Chef Vs Ansible Vs Puppet: Top DevOps Tools Compared

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23rd Jan, 2023
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Chef Vs Ansible Vs Puppet: Top DevOps Tools Compared

Seamless collaboration between different teams across a software’s development lifecycle improves customer satisfaction and allows an organization to deploy a finished product successfully. This not only speeds up provisioning and delivery but also resolves any possible hindrances caused during the software’s lifecycle due to a lack of communication between each team.

However, many organizations are increasingly adopting a new collaborative culture called DevOps. DevOps is usually defined as a combination of processes in which software developers and operation engineers both work in a unified effort throughout the entire software development cycle, starting from ideation to production and release. DevOps has quickly evolved into one of the most preferred approaches to software development in the technical industry, as it has proven numerous times to decrease production time, improve communication, reduce cost, and significantly lessen deployment failures.

For companies looking to make the switch to DevOps, one of the key challenges is embracing the right DevOps tools or platform for effective configuration management. While there are numerous tools available right now that can, it is crucial to identify which ones should your team go with for your next project. We’ve put together a detailed comparison of the three most popular DevOps configuration management tools: Chef, Puppet, and Ansible to help you make an informed decision on which one should be part of your stack. Let’s get started.

Chef

Chef (now known as Progress Chef) is a configuration management tool written in Ruby and uses a pure Ruby, domain-specific language (DSL) for writing system configuration "recipes" which describe how Chef manages server applications, utilities, and their configuration. These recipes which are grouped together and called a cookbook for easier management, describe a series of resources in an optimal state, like which packages should be installed, which services should be running, or which files should be written. This allows Chef to make sure each resource is properly configured and corrects any resources that are not in the desired state.

The complete Chef DevOps solution comprises of four different automation tools:

  • Chef Infra: Is the main tool responsible for transforming infrastructure into code. Chef Infra automates how infrastructure is configured, deployed, and managed across the network and is used in conjunction with Chef Server and Client. 
  • Chef Workstation: Chef Workstation allows users to write recipes and form cookbooks to administer their infrastructure.
  • Chef Habitat: Chef Habitat is responsible for the deployment of applications in an “application automation” approach, which refers to the automation part being packaged with the application and deployed alongside it.
  • Chef InSpec: This is a testing framework for specifying compliance, security, and policy requirements and can run on multiple platforms.

Chef Architecture: 

 Chef Architecture

Chef might take a little while to get used to its different set of tools but is incredibly useful for automation tasks. If you’re looking to learn more about Chef, go ahead and check out our Chef training course.

Ansible 

Red Hat Ansible is an open-source suite of tools for software provisioning, configuration management, and application deployment. Ansible is simple but provides effective and powerful cross-platform automation and is used extensively for DevOps tasks due to it being Python based. Ansible is agentless and relies on temporary remote connections (over standard SSH by default) without installing agents on the controlled node. Similar to cookbooks in Chef, Ansible works with “playbooks” which are configuration files written in YAML and are used to store automation instructions. These playbooks can be executed on the managed nodes to bring them to the desired state.

While comparatively recent compared to other tools, Ansible for DevOps has evolved to deliver sophisticated automation solutions and has become widely popular within the community, being regarded as the most popular tool in the DevOps toolchain for 2022.

Ansible Architecture: 

Ansible Architecture

Puppet 

Puppet is the most well-known and matured configuration management tool out of all three. Puppet has two layers: a puppet configuration management layer that defines the configuration of systems by describing the system resources and their state, and an abstraction layer that is used to implement these configurations on a variety of platforms, including Unix, Linux, Windows, and OS X. Puppet uses specific modules written in either using Puppet's own declarative language or a Ruby DSL (domain-specific language) for configuration management.

Since Puppet is open source, it has a vibrant community of users and contributors. Ever since its initial release back in 2005, the community has been actively fixing bugs, adding new features, publishing new puppet DevOps modules, and sharing their knowledge and expertise. 

