Supports root cause analysis
  • Requires little setup out of the box


  • Limited free trial
  • Limited file-level reporting features

4. ManageEngine ServiceDesk Plus - Best for companies with highly mobile teams

ManageEngine ServiceDesk Plus screenshot
The cloud version of ManageEngine ServiceDesk Plus. (Source)

ManageEngine ServiceDesk Plus, developed by business solutions provider Zoho Corporation, gives you the option to manage IT service desk operations from one console with a configuration management tool that covers service requests, incidents, and changes.

Why I Picked ManageEngine ServiceDesk Plus: The last thing I tested with ManageEngine ServiceDesk Plus was its mobile app, and I was satisfied with its network configuration management features. It gave me push notification alerts about network configuration changes in real-time, so I could check activity and see if anyone had gained unauthorized access.

ManageEngine ServiceDesk Plus Standout Features and Integrations

Features I liked while using ManageEngine’s configuration management solution on the go include startup-running conflict reports that notified me when two or more configurations clashed. I could also run compliance checks against various standards, including HIPAA, SOX, and PCI, on all my CIs from the mobile app and get a comprehensive report at the end.

Integrations are native for other Zoho and ManageEngine products such as Site24x7, Applications Manager, ASSelfService Plus, OpManager, Analytics Plus, ADManager Plus, Password Manager Pro, Zoho Survey, and Endpoint Central.

Pricing: From $10/technician/month

Trial: 30-day free trial


  • Feature-packed mobile app
  • Compliance checks and reporting
  • Robust change management features


  • CMDB only available on the highest tier or as an add-on
  • Limited integrations with third-party tools

5. Octopus Deploy - Best for cross-platform deployments

Octopus Deploy screenshot
Deploying a release with Octopus Deploy. (Source)

Octopus Deploy is a deployment automation tool for DevOps teams that works both in the cloud and in on-premise environments.

Why I Picked Octopus Deploy: Octopus Deploy made it easy for me to generate and export my configuration settings from a simple command. I had the choice between XML, JSON, and JSON-hierarchical for the structure, and then I could carry it over to a different deployment and implement a similar configuration.

Octopus Deploy Standout Features and Integrations

Features I liked in Octopus Deploy include variables, which allowed me to create parameters for all my environments or just specific parts of them without needing to lock in configuration settings. This made deployment times shorter without taking away my ability to further configure my environments afterward. I also liked the code-as-config feature, which let me save my Octopus project configurations in a Git repository for better version control.

Integrations are pre-built for Visual Studio Code, Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS), TeamCity, Azure DevOps, Bamboo, Jenkins, Jira, GitHub, Docker, and ServiceNow.

Pricing: From $10/month

Trial: 30-day free trial


  • Supports CI/CD pipelines
  • Robust version control features
  • Beginner-friendly user interface


  • Stability issues when deployed on-premises
  • Performance dips when in the late stages of deployment

6. CFEngine - Best for DevSecOps teams

CFEngine screenshot
Application management in CFEngine. (Source)

CFEngine automates the process of installing and setting up IT system software by handling packaging and provisioning duties on multiple devices.

Why I Picked CFEngine: CFEngine gave me compliance reports that it had broken down by category: security, hardware, OS, and other. In a DevSecOps pipeline, an exact score that measures your security against industry standards is a useful waypoint for what the team should be working towards.

CFEngine Standout Features and Integrations

Features I liked while using CFEngine include the customizable dashboards that were also fully shareable, making it easy to exchange interactive visual information with other stakeholders. I also liked the ability to automatically trigger actions with specific events, something that would come in handy for any DevSecOps team members with several repetitive tasks across the pipelines.

Integrations are pre-built for Collectd, HP OpenView, Pagerduty, OSSEC, Munin, Zenoss, Nagios, Mender, and Ganglia.

Pricing: Pricing upon request

Trial: Free plan available


  • Strong support for DevSecOps
  • Lightweight and works on low-end systems
  • Fast performance


  • Free version is Linux only
  • Limited integrations

7. Puppet - Best for companies with complex infrastructure

Puppet screenshot
Inspecting server performance with Puppet. (Source)

Puppet is an open-source configuration management tool with several automation features for infrastructure.

Why I Picked Puppet: I got a lot of mileage out of Puppet’s infrastructure-as-code (IAC) functionality by using it to manage complex cloud infrastructure. I successfully automated several parts of it and could manage resource provisioning, maintain compliance, and build resilience at scale.

