Ansible and Chef are configuration management (CM) tools designed for system administrators and DevOps professionals. Compare their features to determine which one will suit your team’s needs and expectations.

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Choosing the right DevOps tool can be daunting. Ansible and Chef both have their pros and cons, making it challenging to decide which one will work best for you. Compare the features of these solutions to help make your decision easier.

What is Ansible?

Ansible is an easy-to-use CM software tool in the DevOps world. It’s an open-source client-server that many IT, DevOps and sysadmins use for various projects, including CM, software provisioning and application deployment.

According to Ansible’s website, the platform includes all the tools necessary to implement enterprise-wide automation, something many organizations are investing in. Professionals working in IT tend to perform the same tasks repeatedly. Ansible allows a team to solve problems once, and then use automated solutions moving forward.

Ansible architecture in DevOps can speed up IT work, making teams more efficient and productive. It streamlines collaboration, seamlessly integrates IT technologies and supports automation across private clouds and containerized workloads.

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What is Chef?

Chef is an open-source cloud configuration that can translate sysadmin tasks into reusable definitions, also known as cookbooks and recipes.

IT teams working in the cloud, on-premises or in a hybrid IT environment can automate how infrastructure is configured, deployed and ultimately managed across their network. Chef DevOps can quickly spin off dozens, if not hundreds, of servers and allows programmers and systems administrators to collaborate.

Chef software uses a pure-Ruby, domain-specific language (DSL) for its system configurations. It can also automate infrastructure configuration and application deployment.

Ansible vs. Chef feature comparison 

Many companies consider DevOps implementation because the benefits are too significant to ignore. Research shows that companies with these practices deploy features 200 times more often than other, lower-performing organizations.

However, a major factor in DevOps implementation is using the appropriate platforms to support the IT team and drive that efficient deployment.

Below are some Ansible vs. Chef pros and cons that can paint a better picture of how these two tools compare.

Feature Ansible Chef
Data Visualization No Yes
API Yes No
Access Controls/Permissions Yes No
Alerts/Notifications Yes Yes
Continuous Deployment No Yes
IT Asset Tracking No No

Common features of Ansible and Chef

Most CM tools support important features a modern IT team needs to manage an ever-changing digital environment. Here are three components Ansible and Chef have to help with CM processes.

Collaboration tools

A significant feature of the Ansible Automation Platform is the Ansible Automation Hub, which helps break down cultural silos. What is Ansible automation and what can it do? Content creators can access a single source of truth in the hub for enhanced collaboration. Other tools that assist with collaboration include Ansible playbooks, automated task blueprints, services, server nodes and application programming. Essentially, Ansible’s platform enables groups to automate, interact and solve problems across their organization.

The Chef Automate platform increases operational visibility in one unified place across every team. It allows developers, operations professionals and security engineers to work together to deliver any changes to applications or infrastructures. Any professionals on the IT team can use Chef Automate to learn how environments are built and validated.

Compliance management

Ansible allows users to access a Private Automation Hub, where automation administrators can delegate resources and make automation available, while also applying policy and governance. Ansible automation makes it easier for IT operations professionals to manage demanding environments using the Automation Services Catalog. Ansible enables IT professionals to meet any compliance or procurement requirements for automation.

The Chef InSpec feature allows users to access basic security and compliance language. Software engineers, operations professionals and security engineers can all understand the compliance, security and policy requirements at every stage of automation development.

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Interoperability

It’s no secret that a DevOps team must have the correct operating equipment to use either Ansible or Chef. For example, Ansible’s control machines must be a Linux/Unix host such as Debian, CentOS, macOS, BSD or Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Ansible also requires Python 2.7 or 3.5 to run. It can be used on many cloud platforms, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), DigitalOcean, Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure.

Chef runs on Windows, enterprise Linux distributions, Cisco IO, FreeBSD, AIX, Solaris and Nexus. Some of the cloud platforms that Chef supports include AWS, HPE Cloud, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, Rackspace and VMware. Ansible and Chef both have similar features when it comes to interoperability.

Choosing Ansible vs. Chef

It can be challenging to determine if Ansible or Chef is the right tool. Ansible is a good choice if you’re looking for a simple and easy-to-use platform that uses YAML. Beginners and those working on smaller projects may also prefer this option.

In contrast, Chef is the best choice if you’re looking for more functionality and a tool that can handle highly complex tasks. Consider Chef if your organization is more experienced with DevOps.