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Chef vs Salt: What are the differences?

Chef: Build, destroy and rebuild servers on any public or private cloud. 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; Salt: Fast, scalable and flexible software for data center automation. Salt is a new approach to infrastructure management. Easy enough to get running in minutes, scalable enough to manage tens of thousands of servers, and fast enough to communicate with them in seconds Salt delivers a dynamic communication bus for infrastructures that can be used for orchestration, remote execution, configuration management and much more..

Chef and Salt can be categorized as "Server Configuration and Automation" tools.

Some of the features offered by Chef are:

  • Access to 800+ Reusable Cookbooks
  • Integration with Leading Cloud Providers
  • Enterprise Platform Support including Windows and Solaris

On the other hand, Salt provides the following key features:

  • Remote execution is the core function of Salt. Running pre-defined or arbitrary commands on remote hosts.
  • Salt modules are the core of remote execution. They provide functionality such as installing packages, restarting a service, running a remote command, transferring files, and infinitely more
  • Building on the remote execution core is a robust and flexible configuration management framework. Execution happens on the minions allowing effortless, simultaneous configuration of tens of thousands of hosts.

"Dynamic and idempotent server configuration" is the top reason why over 104 developers like Chef, while over 41 developers mention "Flexible" as the leading cause for choosing Salt.

Chef and Salt are both open source tools. It seems that Salt with 10.1K GitHub stars and 4.59K forks on GitHub has more adoption than Chef with 5.85K GitHub stars and 2.36K GitHub forks.

According to the StackShare community, Chef has a broader approval, being mentioned in 360 company stacks & 80 developers stacks; compared to Salt, which is listed in 110 company stacks and 20 developer stacks.

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.

What is Salt?

Salt is a new approach to infrastructure management. Easy enough to get running in minutes, scalable enough to manage tens of thousands of servers, and fast enough to communicate with them in seconds. Salt delivers a dynamic communication bus for infrastructures that can be used for orchestration, remote execution, configuration management and much more.

Want advice about which of these to choose?Ask the StackShare community!

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      What are some alternatives to Chef and Salt?
      Ansible
      Ansible is an IT automation tool. It can configure systems, deploy software, and orchestrate more advanced IT tasks such as continuous deployments or zero downtime rolling updates. Ansible’s goals are foremost those of simplicity and maximum ease of use.
      Puppet Labs
      Puppet is an automated administrative engine for your Linux, Unix, and Windows systems and performs administrative tasks (such as adding users, installing packages, and updating server configurations) based on a centralized specification.
      Capistrano
      Capistrano is a remote server automation tool. It supports the scripting and execution of arbitrary tasks, and includes a set of sane-default deployment workflows.
      Fabric
      Fabric is a Python (2.5-2.7) library and command-line tool for streamlining the use of SSH for application deployment or systems administration tasks. It provides a basic suite of operations for executing local or remote shell commands (normally or via sudo) and uploading/downloading files, as well as auxiliary functionality such as prompting the running user for input, or aborting execution.
      EasyEngine
      It is a command-line tool for the Nginx web servers to manage WordPress sites that are running on the LEMP Stack (Linux, Nginx, MySQL/MariaDB, and PHP-FPM). It is created with python and can be installed on Ubuntu and Linux Debian distributions.
      See all alternatives
      Decisions about Chef and Salt
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      Interest over time
      Reviews of Chef and Salt
      Review ofSaltSalt

      For automating deployment or system admin tasks, Shell/Perl are more than enough. Specially Perl one liners, that I use heavily, even to make changes in xml files. But quite often the need is to just check the state of system and run scripts without fear. Thats where I actually needed some scripting language with "state mechanism" associated with it. Salt provided me above similar kind of experience. I tested salt first on a small scenario. Installation of 60 RPMS on a machine. I was pleased that I could achieve that in around 25 lines of code using salt. And eventually I was also able to keep data and code separate. This was another plus point. henceforth I was able to use salt to deploy a large potion Datacenter (apps deployment). I am still working towards orchestration and finding it quite promising. The use of pure python whenever needed to deal with more complex scenario is awesome.

      How developers use Chef and Salt
      Avatar of Refractal
      Refractal uses SaltSalt

      When it comes to provisioning tens to hundreds of servers, you need a tool that can handle the load, as well as being extremely customisable. Fortunately, Salt has held that gauntlet for us consistently through any kind of issue you can throw at it.

      Avatar of FAELIX
      FAELIX uses SaltSalt

      We've built something using SaltStack and Debian Linux to help us deploy and administer at scale the servers we provide for our part- and fully-managed hosting customers.

      Avatar of Goyoboard
      Goyoboard uses ChefChef

      Out custom recipes makes it simple for developers bootstrap process (using vagrant) and that same recipe is also the one that is used to prep instances

      Avatar of Runbook
      Runbook uses SaltSalt

      Everything is deployed via Salt. From configurations to Docker container builds.

      Avatar of Zinc
      Zinc uses ChefChef

      We use Chef for our configuration management and our service discovery.

      Avatar of EverTrue
      EverTrue uses ChefChef

      Configuration management for any services not provided by AWS.

      Avatar of Hund
      Hund uses ChefChef

      Distributed application deployments and server configuration.

      Avatar of Aspire
      Aspire uses SaltSalt

      Simple configuration of vagrant for development environments.

      Avatar of SAP Hybris
      SAP Hybris uses SaltSalt

      configuration manager and orchestrator for deployment

      Avatar of James Salas
      James Salas uses ChefChef

      Configuration and deployment of application

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