AWS CloudFormation vs Jenkins

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AWS CloudFormation vs Jenkins: What are the differences?

AWS CloudFormation: Create and manage a collection of related AWS resources. You can use AWS CloudFormation’s sample templates or create your own templates to describe the AWS resources, and any associated dependencies or runtime parameters, required to run your application. You don’t need to figure out the order in which AWS services need to be provisioned or the subtleties of how to make those dependencies work; Jenkins: An extendable open source continuous integration server. In a nutshell Jenkins CI is the leading open-source continuous integration server. Built with Java, it provides over 300 plugins to support building and testing virtually any project.

AWS CloudFormation can be classified as a tool in the "Infrastructure Build Tools" category, while Jenkins is grouped under "Continuous Integration".

Some of the features offered by AWS CloudFormation are:

  • AWS CloudFormation comes with the following ready-to-run sample templates: WordPress (blog),Tracks (project tracking), Gollum (wiki used by GitHub), Drupal (content management), Joomla (content management), Insoshi (social apps), Redmine (project mgmt)
  • No Need to Reinvent the Wheel – A template can be used repeatedly to create identical copies of the same stack (or to use as a foundation to start a new stack)
  • Transparent and Open – Templates are simple JSON formatted text files that can be placed under your normal source control mechanisms, stored in private or public locations such as Amazon S3 and exchanged via email.

On the other hand, Jenkins provides the following key features:

  • Easy installation
  • Easy configuration
  • Change set support

"Automates infrastructure deployments" is the top reason why over 36 developers like AWS CloudFormation, while over 497 developers mention "Hosted internally" as the leading cause for choosing Jenkins.

Jenkins is an open source tool with 13.3K GitHub stars and 5.48K GitHub forks. Here's a link to Jenkins's open source repository on GitHub.

Facebook, Netflix, and Instacart are some of the popular companies that use Jenkins, whereas AWS CloudFormation is used by Expedia.com, Redox Engine, and TimeHop. Jenkins has a broader approval, being mentioned in 1774 company stacks & 1526 developers stacks; compared to AWS CloudFormation, which is listed in 197 company stacks and 77 developer stacks.

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What is AWS CloudFormation?

You can use AWS CloudFormation’s sample templates or create your own templates to describe the AWS resources, and any associated dependencies or runtime parameters, required to run your application. You don’t need to figure out the order in which AWS services need to be provisioned or the subtleties of how to make those dependencies work.

What is Jenkins?

In a nutshell Jenkins CI is the leading open-source continuous integration server. Built with Java, it provides over 300 plugins to support building and testing virtually any project.
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What are some alternatives to AWS CloudFormation and Jenkins?
AWS CodeDeploy
AWS CodeDeploy is a service that automates code deployments to Amazon EC2 instances. AWS CodeDeploy makes it easier for you to rapidly release new features, helps you avoid downtime during deployment, and handles the complexity of updating your applications.
Chef
Chef enables you to manage and scale cloud infrastructure with no downtime or interruptions. Freely move applications and configurations from one cloud to another. Chef is integrated with all major cloud providers including Amazon EC2, VMWare, IBM Smartcloud, Rackspace, OpenStack, Windows Azure, HP Cloud, Google Compute Engine, Joyent Cloud and others.
Terraform
With Terraform, you describe your complete infrastructure as code, even as it spans multiple service providers. Your servers may come from AWS, your DNS may come from CloudFlare, and your database may come from Heroku. Terraform will build all these resources across all these providers in parallel.
AWS Elastic Beanstalk
Once you upload your application, Elastic Beanstalk automatically handles the deployment details of capacity provisioning, load balancing, auto-scaling, and application health monitoring.
AWS Config
AWS Config is a fully managed service that provides you with an AWS resource inventory, configuration history, and configuration change notifications to enable security and governance. With AWS Config you can discover existing AWS resources, export a complete inventory of your AWS resources with all configuration details, and determine how a resource was configured at any point in time. These capabilities enable compliance auditing, security analysis, resource change tracking, and troubleshooting.
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Decisions about AWS CloudFormation and Jenkins
Tymoteusz Paul
Tymoteusz Paul
Devops guy at X20X Development LTD · | 13 upvotes · 265.7K views
Amazon EC2
Amazon EC2
LXC
LXC
CircleCI
CircleCI
Docker
Docker
Git
Git
Vault
Vault
Apache Maven
Apache Maven
Slack
Slack
Jenkins
Jenkins
TeamCity
TeamCity
Logstash
Logstash
Kibana
Kibana
Elasticsearch
Elasticsearch
Ansible
Ansible
VirtualBox
VirtualBox
Vagrant
Vagrant

