AWS CloudFormation vs Packer: 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; Packer: Create identical machine images for multiple platforms from a single source configuration. Packer automates the creation of any type of machine image. It embraces modern configuration management by encouraging you to use automated scripts to install and configure the software within your Packer-made images.
AWS CloudFormation and Packer belong to "Infrastructure Build Tools" category of the tech stack.
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, Packer provides the following key features:
- Super fast infrastructure deployment. Packer images allow you to launch completely provisioned and configured machines in seconds, rather than several minutes or hours.
- Multi-provider portability. Because Packer creates identical images for multiple platforms, you can run production in AWS, staging/QA in a private cloud like OpenStack, and development in desktop virtualization solutions such as VMware or VirtualBox.
- Improved stability. Packer installs and configures all the software for a machine at the time the image is built. If there are bugs in these scripts, they'll be caught early, rather than several minutes after a machine is launched.
"Automates infrastructure deployments" is the top reason why over 36 developers like AWS CloudFormation, while over 24 developers mention "Cross platform builds" as the leading cause for choosing Packer.
Packer is an open source tool with 9.09K GitHub stars and 2.48K GitHub forks. Here's a link to Packer's open source repository on GitHub.
Expedia.com, Redox Engine, and TimeHop are some of the popular companies that use AWS CloudFormation, whereas Packer is used by Instacart, Oscar Health, and MAK IT. AWS CloudFormation has a broader approval, being mentioned in 197 company stacks & 77 developers stacks; compared to Packer, which is listed in 115 company stacks and 21 developer stacks.
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