Configuration management tools are essential for ensuring your server’s security, stability, and longevity. They can help you automate the process of changing your server’s configuration and make sure that those changes are applied consistently across multiple machines. Below we’ll compare some of the most popular tools in this space: Puppet, Chef, SaltStack and Ansible.
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Puppet is a configuration management tool built by Puppet Labs. It uses a client/server architecture and runs on Ruby. The configuration is stored in files called Puppetfiles, which describe the desired state of the system. Puppetfiles use a language of your choice to describe resources, such as packages and services that should be installed.
The main benefit of using puppet over other configuration tools is that it allows you to have multiple people working on different aspects of managing your infrastructure at the same time without conflicting with each other’s changes or having to worry about data loss due to overwriting files. This can save hours spent arguing over who gets to fix what issue next!
Chef is an open-source configuration management tool for automating the application of operating system, application, and configuration data. Chef works by defining how systems should be configured and then automatically reconfiguring them when they become out of date.
Chef has a client/server architecture with a central server that manages various aspects of its clients’ configurations (such as packages and services). The client sends data to the server using an easy-to-write domain specific language (DSL).
SaltStack is a configuration management and remote execution tool. It’s open source, written in Python, and released under Apache License 2.0.
SaltStack makes it easy to model and manage the complete lifecycle of your systems in code. SaltStack has both a central master server that manages configuration information as well as minions that receive instructions from the master via a local or remote API connection.
Ansible is an IT automation tool that can be used for configuration management, application deployment, cloud provisioning, continuous delivery and orchestration. It uses a push-based approach to execute tasks on remote hosts or devices over SSH. Ansible is agentless so it requires no additional software installed on the managed nodes.
Ansible uses YANG modules to describe network device configurations in NETCONF XML (eXtensible Markup Language). The YANG language allows you to create reusable data models for representing network resources such as interfaces and routing tables.
CFEngine is an open source configuration management tool. It’s a centralized tool, but it also performs well as a distributed system. In fact, it uses a declarative language to describe the desired state of your systems. Your policies are defined in plain text files and interpreted by the CFEngine interpreter on each node where they are applied.
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CFEngine was originally developed by Mark Burgess in 1993 and released as version 1.0 in 1994 (source). The latest major version release is 3.10 which was released in October 2017 (source).
We hope that you have a better understanding of which configuration management tools are right for your organization. There are many options available and each has its own strengths and weaknesses. You may find that some tools work better than others depending on what type of infrastructure you need to manage.