Often enough I have to explain my way of going about setting up a CI/CD pipeline with multiple deployment platforms. Since I am a bit tired of yapping the same every single time, I've decided to write it up and share with the world this way, and send people to read it instead ;). I will explain it on "live-example" of how the Rome got built, basing that current methodology exists only of readme.md and wishes of good luck (as it usually is ;)).

It always starts with an app, whatever it may be and reading the readmes available while Vagrant and VirtualBox is installing and updating. Following that is the first hurdle to go over - convert all the instruction/scripts into Ansible playbook(s), and only stopping when doing a clear vagrant up or vagrant reload we will have a fully working environment. As our Vagrant environment is now functional, it's time to break it! This is the moment to look for how things can be done better (too rigid/too lose versioning? Sloppy environment setup?) and replace them with the right way to do stuff, one that won't bite us in the backside. This is the point, and the best opportunity, to upcycle the existing way of doing dev environment to produce a proper, production-grade product.

I should probably digress here for a moment and explain why. I firmly believe that the way you deploy production is the same way you should deploy develop, shy of few debugging-friendly setting. This way you avoid the discrepancy between how production work vs how development works, which almost always causes major pains in the back of the neck, and with use of proper tools should mean no more work for the developers. That's why we start with Vagrant as developer boxes should be as easy as vagrant up, but the meat of our product lies in Ansible which will do meat of the work and can be applied to almost anything: AWS, bare metal, docker, LXC, in open net, behind vpn - you name it.

We must also give proper consideration to monitoring and logging hoovering at this point. My generic answer here is to grab Elasticsearch, Kibana, and Logstash. While for different use cases there may be better solutions, this one is well battle-tested, performs reasonably and is very easy to scale both vertically (within some limits) and horizontally. Logstash rules are easy to write and are well supported in maintenance through Ansible, which as I've mentioned earlier, are at the very core of things, and creating triggers/reports and alerts based on Elastic and Kibana is generally a breeze, including some quite complex aggregations.

If we are happy with the state of the Ansible it's time to move on and put all those roles and playbooks to work. Namely, we need something to manage our CI/CD pipelines. For me, the choice is obvious: TeamCity. It's modern, robust and unlike most of the light-weight alternatives, it's transparent. What I mean by that is that it doesn't tell you how to do things, doesn't limit your ways to deploy, or test, or package for that matter. Instead, it provides a developer-friendly and rich playground for your pipelines. You can do most the same with Jenkins, but it has a quite dated look and feel to it, while also missing some key functionality that must be brought in via plugins (like quality REST API which comes built-in with TeamCity). It also comes with all the common-handy plugins like Slack or Apache Maven integration.

The exact flow between CI and CD varies too greatly from one application to another to describe, so I will outline a few rules that guide me in it: 1. Make build steps as small as possible. This way when something breaks, we know exactly where, without needing to dig and root around. 2. All security credentials besides development environment must be sources from individual Vault instances. Keys to those containers should exist only on the CI/CD box and accessible by a few people (the less the better). This is pretty self-explanatory, as anything besides dev may contain sensitive data and, at times, be public-facing. Because of that appropriate security must be present. TeamCity shines in this department with excellent secrets-management. 3. Every part of the build chain shall consume and produce artifacts. If it creates nothing, it likely shouldn't be its own build. This way if any issue shows up with any environment or version, all developer has to do it is grab appropriate artifacts to reproduce the issue locally. 4. Deployment builds should be directly tied to specific Git branches/tags. This enables much easier tracking of what caused an issue, including automated identifying and tagging the author (nothing like automated regression testing!).