Puppet Architecture: 

Puppet Architecture

If you’re looking to dive deeper and learn more about DevOps or if you’re looking to expand your skill set, you can go ahead and visit our top DevOps courses

A Side-by-Side Comparison of Ansible vs Puppet vs Chef 

Now that we’ve briefly gone over Puppet Chef and Ansible, let us look at the key differences between them. While each of these three tools facilitates robust capabilities, they have some major and minor differences in features that fit in a specific environment.

Category 

Chef 

Puppet 

Ansible 

Initial Release 

2009 

2005 

2012 

Configuration Language 

Ruby DSL 

Ruby, Puppet DSL, Embedded Ruby (ERB), DSL 

Python, YAML 

Usability

Moderate 

Moderate 

Easy 

Architecture 

Master, Agent 

Master, Agent 

Control node, Managed Node 

Availability 

Backup Server 

Alternative Master 

Secondary Instance 

Feature-set

High 

High 

Low 

Setup Process 

Complex; mainly due to Chef Workstation setup 

Complex; due to master-agent certificate signing 

Comparatively Easy 

Configuration Management 

Pull 

Pull 

Push and Pull 

Scalability 

High 

High 

Very High 

Interoperability 

Server: Linux / Unix support only.

Client: Windows and Linux 

Puppet Master (Server): Linux / Unix support only.

Agent: Windows and Linux 

Control Node: Linux, 

Ubuntu, Windows (with WSL) 

Managed Node: Any device. 

Enterprise Support 

Large 

Large 

Small 

App Deployment 

No 

Complex 

Yes 

Pricing 

  • Standard Hosted Chef: USD 72 / year / node 
  • Chef Automation: USD 137/year/node 
  • Puppet Enterprise: USD 120/year/node 
  • Premium: USD 199/year/node 
  • Self Support Package: USD 5000 / year 
  • Premium: USD 14,000/year/100nodes 

The above table lists the key differences between all three of the major DevOps management tools. These include: Initial Release, Availability, Configuration Language, Setup and Installation, Ease of Management, Scalability, Interoperability, Tool Capabilities, and Pricing.

Ansible vs Puppet vs Chef: Detailed Comparison

1. Initial Release 

The initial stable release date of each tool can give us a good idea of the maturity of the tool. Each software goes through a series of initial development stages to its eventual release, and then receives updated versions of the released build to help add new features, improve the tool, or to fix bugs.

Ansible is the most recently released out of the three and possibly has more up-to-date features, but its community support or documentation might not be as strong as Puppet or Chef.

Tool 

Initial Stable Release 

Chef 

2009 

Puppet 

2005 

Ansible 

2012 

2. Availability 

Each configuration management tool offers the facility of either a backup server or an alternative master in case if the master or main server fails, providing backup. In case of Ansible, it offers secondary inactive nodes which can become a primary active node in case of infrastructure failure–avoiding single points of failure. 

Tool 

Availability (in case of server failure) 

Chef 

Backup server 

Puppet 

Alternative Master 

Ansible 

Secondary Instance 

3. Configuration Language 

Each tool has a certain language in which the configuration files are written, which can be an important deciding factor in which tool to select for your organization. Ansible configuration language is Python and YAML while Chef and Puppet generally use Ruby.

Tool
Configuration Language
Learning Level
Chef
Ruby DSL
Intermediate
Puppet
Ruby, Puppet DSL, Embedded Ruby (ERB), DSL
Experienced
Ansible
Python, YAML
Simple

4. Setup and Installation 

Perhaps the biggest advantage of Ansible over the other tools is its ease of installation as it is an agentless automation tool. Ansible is installed on a single host from where Ansible can manage an entire fleet of machines and other devices. While in the case of Chef and Puppet, they follow the concept of client-server architecture, hence in order to start working with Chef or Puppet one needs to set up these tools on the workstation and develop the configuration locally. 

