Book Cover for Taste Test: Puppet, Chef, Salt, Ansible

Smoke Signals vs Smart Phones

Configuration management (CM) tools like Puppet, Chef, SaltStack, and Ansible are so powerful that it's like moving from using smoke signals to communicate to having a smart phone.

That's one of the reasons you will pretty much never hear the companies behind these tools ever bash each other. More than competing with each other, they're competing with people still using rugs over a fire to communicate!

Smoke Signals versus Baby on Phone

I mean seriously, you'd never let your baby send smoke signals to Grandma. But a smart phone? Go for it!

Huge Wins

Just using any of these tools is a huge win. Having scripted, documented, replicatable servers can speed up your development and operations dramatically.

For example, at one of my consulting gigs we had a System Administrator installing all the software and configuration on the servers by hand!

I asked him how long it would take him to bring up a new application server and he said "Maybe 4 hours." Wow, that's a crazy long time to bring up a new server I thought.

Can you guess how long it actually took him to bring up the new app server? 2 weeks.

That's right. 2 whole weeks.


It went like this:

And on and on for 2 weeks.

That was just for ONE server! They were about to launch a major application to millions of users with a huge marketing campaign and they would soon need to bring up at least another 20 servers in a few weeks.

So, we used Puppet and scripted the server.

Now how long did it take to bring up a new application server from scratch? Under 5 minutes.

Graph of minutes to launch an application server.

In case you didn't do the math, that's over 4000 times faster!

Finally they could scale.

Also, magically, a ton of weird inconsistent bugs they were experiencing went away. Why? Because all the servers were consistent for the first time EVER.

How this book helps you

If you aren't yet using one of these tools, this book will help you quickly decide.

If you are using one of these tools already, but found it painful for any reason, this book will give you a good taste of what the other tools are like so you can decide which one to move to.

Either way, it could take weeks to properly try out the tools and come to a decision. This book saves you much of that time and effort so you can just see what they are each like and make a decision.

If you value your time, it's a great investment.

What readers are saying...

"Fantastic read! It was positively enlightening!

I had zero experience with CM tools, and this book was just the introduction I needed. I was happy to see you started with a shell script, because I was able to understand the goals of the project, and then see how truly limited shell scripts are as compared to CM tools.

The concision is really great too - straight to the point, and no dilly-dallying!"

Profile Pic   -Daniel de Haas

"This book was exactly what I needed. A clear comparison of configuration management tools. It concisely covers the good, the bad, and the ugly of all 4 of these CM tools pointing out the pitfalls you might fall in with each. Matt's recommendations surprised me a bit, but he clearly explained the choices and saved me a ton of time. If you deal with system configuration at all, you want this book."

Profile Pic   -Joel Hooks

"Taste Test is a must have to anybody who would like to implement configuration management tools on their systems. I quickly found the information I needed to decide which tool corresponds to my needs. I'm going to start using one of them this week!"

Profile Pic   -Damien Goujard

"Damn, it does a marvelous job of letting you quickly try out the CM tools. I wish this had been around six months ago, it would have saved me at least 20 hours!"

Profile Pic   -JP Richardson

Book Details

The book started off at over 300 pages, but it has been heavily edited down to about 140 pages to give you a nice streamlined experience. More than half the development time went into removing less critical content and testing with over 30 reviewers so that it would be a tight and pleasant experience for you.

For each tool, I take you through a super simple project where we set up 2 servers, one that hosts a picture of a puppy and one that hosts a picture of a kitten. We set it up in such a way that I'm able to show you some of the key features of the tools. Sound trivial? Well, it really depends on which CM tool used...

I was very surprised at the results, and you might be too.

To see the exact project we use, here's a sample chapter where we first set up the project via shell commands: Shell Script Sample Chapter

Table of Contents:

The book is not deeply technical, but you should have some development experience and be comfortable with the Linux command-line.

It's in PDF format with a linked Table of Contents for easy navigation as well as handy chapter links after each chapter.

For convenience, I also include a code package for all the commands used to set up and try out the CM tools. This is particularly helpful so you don't have to copy and paste from the PDF.

This book is *not* for you if:

This book *is* for you if:

Money-Back Guarantee

There's no risk. I want you to be happy and if the book falls short for you, let me know in the first 30 days and I'll refund the full cost of the book right away.

Purchase Options:

Book/Code Package: $47

Includes: Book plus scripts for setting up all the sample projects

Book/Code Package


Buy Now For $47

Other Options

Small Team Package:

Small Team Package
To share the book among the folks on your team (up to 10 people), get the small team license here for $280. If you need a license for more than 10, contact me for a volume discount.


During the checkout process, there's an option to pay with PayPal if you wish.

The Author:

I'm Matt Jaynes and I've been consulting on development and operations projects since 1999.

Past clients include: Sony, CBS, Yahoo, Intuit, Scribd, Whole Foods Market, Showtime, Bravo, Mensa, University of Maryland, American Cancer Society, Brooks Brothers, and many smaller companies.

I've worked on 100's of live production systems over my career - both for small startups and billion dollar corporations. Across them all, the same basic principles apply: focus on simplicity, automation, and above all else: understandability.