During the last decade, a host of transparent server configuration management utilities have emerged in the development market. While this technical category has always been an elemental component of most server solutions, new interest, largely based on cloud-based requirements, have fostered highly-evolved variants, that are both easy to scale and understand at an enterprise management level, while at the same time, providing for sophisticated systems capabilities on-demand.

Here are three of the more important server/system configurators, and what they offer.

Red Hat Ansible Configuration Management

The Ansible configuration management system streamlines all-scale machine-to-machine control, and multi-node server operations by means of an easy-to-understand UI. The variant was originally created by author and developer, Micheal DuHaan to serve as a freeware value, and subsequently, its initial version appeared in 2012.

In its original form, the Ansible configurator was included and promoted as an integrated, third-party application for Red Hat’s Linux/Fedora and Enterprise Linux versions; along with CentOS, and Scientific Linux, by means of its Extra Packages for Enterprise Linux (EPEL) offering. At a business level DuHaan initially established the Ansible brand as a stand-alone product offering.

However, by in 2015, Red Hat had acquired the company’s assets and IP catalog, where Ansible became part of today’s larger Red Hat family of solutions.

Ansible’s essential architecture calls for “agent-less” operation, where it largely resides in background; unless called upon to execute necessary processes. In the end of the day, this characteristic offers end-to-end network transparency; while significantly differing from competitors like Puppet, Chef, or CFEngine.

Ansible’s essential value propositions are based on:

  • Reduced network load – Ansible automation eliminates the need for extended network dependencies
  • Consistency – Universal installation creates overarching network stability
  • End-to-end security – Avoidance of multiple agents fosters better security
  • Stable and dependable – Reduced deployment scripts avoid logjams
  • Flat learning curve – Simple UI, leveraging simple operating languages

Puppet Configuration Management

As an open-source cross-platform variant, the Puppet configurator applies to universal server-side automation, and management operations, compliant with all-scale systems associated with; Linux, Solaris, BSD, Mac OS X, AIX, HP-UX, along with Microsoft Server network topologies. The variant was developed in Ruby, and subsequently launched in 2005 by Luke Kanies.

The system’s philosophy is based on a simplified declarative programming approach based on reducing network failure-rates. Its architecture is essentially driven by a client-server model, where specific resource elements are first identified and stored, then automatically pushed across a network as required.

Puppet’s core value propositions are based on:

  • Reduced failure rates – Puppet automation simplifies failure scenarios by clearly establishing, identifying, and storing necessary resources discretely
  • Dependability – Puppet’s maturity offers extended quality assurance and well-understood stability
  • Simplified learning curve – Puppet’s simple declarative model allows users to operate effectively, regardless of constraints engendered by limited programming experience
  • Wide-acceptance – Puppet is considered to be one of the four-horsemen of systems configuration in company with Chef, Otter and Ansible

Chef Configuration Management

Chef is a commercial configuration utility, offering automated server management for both localized enterprise-scale, as well as, cloud-based networks. The system was originally written, and developed, in Ruby and Erling by Adam Jacob. The systems was first launched in 2009.

The system’s automation model is compliant with localized client/server topologies utilizing; RHEL/CentOS, GNU/Linux, Oracle Linux, AT&T Unix, MS Windows, FreeBSD, Mac OS X, IBM AIX illumos; in addition to de-coupled server platforms. On the cloud-side; Chef also applies equally to large-scale public networks such as; Internap, Amazon EC2, Google Cloud Platform, OpenStack, SoftLayer, Microsoft Azure and Rackspace.

As a general structure, Chef is similar to Puppet, since it utilizes a stored files/call model in order to execute its overall process-chain. In Chef Users develop ‘menus’ of stored elements that are, in turn, driven across a network as required.

Chef’s essential value points apply to:

  • Simplified automation – Chef automation simplifies and corrects failure scenarios by clearly establishing, identifying, and storing necessary resources discretely
  • Dependability – Chef offers maturity and extended quality assurance and well-understood stability
  • Automated resource validation – Chef’s intuitive configuration engine validates and trims all resource elements to ensure network accuracy and stability in real-time.
  • Wide-acceptance – Chef is considered to be one of the four-horsemen of systems configuration in company with Puppet, Ansible and Otter

Each of these configurators offer varying levels of operational value, and depend on the specific requirements of each OS, or overarching network infrastructure. Regardless, however, Chef, Puppet and Ansible consulting services are readily available across the Dev Ops community, thereby creating a host of opportunities for enterprise’s to get what they need quickly, and with a minimum of cost and effort.

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