A better Chef; Ansible

A better Chef; Ansible

Lots of people still use Chef for their devops needs. I briefly used Chef about 6 months ago and got very frustrated. I find the process convoluted and confusing. For our Riak cluster we needed a deploy script to move an install script and resources to the remove host. The install script installed Ruby, some required packages only then the actual Chef recipe was run. Maybe I was doing it wrong, but then I’m of the opinion that the whole thing is too complicated.


With Ansible you can:

  • Run one-off commands (want to know the loadon your cluster? ansible riak-nodes -m 'w'
  • Provision servers with a simple YAML file
  • Even replace Capistrano

Ansible is opinionated, questions I have asked on the mailing list were often quickly answered with a “you’re doing it wrong”. For example:

  • Adding lines to a configuration file is considered smell. This leads to a remote system of which the state is not clearly defined.
  • Downloading packages from a remote source? You can’t be sure this source is still up. Download the package yourself and copy it over.
  • Downloading a tarball to compile it on the spot? Do it once and roll a package.

A “playbook” is the Ansible equivalent of a cookbook in Chef. It is a play YAML file:

God bless it’s simplicity. (Yes I know the playbook is still a work in progress)

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