Speaking of deployments, I generally try to keep it simple but also with a close eye on the wallet. Because of that, I am more than happy with AWS or another cloud provider, but also constantly peeking at the loads and do we get the value of what we are paying for. Often enough the pattern of use is not constantly erratic, but rather has a firm baseline which could be migrated away from the cloud and into bare metal boxes. That is another part where this approach strongly triumphs over the common Docker and CircleCI setup, where you are very much tied in to use cloud providers and getting out is expensive. Here to embrace bare-metal hosting all you need is a help of some container-based self-hosting software, my personal preference is with Proxmox and LXC. Following that all you must write are ansible scripts to manage hardware of Proxmox, similar way as you do for Amazon EC2 (ansible supports both greatly) and you are good to go. One does not exclude another, quite the opposite, as they can live in great synergy and cut your costs dramatically (the heavier your base load, the bigger the savings) while providing production-grade resiliency.

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Joshua Dean KĂĽpper
Joshua Dean KĂĽpper
CEO at Scrayos UG (haftungsbeschränkt) · | 6 upvotes · 36.8K views
atScrayos UG (haftungsbeschränkt)Scrayos UG (haftungsbeschränkt)
Jenkins
Jenkins
GitLab Pages
GitLab Pages
GitLab
GitLab
GitLab CI
GitLab CI

We use GitLab CI because of the great native integration as a part of the GitLab framework and the linting-capabilities it offers. The visualization of complex pipelines and the embedding within the project overview made Gitlab CI even more convenient. We use it for all projects, all deployments and as a part of GitLab Pages.

While we initially used the Shell-executor, we quickly switched to the Docker-executor and use it exclusively now.

We formerly used Jenkins but preferred to handle everything within GitLab . Aside from the unification of our infrastructure another motivation was the "configuration-in-file"-approach, that Gitlab CI offered, while Jenkins support of this concept was very limited and users had to resort to using the webinterface. Since the file is included within the repository, it is also version controlled, which was a huge plus for us.

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Sebastian Gębski
Sebastian Gębski
CTO at Shedul/Fresha · | 4 upvotes · 241.5K views
atFresha EngineeringFresha Engineering
Logentries
Logentries
Sentry
Sentry
AppSignal
AppSignal
New Relic
New Relic
GitHub
GitHub
Git
Git
Jenkins
Jenkins
CircleCI
CircleCI

Regarding Continuous Integration - we've started with something very easy to set up - CircleCI , but with time we're adding more & more complex pipelines - we use Jenkins to configure & run those. It's much more effort, but at some point we had to pay for the flexibility we expected. Our source code version control is Git (which probably doesn't require a rationale these days) and we keep repos in GitHub - since the very beginning & we never considered moving out. Our primary monitoring these days is in New Relic (Ruby & SPA apps) and AppSignal (Elixir apps) - we're considering unifying it in New Relic , but this will require some improvements in Elixir app observability. For error reporting we use Sentry (a very popular choice in this class) & we collect our distributed logs using Logentries (to avoid semi-manual handling here).

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Joseph Kunzler
Joseph Kunzler
DevOps Engineer at Tillable · | 9 upvotes · 30.4K views
atTillableTillable
AWS CloudFormation
AWS CloudFormation
AWS Elastic Load Balancing (ELB)
AWS Elastic Load Balancing (ELB)
Amazon EC2
Amazon EC2
Amazon S3
Amazon S3
Terraform
Terraform

We use Terraform because we needed a way to automate the process of building and deploying feature branches. We wanted to hide the complexity such that when a dev creates a PR, it triggers a build and deployment without the dev having to worry about any of the 'plumbing' going on behind the scenes. Terraform allows us to automate the process of provisioning DNS records, Amazon S3 buckets, Amazon EC2 instances and AWS Elastic Load Balancing (ELB)'s. It also makes it easy to tear it all down when finished. We also like that it supports multiple clouds, which is why we chose to use it over AWS CloudFormation.

