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Ansible vs Chef: Difference Between Ansible and Chef [2024]

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10th Jan, 2021
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Ansible vs Chef: Difference Between Ansible and Chef [2024]

Configuration management is the process of keeping computers, servers, and software in order and a consistent state. The process is used for ensuring that all systems are working as they are supposed to. Sometimes, if they are not doing so, then you have to make small modifications to the systems.

If modifications are performed on many systems and servers, without being documented, then the whole infrastructure can become unstable and inconsistent. Configuration management makes sure that none of these modifications go undetected. Tools, such as Ansible, Chef, and Puppet are used for configuration management.

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In this article, we will perform a comparison of Ansible vs Chef to know them better.

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What is Ansible?

Ansible is a simple open-source IT automation engine that has many modules for interacting with applications and services that a DevOps engineer needs. It can automate application deployment, intra-service orchestration, and the complete application lifecycle. It was developed by Michael DeHaan and was initially released in 2012.

It is easy to deploy Ansible as it does not use custom security infrastructure on the client-side. The modules are pushed to clients. After executing these modules locally on the client-side, the execution result is pushed back to the servers of Ansible. Connecting with clients with Ansible is simple as SSH keys are used. Client details, such as IP address and hostname are stored in inventory files that Ansible can use.

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Playbooks are an important part of Ansible that is coded using a simple language called YAML. Tricky tasks are converted into repeatable playbooks to simplify the configuration. These playbooks can be easily understood and debugged if necessary.

Ansible is coded using the Python programming language. The servers that have to be configured need to have Python libraries.

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Advantages of Ansible

  • It is simple to set up Ansible. The playbooks can be used without having any programming skills.
  • Orchestration of any application environment is possible irrespective of the place where it is deployed.
  • For automating client systems, no software or firewall ports have to be installed. A separate management structure is not required.
  • Deploying multi-tier applications is easy. No need to configure these applications manually on every machine.
  • Ansible helps developers automate daily configuration management tasks. This, in turn, frees up their time and they can focus on other important tasks.

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What is Chef?

Chef is another powerful configuration management tool that is used for infrastructure automation. It was developed by Adam Jacobs, founder of the software firm OpsCode. Whether you are working in a hybrid environment or the cloud, Chef will automate the infrastructure configuration, management, and deployment.

Chef helps companies become more efficient and faster by automating their application lifecycle. Repetitive configuration tasks can be automated using this software.

Chef is written using the Ruby programming language. And, it has a command-line interface that has a DSL-based on Ruby. It can be run on a client-server or as a standalone tool. Chef is open-source and can be used for cloud configuration. This tool can translate system administration tasks into definitions called recipes and cookbooks.

You can run Chef on a variety of platforms, such as Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris, Cisco IO, AIX, and Nexus. It is also compatible with a large number of cloud platforms like Google Cloud Platform, Amazon Web Services (AWS), OpenStack, Microsoft Azure, and IBM Bluemix. Using the knife utility, Chef can be integrated with several cloud platforms easily.

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Advantages of Chef

  • Its automation capabilities help companies to reduce their chances of risks and enhance compliance at different stages of software development.
  • It improves the efficiency of the DevOps team in any company by automating cloud infrastructure and handling manual tasks properly.
  • The tool offers a seamless pipeline for software deployment, which includes building, testing, deploying, monitoring, and troubleshooting an application.
  • Before deployment, all the code errors need to be rectified. Chef makes this easier, and thus increases the system’s resiliency and decreases the downtime.
  • Shifting to a different cloud environment is easier with Chef. It handles your cloud and data centers, and even if you change cloud providers, you can keep using this tool.

As you now know the two configuration management tools a little better, let us compare them, and learn their differences.

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Ansible vs Chef: Head to head comparison

The Ansible vs Chef comparison will be conducted based on the following parameters:

Installation and set up

For Ansible, no agents are executed on client machines. So, no client-server installation is needed. SSH connections are used for logging in a client’s computer and configuring the nodes. No special setup is required for the client’s virtual machine. Therefore, the installation is easy.

In Chef, the server will run on the master machine. And, the Chef client agent will run on every client machine. All tested configurations are stored in workstations that are pushed to the central server of Chef. So, setting all this up is a bit tricky.

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Configuration management

Ansible uses YAML (Yet Another Markup Language) for managing its configurations. This language resembles the English language and is simple to understand. Using YAML, the configurations are pushed to the individual nodes.

In Chef, Ruby Domain Specific Language is used. This language pulls configurations from the server. So, you need to know Ruby well enough. This has a steeper learning curve than YAML.

Static/dynamic inventories

Ansible can use static and dynamic inventories, such as a flat INI file containing hosts divided into sections. This flexibility is not offered by Chef as you have to individually register hosts on the Chef server.


For basic IT operations with Ansible, you have to pay $10,000/year for 100 nodes, including 8×5 support. The premium package comes for $14,000/year with 24×7 support.

Chef is more affordable as it comes with $137/node, including everything you require to develop and deploy.

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Source of truth

The source of truth is the authoritative configuration for a system. In Ansible, this can be the playbook being deployed. Source control systems, such as Git can be used as a source of truth.

In Chef, the Chef server acts as the source of truth. Here, you have to upload updated cookbooks, sometimes to multiple servers. It is difficult to maintain the consistency of cookbooks this way.

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The chef is older, has better documentation, and can handle difficult tasks. But, it is trickier to install as compared to Ansible. Chef’s Ruby DSL is preferred by developers and DevOps engineers. But, it has a steep learning curve as compared to Ansible, which uses simple YAML. As discussed earlier, Ansible is a little pricy as compared to Chef that is an affordable deal. In the Ansible vs Chef battle, the choice depends upon the requirements of the company. 

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Rohan Vats

Blog Author
Software Engineering Manager @ upGrad. Passionate about building large scale web apps with delightful experiences. In pursuit of transforming engineers into leaders.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1What is Ansible?

Ansible is an IT automation tool, which simplifies provisioning, configuration management and application deployment. Ansible is agentless and easy to learn. It can automate applications on any server, cloud or platform. Also, Ansible is becoming a key component of the DevOps movement. Ansible can be used to manage cloud infrastructure, most commonly AWS. It can be used for server provisioning and configuration, deployment, continuous delivery, continuous integration, continuous integration testing, IT automation, network automation, and orchestration. Ansible supports modules for managing cloud infrastructure including OpenStack, AWS, and Rackspace. Ansible's open architecture allows easy extensibility with new modules.

2What is Chef tool in DevOps?

Chef is a DevOps tool which creates a bridge between developer and operations. It is a configuration management platform automating the application delivery process. Chef is a simple and powerful automation platform that transforms infrastructure into code. This configuration management tool allows to automate the software delivery process. The software is designed to manage every aspect of a server and its applications. Chef can manage multiple servers at once. Chef can integrate with other DevOps tools like Circle CI/CD, Jenkins etc. Chef works at configuration layer and is automated by scripts.

3What are the differences between Ansible and Chef?

Ansible is an open-source IT automation tool, whereas Chef is a commercial automation tool. Ansible is used for configuration management and automation of application deployment. It is good for short commands like updating of RHEL / Linux operating systems. Chef is an automation tool used for configuration management and deployment of application. Chef uses Ruby as programming language.