SaltStack Config and Ansible Open Source are two popular configuration management and infrastructure automation tools used by DevOps teams across the globe. Both solutions have their own unique set of features, advantages, and drawbacks. In this blog post, we will compare SaltStack Config (formerly known as Salt) and Ansible Open Source in terms of their architecture, ease of use, scalability, and community support, to help you make an informed decision on which tool is best suited for your needs.
SaltStack Config: SaltStack Config is built on a master-minion architecture, where a central master server controls multiple minion nodes. This structure enables powerful parallel processing, as the master server can send commands to all connected minions simultaneously. SaltStack uses a ZeroMQ-based messaging protocol for communication between the master and minions.
Ansible Open Source: Ansible, on the other hand, relies on an agentless architecture, where all operations are executed on the target nodes via SSH (or WinRM for Windows hosts). This approach simplifies deployment and reduces overhead, as there is no need to install any software on the target nodes.
- Ease of Use:
SaltStack Config: SaltStack Config utilizes YAML-based configuration files called “states” to define the desired configuration of a system. The tool uses Jinja2 templating, which allows for dynamic configuration generation. Additionally, SaltStack Config offers a feature called “Pillar” for securely managing sensitive data.
Ansible Open Source: Ansible also uses YAML-based configuration files called “playbooks” to define the desired state of a system. The tool supports Jinja2 templating as well and has a built-in mechanism for managing sensitive data called “Ansible Vault.” The learning curve for Ansible is generally considered to be lower than that of SaltStack Config, mainly because of its agentless architecture and more straightforward syntax.
SaltStack Config: Due to its master-minion architecture, SaltStack Config can handle thousands of nodes efficiently. The parallel execution of tasks significantly reduces the time required for configuration management and orchestration. However, a single master server can become a bottleneck in very large-scale deployments.
Ansible Open Source: Ansible’s agentless architecture can make it less scalable than SaltStack Config in large environments. The performance of Ansible largely depends on the resources available on the control node, as it must establish and maintain SSH connections with each target host. Nevertheless, it is possible to mitigate scalability issues by using tools like Ansible Tower or by employing techniques such as parallelism and batching.
- Community Support:
SaltStack Config: SaltStack Config has a robust and active community that regularly contributes to its development. However, since the acquisition of SaltStack by VMware in 2020, the future of the open-source edition is uncertain, and the community may become more fragmented.
Ansible Open Source: Ansible has a large and active community of users and contributors, and it is backed by Red Hat, which was acquired by IBM in 2019. The tool has continued to grow in popularity, and the open-source edition enjoys regular updates and a rich ecosystem of third-party modules and plugins.
Both SaltStack Config and Ansible Open Source are powerful configuration management and infrastructure automation tools, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. The choice between the two largely depends on your specific requirements, infrastructure size, and familiarity with the tools. While SaltStack Config offers better scalability and parallel execution, Ansible Open Source provides a more straightforward learning curve and agentless architecture. Ultimately, you should evaluate both tools within the context of your environment to determine the best fit.