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Jenkins
Jenkins

I'd recommend to go with Jenkins .

It allows a lot of flexibility and additional plugins that provide extra features, quite often not possible to find elsewhere unless you want to spend time on providing that by yourself.

One of key features are pipelines that allow to easily chain different jobs even across different repos / projects.

The only downside is you have to deploy it by yourself.

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AWS CloudFormation
AWS CloudFormation
Google Cloud Deployment Manager
Google Cloud Deployment Manager
Terraform
Terraform

I use Terraform because it hits the level of abstraction pocket of being high-level and flexible, and is agnostic to cloud platforms. Creating complex infrastructure components for a solution with a UI console is tedious to repeat. Using low-level APIs are usually specific to cloud platforms, and you still have to build your own tooling for deploying, state management, and destroying infrastructure.

However, Terraform is usually slower to implement new services compared to cloud-specific APIs. It's worth the trade-off though, especially if you're multi-cloud. I heard someone say, "We want to preference a cloud, not lock in to one." Terraform builds on that claim.

Terraform Google Cloud Deployment Manager AWS CloudFormation

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Interest over time
Reviews of AWS CloudFormation and Jenkins
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How developers use AWS CloudFormation and Jenkins
Avatar of CloudRepo
CloudRepo uses AWS CloudFormationAWS CloudFormation

Manually clicking around the AWS UI or scripting AWS CLI calls can be both a slow and brittle process.

We needed to be able to reconstruct CloudRepo's infrastructure in case of disaster or moving to another AWS Region.

Setting up our infrastructure with CloudFormation allows us to update it easily as well as duplicate or recreate things when the need arises.

Avatar of Opstax Ltd
Opstax Ltd uses AWS CloudFormationAWS CloudFormation

Opstax uses CloudFormation for anything infrastructure related! CloudFormation allows us to use infrastructure-as-code as a constant blueprint/map of our environment. It means we can accurately and efficiently deploy replicated or new infrastructure with no time wasted clicking around and no human error.

Avatar of Kalibrr
Kalibrr uses JenkinsJenkins

All of our pull requests are automatically tested using Jenkins' integration with GitHub, and we provision and deploy our servers using Jenkins' interface. This is integrated with HipChat, immediately notifying us if anything goes wrong with a deployment.

Avatar of Wirkn Inc.
Wirkn Inc. uses JenkinsJenkins

Jenkins is our go-to devops automation tool. We use it for automated test builds, all the way up to server updates and deploys. It really helps maintain our homegrown continuous-integration suite. It even does our blue/green deploys.

Avatar of BĂąi Thanh
BĂąi Thanh uses JenkinsJenkins
  • Continuous Deploy
  • Dev stage: autodeploy by trigger push request from 'develop' branch of Gitlab
  • Staging and production stages: Build and rollback quicly with Ansistrano playbook
  • Sending messages of job results to Chatwork.
Avatar of AngeloR
AngeloR uses JenkinsJenkins

Currently serves as the location that our QA team builds various automated testing jobs.

At one point we were using it for builds, but we ended up migrating away from them to Code Pipelines.

Avatar of Trusted Shops GmbH
Trusted Shops GmbH uses JenkinsJenkins

We use Jenkins to schedule our Browser and API Based regression and acceptance tests on a regular bases. We use additionally to Jenkins GitlabCI for unit and component testing.

Avatar of Flux Work
Flux Work uses AWS CloudFormationAWS CloudFormation

Manage infrastructure as codes. Native AWS solution so it has better support to AWS resources than Terraform, also can leverage AWS Business Support.

Avatar of Endource
Endource uses AWS CloudFormationAWS CloudFormation

Manages the infrastructure for core website

Avatar of Patty R
Patty R uses AWS CloudFormationAWS CloudFormation

Deploys and maintains the infrastructure.

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