Puppet Standout Features and Integrations

Features that made me recommend Puppet include the ability to specify and implement configurations across different applications and OSs on a schedule. I could also set up alerts that notified me of potential drift in a system by comparing its current state to a desired one I’d previously defined.

Integrations are pre-built for AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, Consul, Terraform, Hashicorp Vault, ServiceNow, Splunk, Red Hat Satellite, and Dell EMC.

Pricing: From $9.33/node/month (billed annually)

Trial: Free demo available


  • Multi-cloud and multi-platform support
  • Robust infrastructure-as-code features
  • Built-in drift control


  • Difficult initial setup
  • Puppet code takes a while to learn

8. Chef - Best for companies in industries with strict security regulations

Chef screenshot
Using Chef App Delivery for software configuration. (Source)

Chef is a configuration management tool that organizes itself into units called “cookbooks,” which contain collections of resources called recipes.

Why I Picked Chef: I believe Chef would serve companies that need to comply with strict security requirements, such as those in healthcare, finance, and even government, due to its agent-centered design. The Chef Infra agent ensures that all the nodes in an environment operate independently to prevent cascading issues that might result from excessive interdependence.

Chef Standout Features and Integrations

Features that made me recommend Chef for tightly regulated companies include the fact that Infra updates and automates itself and works in low-bandwidth environments, so it’s easy to deploy across massive enterprise systems, such as banks with several branches across the country. Chef Infra Compliance Phase automates most of the process that goes into compliance auditing and generates detailed reports on your compliance.

Integrations are pre-built for Visual Studio Code, AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, New Relic, Amazon EC2, Splunk, Slack, Device42, and JFrog.

Pricing: Pricing upon request

Trial: Free plan available


  • Robust enterprise infrastructure management features
  • Scalable automation features
  • Uses Ruby and Erlang, which are easy on server systems


  • Difficult initial setup process
  • Steeper learning curve for developers that aren’t familiar with Ruby

9. Rudder - Best patch management features

Rudder screenshot
Defining a configuration policy in Rudder. (Source)

Rudder is an open-source configuration management solution that allows system administrators to automate and manage IT infrastructure from a unified platform.

Why I Picked Rudder: I liked Rudder’s patch management system, which supports multiple OSs at a time and accounts for system-specific differences. I executed patch campaigns where I installed updates onto my multi-OS collection of CIs programmatically depending on what was most critical.

Rudder Standout Features and Integrations

Features I liked while using the patch management functions in Rudder include the high level of visibility I got into each campaign, with a list of all events, detailed success and failure reports, and shareable campaign history. It also has a good enough automation system that was able to continue applying my configurations even if my network went down for a while.

Integrations are pre-built for Centreon, Consul, ELK, OpenScap, Hashicorp Vault, Zabbix, Ansible AWX, iTop, ServiceNow, and Rundeck.

Pricing: From $4.55/node/month

Trial: 30-day free trial


  • Comprehensive patch management
  • Robust data governance capabilities
  • Provides continuous compliance


  • It’s very UI-heavy and light on the CLI, making it less configurable than other options
  • Smaller community compared to other tools

10. Vagrant - Best for companies using virtualized development environments

Vagrant screenshot
Launching a Vagrant instance. (Source)

Vagrant is an open-source tool for automating the creation and configuration of virtual development environments with lightweight virtual machines.

Why I Picked Vagrant: Vagrant made it easy for me to spin up a development environment by building everything from a declarative configuration file that contained the necessary requirements. I could also reproduce environments with identical configurations, users, and OSs to ensure consistency across development teams.

Vagrant Standout Features and Integrations

Features I liked while using Vagrant include the ability to sync local and guest files, so I wasn’t stuck working with the terminal over SSH throughout my time in the VM. If you or anyone on the team wanted to get back into a previously configured environment, you could do so with a single command that would fully recreate it, no matter how long it had been since you last accessed it.

Integrations are pre-built for Puppet, Chef, Ansible, Salt, and Docker.

Pricing: Free

Trial: Free plan available


  • Highly configurable VMs
  • Sync between local and guest environments
  • Completely free


  • CLI-heavy
  • Resource intensive

11. Terraform - Best for companies with cross-cloud dependencies

Terraform screenshot
Managing event triggers in Terraform. (Source)

Terraform is an infrastructure-as-code solution from Hashicorp that allows you to automate and provision infrastructure resources declaratively.

Why I Picked Terraform: Terraform isn’t a configuration management tool in the traditional sense. However, I’ve found it can be a very strong one for enterprise applications due to its IAC functions.

You can configure your own code for infrastructure and replicate the configuration across several different environments, allowing for consistency at scale. It equips the environments with full traceability, making it easy to keep track of what changes affect what dependencies.

