Ansible vs Chef

In order to ensure a smooth software development cycle, you need to choose the right tool for configuration management. Two of the most popular choices today are Ansible vs Chef. Which one is better? We will help you choose the right tool by showing their differences and comparisons.

Continue reading below to find out about:
– The architectures of Ansible and Chef,
– The distinctive features and advantages of Ansible vs Chef, and
– Which one is the best configuration management tool for you.

Let’s start with the architecture of Ansible. This is a flexible general-purpose automation tool with numerous modules that enable the integrations of many apps and services. A distinctive quality in Ansible’s architecture is that it does not run on a client-server model. Instead, it has an agentless architecture. See also: Jenkins vs Ansible.

Ansible only requires OpenSSH and WinRM or Python on the hosts. Hence, Ansible is incredibly convenient; it is easy to set up, and there is one less service per system to monitor and maintain.

On the other hand, Chef runs on a client-server model. There is a Chef server which stores the cookbooks. The Chef server is often simply called as the hub. You have to register all the nodes on the server. Meanwhile, the nodes are required to install the suitable Chef clients.

The automation and configuration management are performed by the clients as they receive instructions from the server. The clients regularly poll the server for any change on the cookbooks. If a change is found, they perform the necessary state changes in their systems. The benefit of this model is that the server requires very little work; it simply provides the relevant information to the clients when polled.

Ansible supports static and dynamic inventories of host systems. There are several choices for the inventory source, including a flat INI file with hosts categorized into sections, a database, or another source which can be polled for the current systems. The flexibility allows Ansible to be adjustable for different environments.

On the other hand, Chef manages its own inventory of host systems. It only supports a static inventory. It does not support a dynamic inventory.

Source of Truth
Ansible uses playbooks which are written in YAML, a human-readable language for transmitting information that can be parsed easily by programs and programming languages. Hence, Ansible’s playbooks are very easy to create and understand. However, they are can’t carry out complex configuration tasks.

Nevertheless, Ansible’s playbooks are very convenient to use. In addition to their intuitive language, the playbooks also act as a source of truth. They make a perfect candidate for a source control system, like Git. Because of this, Ansibleis very easy to implement in many workflow management techniques.

On the other hand, Chef’s cookbooks are based on the Ruby programming language. They may be difficult to use if you are not familiar with the language. However, they can be very powerful, as they can carry out complex configuration tasks.

In Chef, the server acts as the source of truth. So, whenever you update a cookbook, you have to upload it to the server. This is not a straightforward process. You may find this very inconvenient if you have multiple Chef servers, as you have to make sure that the cookbooks on the servers are identical.

Ansible vs Chef

- Agentless architecture, uses OpenSSH and WinRM or Python- Client-server architecture
- Supports static and dynamic host inventories- Only supports a static host inventory
- The playbooks are easy to create and understand, but can’t handle complex tasks- The cookbooks are Ruby-based, can perform complex configuration tasks
- The playbooks act as the source of truth, easier to maintain consistency- The server acts as the source of truth, difficult to maintain consistency across multiple servers

In general, Ansible is more recommended. It is easier to implement, as it has an agentless architecture. It supports static and dynamic host inventories, and the playbooks themselves act as the source of truth. Hence, you can simply use a source control system to maintain the consistency of the playbooks.

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