Prior to DevOps – the latest philosophy to project execution methodology, The development and operations teams were working for a single project in their own ways and means. DevOps brought them together and thereby came the need for integrated configuration management and continuous integration.
Configuration management tools are the call for today and the need for tomorrow. Two of the most popular, in-demand configuration management tools are Puppet and Chef. A lot has been said and written about it. There is much in common, something different to each other. Both are good, both are in vogue and both have their own individualistic nature.
Both Puppet and Chef are best-in-class configuration management tools that are leveraged to design, deploy, configure and manage servers, infrastructure, etc. They are both, capable of automating multi-tier applications and competent enough to manage complicated apps.
Before we investigate both individually and further compare them, let us have a glimpse at the foundation stone of both – configuration management.
Configuration Management – A Brief
On a basic level, configuration management offers an abstraction layer between the infrastructure’s basic formation and its chosen state by emphasizing on important objectives rather than the monotonous responsibilities needed to attain them.
The major objective of configuration managers is to utilize comprehensive languages to understand and grasp all operations’ necessities so that there is even knowledge sharing within different projects. For any newcomer in the team, it is ideal to have detailed know-how of the standardized tool rather than explaining the team member about all the intricate details.
Here are some of the evident benefits of using configuration management tools:
- Offers good control over the competence to review, approve and make changes into a configuration item
- Automates identifies and guides configuration items through the project life cycle
- Ensures a lot of cost-effectivenesses all through the project execution
- Provides a good quality output by measuring and tracking continuous integration components
- Addresses future needs in a better light and keeps the system up and running
- Increases reliability, stability, the effectiveness of the system
Puppet and Chef – An Introduction
“Unlike error-prone procedural scripts, which require you to define every step for configuring systems, Puppet Enterprise lets you simply define the desired state of your infrastructure and applications. Puppet continuously and automatically enforces that state, so you can spend more time innovating and less time fighting fires.” – www.puppet.com
Puppet is used by thousands of companies worldwide some of them being Google, Red Hat, Siemens, Stanford, Harvard law school and many more. It has a popular user-based contributing to its source code. It has been in vogue since 2005 and has come up with many versions with continuous improvement. It has been deployed in large infrastructures and possesses large user-driven documentation that suffices all queries. Puppet is based on Ruby and utilizes a tailor-made Domain Scripting Language nearer to JSON for working within it. It can execute on any platform that supports Ruby.
The core components that comprise Puppet are as follows:
- Puppet Server – the central server that accomplishes Puppet nodes
- Puppet Enterprise Console – a web GUI for report analysis and infrastructure resource control
- Puppet Agent – client software connected on managed nodes that permits harmonization with the Puppet Master
- PuppetDB – data storage service for the data formed
|o Well-built support system via Puppet Labs|
o Highly mature interfaces
o Executes on all major OS
o Simplistic installation and initial setup
o Robust reporting competencies
|o Knowledge of Ruby may be needed for progressive tasks|
o The model-driven approach may turn out to be tough to control
o Tough for newer people to grasp
When to Use Puppet?
- Puppet is a preferred choice when the key concerns are stability and maturity. It is best for huge enterprises with a varied environment and different skills with the DevOps team
- Puppet, being the older one, offers more of traditional infrastructure support and hence can be opted by organizations who want to stick to the original traditional outlook
- Puppet is good if your team has a range of skills on the DevOps team
“Chef is the leader in Continuous Automation software, an innovator in application automation and one of the founders of the DevOps movement. Chef works with more than a thousand of the most innovative companies around the world to deliver their vision of digital transformation, providing the practices and platform to deliver software at speed.” – www.chef.io
A chef is an automation tool that offers a mechanism to define infrastructure as a code. Instead of using manual procedures, it believes in managing infrastructure by writing code. It utilizes the Ruby language for writing the configuration items. It automates infrastructure configuration, app deployment, and configurations managed across the network.
The core components that comprise Chef are as follows:
- Chef Server – the main hub where Chef propagates and stores recipes and cookbooks
- Chef Client – performs configuration tasks on the local machine and is installed on every node being managed
- Workstation – permits selected workstations to author/test/maintain cookbooks and upload them to Chef Server
- Chef Analytics – a stage that delivers actions and runs history, real-time reporting, and notifications around Chef mechanization activities
- Chef Supermarket – an open source directory of community-contributed cookbooks
|o An enriched assortment of modules and configuration controls|
o Highly flexible and skillful because of code-driven approach
o Strong version control competences
|o Sharp learning curve if Ruby isn’t known|
o Not highly simplistic due to the big code base and complex environment
o Doesn’t support push functionality
When to Use Chef?
- Chef is a preferred choice when you have skilled resources in Git and Ruby. It is best for teams that are focussed on the development and for enterprises that are looking for a modernized environment
- You can choose Chef if you are known to Git and Ruby both.
- Chef, being the younger one, showcases more modernization and hence can be opted by organizations who are looking for an advanced feel
Puppet and Chef – The Similarities
Since both looks at the same fundamental objective of configuration management, there are certain attributes that are found to be existing in both, here are they:
- Both help development and operations teams manage applications and infrastructure
- Both are highly mature technologies that are extensively installed, possess detailed documentation
- Both have dynamic user groups and strong SLAs (service level agreements)
- Both have respectable and big brands as their clients. Puppet is used by Red Hat, Siemens, Salesforce, Sony, Google, etc. Chef is used by Facebook, Mozilla, Expedia, Rackspace, Xero, Disney, GE, etc.
- Both generally work in client-server modes
- With both these tools, Docker, Packer and Vagrant support agentless provisioning and client-server
- Both are highly scalable and have a high interoperability
- Setup and management aren’t very easy in either
- Both have a backup server to act immediately if the main server fails
Puppet and Chef – The Differences
|Accommodates careful system administrators||Caters to imaginative developers|
|Offers more safely norms for the users||Offers more power to the users|
|Focusses on users not making mistakes and is more protective||Focusses on users develop new things and helps take risks|
|Uses a declarative language like JSON or XML||Uses an imperative language as if its wholly featured Ruby|
|The user creates manifests and modules||The user creates recipes and cookbooks|
|Puppet uses standardized tools such as RSpec and Cucumber for testing||Chef uses dedicated solutions such as Test Kitchen for testing|
|The module directory that offers support is PuppetForge||The module directory that offers support is Supermarket|
|Puppet Masterworks only on Linux/Unix, but Puppet Agent also works on Windows||Chef Server works only on Linux/Unix, but Chef Client and Workstation can be on Windows also|
|Puppet is a model-driven architecture||Chef is based on a procedural architecture|
|Since Puppet is an older technology than Chef, its traditional infrastructure operations are well-liked by the certain user community||Since Chef is the younger one, it offers a modern approach to configuration management which is appreciated by a specific set of users|
|Uses a command-and-control approach for scalability that works well for a certain scale of operations||Uses the distributed system principles and hence scales very well over many node infrastructures|
|Puppet leverages its own non-standard custom programming language with limiting rules and hence isn’t that extensible||Chef uses the DSL but when that isn’t enough, it leverages the potential of Ruby to the maximum|
|Puppet implements security measures with Puppet’s 52||Chef implements security measures with Chef Vault|
As the Comparison Comes to An End
As we read through both the options, we understand the importance of both. Both are competitive, good, popular and are in line with the latest DevOps related needs. Both are upgrading themselves to fit in the latest groove. Both have matured immensely and hence which one to choose is entirely up to the organization’s basic needs and workflows.
What is more important is to have a well-established and experienced configuration management partner who can help in the entire process, right from choosing the technology, implementing it and reaping its benefits.