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Ansible vs Chef

Ansible and Chef both are the most popular configuration management tools. Both tools can accomplish many of the same tasks, they each have different strengths, and they perform their tasks in different ways.

This tutorial will explore the strengths and differences of these tools. Before move further, take a glance at Ansible and Chef.


Ansible is an open-source IT engine that automates application deployment, cloud provisioning, intra service orchestration, and other IT tools.

Ansible is easy to deploy because it does not use any agents or custom security infrastructure on the client-side, and by pushing modules to the clients. These modules are executed locally on the client-side, and the output is pushed back to the Ansible server.

It can easily connect to clients using SSH-Keys, simplifying though the whole process. Client details, such as hostnames or IP addresses and SSH ports, are stored in the files, which are called inventory files. If you created an inventory file and populated it, then Ansible can use it.

Ansible uses the playbook to describe automation jobs, and playbook, which uses simple language, i.e., YAML. YAML is a human-readable data serialization language & commonly used for configuration files, but it can be used in many applications where data is being stored.

A significant advantage is that even the IT infrastructure support guys can read and understand the playbook and debug if needed.

Ansible is designed for multi-tier deployment. Ansible does not manage one system at a time, and it models IT infrastructure by describing all of your systems are interrelated. Ansible is entirely agentless, which means Ansible works by connecting your nodes through SSH (by default). Ansible gives the option to you if you want another method for the connection like Kerberos.


The chef is a powerful automation platform that transforms infrastructure into the code. Whether you are operating in the on-premises, cloud, or a hybrid environment.

Chef automates how the infrastructure is deployed, configured, and managed across your network. A chef is an open-source cloud configuration that translates system administration tasks into reusable definitions, otherwise known as recipes and cookbooks.

Chef runs on different platforms such as Windows, AIX, Enterprise Linux distributions, Solaris, FreeBSD, Cisco IO, and Nexus.

It also supports cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform, OpenStack, IBM Bluemix, HPE Cloud, Microsoft Azure, VMware vRealize Automation, and Rackspace.

Below are some main differences between the Ansible and Chef:

Parameters Ansible Chef
Availability Ansible runs with a single active node, called the Primary instance. If the primary goes down, there is a Secondary instance to take its place. When there is a failure on the primary server, which is a chef server, it has a backup server to take the place of the primary server.
Easy to setup Ansible has only a master running on the server machine, but no agents running on the client machine. It uses an SSH connection to log in to client systems or the nodes you want to configure. Client machine VM requires no unique setup. That's why it is faster to setup! Chef has a master-agent architecture. Chef server runs on the master machine, and Chef client runs as an agent on each client machine. And also, there is an extra component called workstation, which contains all the tested configurations and then pushed to the central chef server. That's why it is not that easy.
Management Easy to manage the configurations as it uses YAML (Yet Another Markup Language). The server pushes configurations to all the nodes. Suitable for real-time application, and there is immediate remote execution. You need to be a programmer to manage the configurations as it offers configurations in Ruby DSL. The client pulls the configurations from the Server.
Configuration language Ansible uses YAML (Python). It is quite easy to learn and its administrator oriented. Python is inbuilt into most Unix and Linux deployments, so setting the tool up and running is quicker. Chef uses Ruby Domain Specific Language (Ruby DSL). It has a Steep Learning Curve and its developer-oriented.
Interoperability The Ansible server has to be on Linux/Unix machine. As well as Ansible supports windows machines. Chef Server works only on Linux/Unix, but Chef Client and Workstation can be on windows as well.
Pricing The pricing for Ansible Tower for standard IT operations up to 100 nodes is $10,000 per year. This includes 8*5 support, whereas premium offers 24*7 support for $14000 per year. Chef Automate gives you everything you need to build, deploy in $137 node per year.
Authoritative configuration Ansible's authoritative configuration comes from its deployed playbooks, which are perfect as source control systems. Or the Ansible method is more accessible and makes more sense. The chef relies on its server as the authoritative configuration, and those servers require uploaded cookbooks, which means making sure the latter are consistent and identical.

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