Terraform Standout Features and Integrations

Features I liked for cross-cloud configuration management with Terraform include the fact that it’s cloud provider agnostic, meaning you can leverage it on whatever platform(s) you’re using.

You can also split your configurations into smaller reusable modules so you can reproduce only the aspects you want on other platforms and keep catastrophic domino events to a minimum if one fails.

Integrations are pre-built for AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, GitHub, Packer, Docker, Ansible, Jenkins, Hashicorp Vault, and GitLab.

Pricing: From $0.00014/hour/resource

Trial: Free plan available


  • Robust IAC features
  • Cloud-agnostic design
  • Adds traceability to dependencies


  • No traditional CI management
  • Expensive

12. Kubernetes - Best for scaling companies

Kubernetes screenshot
Managing applications and their clusters in Kubernetes. (Source)

Kubernetes (K8s) is an open-source container orchestration platform that allows you to automate the processes of deploying, scaling, and managing containerized applications.

Why I Picked Kubernetes: In the course of my evaluation, I found out about Kubernetes’ ConfigMaps, which allowed me to separate configurations that were tied to a specific environment from my images. This made them more portable, something that a company in the middle of scaling might find important if they’re still figuring out their stack.

Kubernetes Standout Features and Integrations

Features I liked for configuration management in Kubernetes include Secrets, which function similarly to ConfigMaps but are encryption-ready for an extra layer of security to protect sensitive data like passwords and keys.

I also liked Kustomize, an overlay application configuration management tool that speeds up development. It creates a base configuration on top of which you can add more configurations for different deployments as your applications grow.

Integrations are pre-built for Google Cloud, Azure, AWS, Docker, IBM Cloud, Terraform, GitHub, Ansible, GitLab, and Doppler.

Pricing: Free

Trial: Free plan available


  • Highly scalable
  • Comprehensive documentation
  • Active developer community for support


  • Steep learning curve
  • Even though the technology is free and open source, it requires extensive resources to deploy and maintain

Other Configuration Management Software Options

Here are a couple more tools that didn’t make the list above but might offer what you need:

  1. Backbox - Best for backups
  2. TeamCity - Best for teams with multiple workflows
  3. Pointel CMS - Best CMS software
  4. Cloudaware - Best for companies using AWS
  5. Canfigure - Best querying features
  6. Alloy Navigator - Best for auditing
  7. Device42 - Best IT discovery features
  8. CMW Tracker - Best visual builder

Selection Criteria for Best Infrastructure Monitoring Tools

Here are the factors I considered when making my picks for the best configuration management tools.

Core Functionality

I needed the tools to be able to do the following:

  • Resource monitoring to ensure that updates didn’t exert too much strain on the system
  • Notifications and alerts for updates and the current state of the system
  • Reporting to help you stay on top of the system’s health and activity

Key Features

To deliver the functionality I wanted, some of the features I was looking for include:

  • Real-time monitoring to ensure you have the opportunity to get ahead of issues before they get out of hand
  • Customizable dashboards to give you a more personalized and arguably usable experience
  • Automation to reduce time spent on repetitive tasks


I gave priority to tools that offered a pleasant user experience and kept the team from spending too much time on the system’s upkeep. This meant tools that were easy to integrate and took a relatively short time to learn for people with the right technical skills.


By their nature, configuration management tools need to integrate with other tools, whether it’s what they’re managing directly or other tools paired with what they’re managing. Some of the integrations I was looking for include major cloud platforms like AWS, Google Cloud, and Azure and collaboration tools like Slack and Jira.

People Also Ask

Still need some information to help you decide on a configuration management tool? Here are the answers to some questions you might have:


With configuration management tools, you can automate routine tasks, reduce the risk of human error, and maintain compliance with various regulatory requirements. They also give you insight into your system’s usage trends so you can make more informed decisions to drive efficient resource allocation.

Subscribe to The CTO Club newsletter for more deep dives into the best tools that you can incorporate into your systems.

By Paulo Gardini Miguel

Paulo is the Director of Technology at the rapidly growing media tech company BWZ. Prior to that, he worked as a Software Engineering Manager and then Head Of Technology at Navegg, Latin America’s largest data marketplace, and as Full Stack Engineer at MapLink, which provides geolocation APIs as a service. Paulo draws insight from years of experience serving as an infrastructure architect, team leader, and product developer in rapidly scaling web environments. He’s driven to share his expertise with other technology leaders to help them build great teams, improve performance, optimize resources, and create foundations for scalability.