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Packer vs Vagrant: What are the differences?

Packer and Vagrant are both tools that help in the process of creating and managing virtual machines and infrastructure. Let's explore the key differences between them.

  1. Building Process: Packer is primarily focused on the building process of machine images, allowing you to automate the creation of custom machine images for different platforms. It provides a way to define and configure machine images as code, using configuration files like JSON or HCL. On the other hand, Vagrant is more focused on providing a development environment that can be easily shared and reproduced. It allows you to create, configure, and manage virtual machines or containers for development purposes.

  2. Multi-Provider Support: Packer supports multiple providers, such as Amazon EC2, Microsoft Azure, VMware, and more. This means you can build machine images for various platforms using a single Packer configuration file. Vagrant, on the other hand, primarily focuses on virtualization providers like VirtualBox, VMware, and Hyper-V. It allows you to manage and provision virtual machines across these providers, but does not have the same level of support for other platforms as Packer does.

  3. Deployment vs. Development: Packer is more suitable for the deployment phase of infrastructure development. It facilitates the creation of consistent and reproducible machine images that can be deployed to different environments. Vagrant, on the other hand, is more focused on the development phase, providing developers with a convenient way to create and share development environments. It enables developers to set up and manage virtual machines or containers for testing and debugging their applications.

  4. Provisioning: Packer provides built-in provisioners that allow you to install software, configure services, and perform other tasks on the machine images during the building process. These provisioners can be used to automate the setup of the machine image. Vagrant also supports provisioning, but it focuses on providing a way to provision the development environment rather than the machine image itself. It allows you to specify provisioning scripts or configuration management tools like Ansible or Puppet to configure the virtual machine after it has been created.

  5. Dependency Management: Packer does not have built-in dependency management. Each machine image is built independently, and there is no direct support for managing dependencies between machine images. Vagrant, on the other hand, has a dependency management system that allows you to define the dependencies between different Vagrant environments. This enables you to define the order in which the virtual machines are created and provisioned, ensuring that dependencies are properly managed.

  6. Lifecycle Management: Packer focuses on the build process and does not provide extensive lifecycle management capabilities. Once the machine image is built, it can be deployed and managed using other tools or platforms. Vagrant, on the other hand, provides a complete set of lifecycle management features. It allows you to start, stop, suspend, and destroy virtual machines, as well as provision them with additional software or configurations as needed.

In summary, Packer is primarily focused on the building process of machine images for various platforms, whereas Vagrant focuses on providing a development environment that can be easily shared and reproduced. Packer supports multiple providers and is more suitable for the deployment phase, while Vagrant supports virtualization providers and is more focused on the development phase. Additionally, Packer provides built-in provisioners, lacks dependency management, and does not provide extensive lifecycle management capabilities compared to Vagrant.

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Pros of Packer
Pros of Vagrant
  • 27
    Cross platform builds
  • 9
    Vm creation automation
  • 4
    Bake in security
  • 1
    Good documentation
  • 1
    Easy to use
  • 352
    Development environments
  • 290
    Simple bootstraping
  • 237
  • 139
  • 130
  • 84
  • 81
    Synced folders
  • 69
  • 51
  • 44
    Very flexible
  • 5
    Works well, can be replicated easily with other devs
  • 5
    Easy-to-share, easy-to-version dev configuration
  • 3
  • 3
    Just works
  • 2
    Quick way to get running
  • 1
    DRY - "Do Not Repeat Yourself"
  • 1
    Container Friendly
  • 1
    What is vagrant?
  • 1
    Good documentation

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Cons of Packer
Cons of Vagrant
    Be the first to leave a con
    • 2
      Can become v complex w prod. provisioner (Salt, etc.)
    • 2
      Multiple VMs quickly eat up disk space
    • 1
      Development environment that kills your battery

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    What is Packer?

    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.

    What is Vagrant?

    Vagrant provides the framework and configuration format to create and manage complete portable development environments. These development environments can live on your computer or in the cloud, and are portable between Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.

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    What companies use Packer?
    What companies use Vagrant?
    See which teams inside your own company are using Packer or Vagrant.
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    What tools integrate with Packer?
    What tools integrate with Vagrant?

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    What are some alternatives to Packer and Vagrant?
    The Docker Platform is the industry-leading container platform for continuous, high-velocity innovation, enabling organizations to seamlessly build and share any application — from legacy to what comes next — and securely run them anywhere
    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.
    Ansible is an IT automation tool. It can configure systems, deploy software, and orchestrate more advanced IT tasks such as continuous deployments or zero downtime rolling updates. Ansible’s goals are foremost those of simplicity and maximum ease of use.
    JavaScript is most known as the scripting language for Web pages, but used in many non-browser environments as well such as node.js or Apache CouchDB. It is a prototype-based, multi-paradigm scripting language that is dynamic,and supports object-oriented, imperative, and functional programming styles.
    Git is a free and open source distributed version control system designed to handle everything from small to very large projects with speed and efficiency.
    See all alternatives