Puppet

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In computing, Puppet is an open source configuration management utility. It runs on many Unix-like systems as well as on Microsoft Windows, and includes its own declarative language to describe system configuration.

Benefits

Puppet is a cross-platform framework enabling system administrators to perform common tasks. It is a model-driven solution that requires little coding knowledge to use. While Chef calls its models recipes, Puppet refers to them as manifests. A group of manifests is called a module. There are modules to configure packages like Apache, Nginx, and MySQL. You can also use manifests and modules to alter file permissions, users and groups, and more. As one can see, these models, or manifests and modules, can carry out a variety of tasks; making Puppet helpful not only during the initial installation of a VPS, but also throughout the VPS's entire life cycle; and useful in both large and small deployments. In addition, Puppet has an amazing and active community whose members share modules and other useful information in two main repositories (referenced below).

At first glance, a system administrator might dismiss the idea of a configuration-management tool. Some believe that the same results can be achieved with machine images, i.e. snapshots, and shell scripts. As one author so eloquently put it: This is equivalent to a lumberjack who has just heard about chainsaws, but doesn't see why anyone would ever want more than an ax. What many system admins fail to recognize, is the value of the limited time on their hands. One of the strengths that a configuration-management tool brings to the table is automating repetitive tasks, freeing up system admins so they can focus on more important matters.

Puppet is the big kahuna of the CM market. It enjoys the largest market share and has been around for the longest time, since 2005, which for CM tools is like being around since the dawn of mankind. Several big-name clients run their data centers using Puppet - Google, Reddit, Dell, PayPal, Oracle, Los Alamos Labs, and Stanford University; having such clients on board always lends a certain level of credibility to a product. Puppet also boasts the most mature interface and runs on all the major operating systems – Linux, Windows, Unix and even Mac OS X. Following the model set up by the various Linux versions, it is an open-source app (developed using Ruby), but there is also a large, well-established support and sponsor company called PuppetLabs to offer professional support and a commercial enterprise version of the software. Puppet also offers a simple installation routine and several tools for tasks such as rapid deployment to client servers. There is a Ruby-based CLI in addition to the GUI; actually for most advanced tasks you will most likely have to depend on the CLI, with the GUI being a viewing, management and monitoring interface. This implies that in addition to the sysadmin work, you also have to learn Ruby.

At this point you may be thinking: “All this sounds great! Are there any cons, or can I go purchase Puppet right now?” Well, the buzz in CM discussion forums is that Puppet, like many other software giants, has become a victim of its own success and size. ‘Nimble’ and ‘agile’ aren’t words that can be used to describe Puppet – stuff like reported bugs take too long to fix and ignoring new feature requests. There is also some grumbling about PuppetLabs aggressively pushing its customers towards adopting the commercial version. And lastly, although Puppet supports both pure Ruby as well as its customized DSL on the CLI, the Ruby-only support is being deprecated. This is bad news for those who had only learnt Ruby and not the in-house DSL.


Usage

Licensing

While Puppet Enterprise is the commercially supported, packaged release of Puppet, you can manage up to 10 nodes free.

  • Manage up to 10 nodes free using Puppet Enterprise
  • Subscription is USD100/node/year.


Training

Links

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