3 Open Source Configuration Management Tools (Comparison and Review)

“Configuration management” refers to maintaining the integrity and consistency of hardware and software systems over time. In practice, the phrase is often used to describe configuring servers and automatically deploying them using prewritten scripts. In this article, we review three leading open source configuration management tools.

Configuration management is popular because it’s essential for the health and maintenance of a software project. By tracking and publicizing changes, configuration management software makes it easier for developers to understand the state of their infrastructure and resources at any given moment.

It’s practically impossible for software development teams to work on a nontrivial project without a good configuration management tool. Some of the most popular choices are Chef, Puppet and Ansible. All three are open source software with support for Windows, Mac, Linux and other operating systems. Open source tools are especially valuable for configuration management, because they let you make changes to the code based on your organization’s unique requirements.

Choosing the right configuration management solution will be a different process, and end with different results, for each organization. To help you make your decision, here’s a look at the benefits and pricing models of each of these three tools.

1. Chef Enterprise

Chef, like its competitor Puppet, is a Ruby-based configuration management solution. The software is best suited for experienced teams with knowledge of unit and integration testing, version control and other development concepts.

Benefits of Chef Enterprise

  • Integration with cloud-based platforms such as Amazon EC2 and Microsoft Azure
  • Strong capabilities for version control using Git
  • “Knife” tool for easier installation of agents from the master workstation
  • Extensible using the Ruby programming language

Chef Enterprise Pricing and Support

Chef’s flagship enterprise solution is Chef Automate for infrastructure automation, which costs $137 per node per year and includes support Monday through Friday.

2. Puppet Enterprise

Puppet is a popular choice for configuration management and automation. The software is written in Ruby and lets users describe system resources in a Ruby-like declarative domain-specific language.

Benefits of Puppet Enterprise

  • Access to hundreds of modules to automate common deployment tasks
  • Mature technology with active community
  • Apps for deploying infrastructure changes, delegating tasks, collecting server performance metrics and more
  • Intuitive user interface with dashboards and advanced reporting and alerting capabilities
  • Easily scalable for large deployments

Puppet Enterprise Pricing and Support

To test the waters, you can try Puppet Enterprise on 10 nodes for free. Beyond that, the standard package begins at $120 per node per year. Puppet’s custom-priced premium package starts at 100 nodes and includes 24/7 phone support and faster response times.

3. Ansible Enterprise

Ansible is a newer offering than either Chef or Puppet. However, it’s quickly gained popularity among DevOps professionals, thanks to its simplicity and gentle learning curve.

Benefits of Ansible Enterprise

  • Python code base, making installation and use easier on Linux machines
  • Efficient resource management with less hands-on work required
  • OpenSSH certificates for maximum data security
  • Agentless architecture reduces network overhead

Ansible Enterprise Pricing and Support

Ansible Tower, the commercial version of Ansible, bases its pricing on the number of nodes and the support plan you use:

  • The basic plan with no support costs $5,000 per year for up to 100 nodes. For the same number of nodes, standard support costs $10,000 per year and premium support costs $14,000 per year.
  • For up to 250 nodes, the basic plan costs $10,000 per year. The company uses custom pricing for larger plans with support included.

Final Thoughts

Although all three open source configuration management tools share some common functionality, there’s still enough nuance and variety among them for you to find one that best fits your needs. If you’re considering adopting a new configuration management tool or switching providers, take the time to select the right option for you; or let us help you evaluate your options.

Need help comparing and testing open source configuration management tools? Schedule a chat with a Shadow-Soft consultant today.