Web developers use virtual environments every day with their web applications. From EC2 and Rackspace Cloud to specialized solutions such as EngineYard and Heroku, virtualization is the tool of choice for easy deployment and infrastructure management. Vagrant aims to take those very same principles and put them to work in the heart of the application lifecycle. By providing easy to configure, lightweight, reproducible, and portable virtual machines targeted at development environments, Vagrant helps maximize the productivity and flexibility of you and your team.
Vagrant is a development tool which stands on the shoulders of giants, using tried and proven technologies to achieve its magic. Vagrant uses Oracle’s VirtualBox to create its virtual machines and then uses Chef or Puppet to provision them.
Benefits of Using Vagrant
For Solo Developers
Maintaining consistent development environments over multiple projects is simply an unfeasible task for a modern web developer. Each project depends on its own libraries, message queue systems, databases, frameworks, and more, each with their own versions. In addition to the dependencies, running all these on a single home machine and remembering to turn it all off at the end of the day or when working on other projects is also unfeasible. Vagrant gives you the tools to build unique development environments for each project once and then easily tear them down and rebuild them only when they’re needed so you can save time and frustration.
Each member of a team ideally has identical development environments: same dependencies, same versions, same configurations, same everything. But this is simply not true today. With database agnostic ORMs, multiple web server options, and fast-moving libraries, one team member may be using MySQL with one version of a library while another team member may be using PostgreSQL with another version of the same library. Or perhaps one team member’s configuration for their server is slightly different. These are all real cases which are bound to cause real issues at some point down the road. Vagrant gives teams the ability to enforce a consistent and portable virtual development environment that is easy to create and quick to setup.
If you’ve ever maintained a large web application, one of the hardest parts is onboarding new resources. Message queues, caching, database servers and other infrastructure pieces mean a lot of installation and a lot more configuration (see case-in-point: insanity). Vagrant gives you the tools to build a development environment once and then easily distribute it to new members of your development team so you can get them to work and saving time, money and frustration.