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AWS OpsWorks vs Chef: What are the differences?

AWS OpsWorks and Chef are both configuration management tools used to automate the deployment and management of infrastructure and applications. Here are the key differences between AWS OpsWorks and Chef:

  1. Deployment Model: AWS OpsWorks is a managed configuration management service provided by AWS. It follows a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) model, where the infrastructure and resources are abstracted, and users can focus on defining the application's architecture and configuration using predefined templates. On the other hand, Chef is an open-source configuration management tool that can be self-hosted on any infrastructure. Users need to set up and maintain their Chef server, giving them more control over the entire configuration management process.

  2. Management Approach: AWS OpsWorks follows a high-level, integrated management approach that abstracts infrastructure details, making application management and scaling easier. It utilizes OpsWorks Stacks to define instance and component groups, offering automatic scaling and application deployment features. Chef, on the other hand, adopts a flexible and low-level configuration management approach, enabling precise control over infrastructure and application states through Chef recipes and cookbooks. It allows for fine-grained configuration customization based on user-defined desired states.

  3. Integration with AWS Services: AWS OpsWorks is natively integrated with the AWS ecosystem, allowing users to leverage other AWS services seamlessly. OpsWorks can interact with other AWS services like Amazon RDS, Amazon S3, and more, making it easy to build complex applications. Chef, while offering some integrations with AWS, requires additional setup and configuration to achieve the same level of seamless integration with AWS services.

  4. Managed Service vs Self-Hosted: OpsWorks is a fully managed service provided by AWS, which means AWS takes care of the underlying infrastructure, scaling, and maintenance of the OpsWorks service. On the other hand, Chef requires users to set up and maintain their own Chef server, which gives them more control but also means they are responsible for managing the infrastructure and ensuring high availability.

In summary, AWS OpsWorks is a managed configuration management service that provides a high-level, integrated approach to managing applications and infrastructure within the AWS ecosystem. It is well-suited for users who prefer a fully managed service with native integration with AWS services. Chef, as an open-source configuration management tool, offers more flexibility and control, making it suitable for users who want to self-host and have fine-grained control over the configuration management process.

Advice on AWS OpsWorks and Chef
Rogério R. Alcântara
Needs advice
Puppet LabsPuppet Labs

Personal Dotfiles management

Given that they are all “configuration management” tools - meaning they are designed to deploy, configure and manage servers - what would be the simplest - and yet robust - solution to manage personal dotfiles - for n00bs.

Ideally, I reckon, it should:

  • be containerized (Docker?)
  • be versionable (Git)
  • ensure idempotency
  • allow full automation (tests, CI/CD, etc.)
  • be fully recoverable (Linux/ macOS)
  • be easier to setup/manage (as much as possible)

Does it make sense?

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Replies (3)
terry chay
Principal Engineer at RaiseMe · | 9 upvotes · 56.8K views

I recommend whatever you are most comfortable with/whatever might already be installed in the system. Note that, for personal dotfiles, it does not need to be containerized or have full automation/testing. It just needs to handle multiple OS and platform and be idempotent. Git will handle the heavy lifting. Note that you'll have to separate out certain files like the private SSH keys and write your CM so that it will pull it from another store or assist in manually importing them.

I personally use Ansible since it is a serverless design and is in Python, which I prefer to Ruby. Saltstack was too new when I started to port my dotfile management scripts from shell into a configuration management tool. I think any of the above is fine.

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You should check out SaltStack. It's a lot more powerful than Puppet, Chef, & Ansible. If not Salt, then I would go Ansible. But stay away from Puppet & Chef. 10+ year user of Puppet, and 2+ year user of Chef.

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Attila Fulop
Management Advisor at artkonekt · | 3 upvotes · 20.6K views

Chef is a definite no-go for me. I learned it the hard way (ie. got a few tasks in a prod system) and it took quite a lot to grasp it on an acceptable level. Ansible in turn is much more straightforward and much easier to test.

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Needs advice
Puppet LabsPuppet Labs

I'm just getting started using Vagrant to help automate setting up local VMs to set up a Kubernetes cluster (development and experimentation only). (Yes, I do know about minikube)

I'm looking for a tool to help install software packages, setup users, etc..., on these VMs. I'm also fairly new to Ansible, Chef, and Puppet. What's a good one to start with to learn? I might decide to try all 3 at some point for my own curiosity.

The most important factors for me are simplicity, ease of use, shortest learning curve.

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Replies (2)

I have been working with Puppet and Ansible. The reason why I prefer ansible is the distribution of it. Ansible is more lightweight and therefore more popular. This leads to situations, where you can get fully packaged applications for ansible (e.g. confluent) supported by the vendor, but only incomplete packages for Puppet.

The only advantage I would see with Puppet if someone wants to use Foreman. This is still better supported with Puppet.

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Gabriel Pa

If you are just starting out, might as well learn Kubernetes There's a lot of tools that come with Kube that make it easier to use and most importantly: you become cloud-agnostic. We use Ansible because it's a lot simpler than Chef or Puppet and if you use Docker Compose for your deployments you can re-use them with Kubernetes later when you migrate

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Pros of AWS OpsWorks
Pros of Chef
  • 32
  • 19
    Cloud management
  • 110
    Dynamic and idempotent server configuration
  • 76
    Reusable components
  • 47
    Integration testing with Vagrant
  • 43
  • 30
    Mock testing with Chefspec
  • 14
  • 8
    Can package cookbooks to guarantee repeatability
  • 7
    Works with AWS
  • 3
    Has marketplace where you get readymade cookbooks
  • 3
    Matured product with good community support
  • 2
    Less declarative more procedural
  • 2
    Open source configuration mgmt made easy(ish)

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What is AWS OpsWorks?

Start from templates for common technologies like Ruby, Node.JS, PHP, and Java, or build your own using Chef recipes to install software packages and perform any task that you can script. AWS OpsWorks can scale your application using automatic load-based or time-based scaling and maintain the health of your application by detecting failed instances and replacing them. You have full control of deployments and automation of each component

What is Chef?

Chef enables you to manage and scale cloud infrastructure with no downtime or interruptions. Freely move applications and configurations from one cloud to another. Chef is integrated with all major cloud providers including Amazon EC2, VMWare, IBM Smartcloud, Rackspace, OpenStack, Windows Azure, HP Cloud, Google Compute Engine, Joyent Cloud and others.

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What companies use AWS OpsWorks?
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What are some alternatives to AWS OpsWorks and Chef?
AWS Elastic Beanstalk
Once you upload your application, Elastic Beanstalk automatically handles the deployment details of capacity provisioning, load balancing, auto-scaling, and application health monitoring.
AWS Config
AWS Config is a fully managed service that provides you with an AWS resource inventory, configuration history, and configuration change notifications to enable security and governance. With AWS Config you can discover existing AWS resources, export a complete inventory of your AWS resources with all configuration details, and determine how a resource was configured at any point in time. These capabilities enable compliance auditing, security analysis, resource change tracking, and troubleshooting.
AWS CloudFormation
You can use AWS CloudFormation’s sample templates or create your own templates to describe the AWS resources, and any associated dependencies or runtime parameters, required to run your application. You don’t need to figure out the order in which AWS services need to be provisioned or the subtleties of how to make those dependencies work.
AWS CodeDeploy
AWS CodeDeploy is a service that automates code deployments to Amazon EC2 instances. AWS CodeDeploy makes it easier for you to rapidly release new features, helps you avoid downtime during deployment, and handles the complexity of updating your applications.
A single process to commit code, review with the team, and deploy the final result to your customers.
See all alternatives