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Ansible vs Puppet: Compare DevOps tools

Ansible and Puppet are both capable tools for managing server infrastructure. See how the features of these DevOps tools compare.

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In DevOps environments, managing servers is becoming a difficult task, but it’s one that is crucial to the efficiency and smooth operation of the end user experience. Configuration, provisioning and deployment are all vitally important, and thankfully there are robust tools to help.

Two of the most popular DevOps tools are Ansible and Puppet. These DevOps tools offer common functions, but ultimately each one is better suited for different tasks and environments.

What is Ansible?

Ansible is a procedural infrastructure as code management tool to aid in the provisioning, deployment and configuration of complex network environments. It is agentless and communicates via SSH, which allows for a streamlined and efficient system that only requires small Python modules to be temporarily and automatically installed on target machines.

What is Puppet?

Puppet is a software configuration management tool based on an agent-master architecture.

Puppet is the more mature of the two tools, and the code repository known as Puppet Forge contains many pre-built modules written by the community. Many users believe these modules to be better than what can be found in Ansible’s Galaxy, which serves a similar purpose as a repository for community made modules.

Regardless of which option you choose, it’s always a good idea to search these repositories as you can usually find a module already coded to fit your needs, saving you time from having to build your own.

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Ansible vs. Puppet: Feature comparison

Feature Ansible Puppet
Fully featured graphical interface No Yes
Extensible in any language that supports JSON Yes No
Basic version is free to use Yes Yes
Simple YAML language Yes No
Pre-made official integrations and community modules Yes Yes

Head-to-head comparison: Ansible vs. Puppet

Easy installation

Both of these DevOps tools offer a relatively easy setup and installation; however, Ansible is clearly the leader when it comes to this due to its use of YAML as well as the agentless architecture. Ansible only needs to be installed on a single server. Ansible also provides very easy to follow playbooks for started using relatively simple language.

Puppet is a bit more involved, as installation is required on the main servers and all target servers, as well as each target node needing to be approved.

GUI and dashboards

Both Ansible and Puppet offer a GUI and dashboard capabilities, but Puppet is the clearly superior of the two in this area.

Ansible is mostly a command-line tool, and most users will need to use it in that way. The GUI for Ansible is lacking in several areas, and only usable for basic tasks. Puppet on the other hand has a more integrated GUI and dashboard, and users may fully access all functions.

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Extensibility

Both Ansible and Puppet offer great extensibility. Ansible users can work in any programming language they prefer as long as it supports JSON. This combined with the already standard YAML makes Ansible easier when it comes to customized modules and configurations.

Puppet requires that you work in Python, which for some may be no issue at all, and for others may be a barrier. Puppet uses its own configuration language known as PuppetDSL, with only YAML datastore, which also increases the learning curve.

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For extensibility, Ansible is the winner when it comes to ease and simplicity. Although Puppet is equally capable, it requires more specific languages and has fewer pathways to achieve the same goal.

Choosing between Ansible and Puppet

Ansible is the choice when it comes to needing a quick, easily deployable solution for provisioning and deployment, along with configuration. Network or storage engineers will find Ansible to be much more capable.

Puppet excels as a configuration manager with a lighter emphasis on provisioning. The more difficult and involved install also plays a role here. For temporary use or temporary DevOps environments, it’s not worth the setup intricacies, but over time the more integrated approach of Puppet makes scaling much more manageable.

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