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Understanding Ansible, Terraform, Puppet, Chef, and Salt

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Choosing the automation solution that works best for your organization is no easy task. There’s not a single "right" approach—you can automate your enterprise in multiple ways. Indeed, many IT organizations today use more than one automation tool, and a major consideration is how well they work together to achieve business goals.  

Other factors to keep in mind when evaluating automation tools include architecture (is it agent-based or agentless?), programming (is it declarative or procedural?), and language (is it data-serialized or domain-specific?). And of course your operating system.  It’s also important to understand the level of community support for each product and what each is primarily engineered to do, such as provisioning, configuration management, and compliance.    

Clearly, there are many considerations when choosing an automation software for your business. This article helps explain the differences between Red Hat® Ansible® Automation Platform and other common open source automation tools.

Ansible

Known for its simplicity and ease of use, Ansible Automation Platform is an open source, command-line IT automation software application that uses YAML-based "playbooks" to configure systems, deploy software, and orchestrate advanced workflows to support application deployment, system updates, networking configuration and operation, and more. It does not require the installation of an agent on managed nodes, which simplifies the deployment process. And it has strong support for cloud-based infrastructure. 

What’s the difference between Ansible and Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform? Get the details.

Terraform

Terraform is a cloud infrastructure provisioning and deprovisioning tool with an infrastructure as code (IaC) approach. It’s a specific tool with a specific purpose—provisioning. Like Ansible, it has an active open source community and well-supported downstream commercial products. And it has strengths that—when combined with Ansible Automation Platform—work well to create efficiencies for many businesses.

Puppet

Puppet is an automation application designed to manage large and complex infrastructures. By using a model-driven approach with imperative task execution and declarative language to define configurations, it can enforce consistency across a large number of systems. It also has strong reporting and monitoring capabilities, which can help IT teams identify and diagnose issues quickly.

Chef

Chef is an IT automation platform written in Ruby DSL that transforms infrastructure into code. Similar to Ansible Playbooks, Chef uses reusable definitions known as cookbooks and recipes (thus the product name) to automate how infrastructure is configured, deployed, and managed across networks—whether on-premise, in the cloud, or in a hybrid environment. It has strong support for testing and verification of configurations, which can help catch issues before they affect production systems.

Salt

 Salt is a modular automation application written in Python. Designed for high-speed data collection and execution, it’s a configuration management tool with a lightweight ZeroMQ messaging library and concurrency framework that establishes persistent Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) connections between the server and agents. 

Ansible Automation Platform is engineered to help organizations create, manage, and scale their automation workloads. It offers a flexible, stable, and security-focused foundation for deploying end-to-end automation solutions—including automation for hybrid cloud, edge locations, networks, security, infrastructure, and many other use cases.  

And with more than 140 Red Hat Ansible Certified Content Collections from 60+ partners—and features like automation analytics and Red Hat Insights—Ansible Automation Platform takes the guesswork out of installing, configuring, and supporting automation in your organization. 

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