Tool 

Architecture 

Setup Process 

Chef 

Master-Agent 

Complex; mainly due to Chef Workstation setup 

Puppet 

Master-Agent 

Complex; due to master-agent certificate signing 

Ansible 

Only Master (Agentless) 

Easy 

5. Ease of Management 

Ansible comparatively offers greater ease of management due to it being a Python and YAML based tool, which are easier to grasp compared to Ruby DSL. Ansible also offers both Push and Pull based configuration management, which means the secondary nodes can either pull the configuration from the central server directly or the central server can push these configurations with specific commands to the secondary nodes.

Tool 

Configuration 

Ease of Management 

Chef 

Pull Only 

Difficult 

Puppet 

Pull Only 

Difficult 

Ansible 

Push and Pull 

Comparatively Easy 

6. Scalability 

Ansible’s simplicity and ease of use also offers it great scalability potentials and make large Scale deployments much easier compared to other tools like Puppet, which require additional servers known as “compilers” that receive catalog requests from agents and synchronize the results with each other. 

Tool 

Scalability 

Chef 

High 

Puppet 

High 

Ansible 

Very High 

7. Interoperability 

Interoperability is quite similar between the three tools, the server or master is supported on Linux / Unix only while the slave or secondary nodes can be run on Windows, Mac OSX or Linux.

Tool 

Interoperability 

Chef 

Server: Linux / Unix support only.

Client: Windows and Linux 

Puppet 

Puppet Master (Server): Linux / Unix support only.

Agent: Windows and Linux 

Ansible 

Server: Linux / Unix only 

Client: Windows 

8. Tool Capabilities 

Each tool offers a slightly different set of features and capabilities which can help you in choosing the most suitable tool for your needs.

Tool 

Capabilities 

Chef 

  • Infrastructure automation 
  • Cloud automation 
  • Compliance and security management 
  • Automated workflow for continuous delivery 
  • Automation for DevOps workflow 

Puppet 

  • Automated provisioning 
  • Role based access control 
  • Visualization and reporting 
  • Code and Node management

Ansible 

  • Simplified orchestration 
  • App deployment 
  • Security and Compliance policy integration 
  • Streamlined provisioning 

9. Pricing 

Pricing plays a prominent role in any organization’s adoption of a new technology or tool. Similarly, it is imperative to consider various financial factors to determine which tool would be the most budget friendly while offering the most relevant features.

Tool
Comparative Pricing
For enterprise solutions
Chef
High
USD 13700/year for up to 100 nodes
Puppet
Moderate
USD 11200-19900/year for up to 100 nodes
Ansible
Low
USD 10000/year for up to 100 nodes

Conclusion 

In this article, we went over a detailed comparison between three of the most common DevOps management tools: Ansible, Chef, and Puppet to help you make the right choice for your next DevOps software. Each of these three tools is ideal for specific user segments in the same target market. And while you cannot go wrong with any three of them, it is still imperative to properly access the team’s workflow and DevOps requirements before implementing any such tools. For more information on Chef, you can check out KnowledgeHut’s Chef training course.

Profile

Sulaiman Asif

Author

Sulaiman Asif is an information security professional with 4+ years of experience in Ethical Hacking and a degree of Master in Information Security, he is an EC- Council CEH Certified and has also been engaged with University of Karachi and Institute of Business Management as a cyber security faculty.

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Ansible vs Puppet vs Chef: FAQs

1Which is better Chef or Puppet or Ansible?

Each tool offers its own set of unique features and capabilities that are worth considering and it strongly depends on your organization’s needs on which tool to go with. Chef, however, is a considerable option for large enterprises that value maturity and stability over simplicity.

2What are the common features in Chef, Puppet, and Ansible?

All three of them offer DevOps configuration management features and the capability to build an Infrastructure as code. They also offer similar interoperability features such as the master/main server running on Linux while the secondary nodes can be run on Windows / Mac OS. 

3What are the uses of Chef, Puppet and Ansible?

Ansible, Puppet, and Chef are generally considered to be configuration management (CM) tools and were created to install and manage software on existing server instances. They allow one or more instances to perform their respective roles without the user having to specify the exact command.