I was looking up here for some comparisons between CFEngine, Puppet, Chef, bcfg2, AutomateIt and whatever other configuration management systems might be out there, and was very surprised I could find very little here on Server Fault. For instance, I only knew of the first three links above -- the other two I found on a related google search.

So, I'm not interested in what people think is the best one, or which they like. I'd like to know the following:

  1. Configuration Management System's name.
  2. Why it was created (as opposed to using an existing solution).
  3. Relative strengths.
  4. Relative weaknesses.
  5. License.
  6. Link to project and examples.
  • Please mark your question as community wiki. Nov 8 '10 at 12:31
  • @Graeme See meta.stackexchange.com/questions/392/…. Nov 8 '10 at 12:47
  • thanks, I wasn't aware of that. I should hang out on meta more often. :-) EDIT: just noticed how old that is too...... I should really hang out on meta more often! Nov 8 '10 at 15:06
  • @Graeme Don't feel so bad. The important change, which is the relevant fact here, is dated October 14, this year. And I was only aware of it because I follow @codinghorror on twitter. Nov 8 '10 at 18:01

Configuration Management System's name: Cfengine Community 3

Why it was created: visit http://cfengine.com/techFaq#create

Relative strengths:

  • is very small in size (5MB) with few dependencies
  • allows you to choose freely both between templating and differential modification of the system for integrated management
  • handles organizational complexity very well, i.e. does not require "one model for all"
  • high scalability, high speed, but low RAM usage
  • is not based on SSL and its vulerabilities for communication
  • has extensive documentation, large installation base and user community
  • is knowledge oriented
  • has commercial reporting options for compliance audits
  • is the dominant choice in banks, oil and government

Relative weaknesses: steep learning curve

License: GPL v3

Link to project and examples: Lots of tutorials and guides: http://cfengine.com/manuals


I found the link below to be very useful. It compares many of these tools.


  1. Name: Chef
  2. Why created? From the FAQ (as opposed to existing solution: also in the FAQ)
  3. Relative strengths: config management library, system integration framework, flexible, open source, persistent data store for nodes and other data, search indexes, strong community, server is a highly scalable lightweight web application, Opscode provides a chef-server-as-a-service. Also summarized on Opscode's web page for Chef.
  4. Relative weaknesses: steep learning curve, lots of moving parts in open source server (api, webui, search indexes, data store).
  5. License: Apache 2.0 Software License
  6. Project: Chef Wiki


Disclosure: I work for Opscode.


Microsoft SCCM

It was created in the mid 90's as SMS.


  • Quick setup
  • Integrates with AD
  • Flexible
  • Let's you focus on the lifecycle of desktops and servers, rather than more tactical things. Has a robust but complex desired configuration management feature.
  • Great reporting
  • Cross platform, supports Windows, OS X, and some Linux/Unix flavors


  • Requires AD.
  • Expensive if you aren't implementing a full Microsoft stack


Commercial. Server license includes MS SQL Server, client licenses are licensed individually for each device or via the Microsoft Core CAL bundle. (bundle requires an EA)


Wikipedia is your friend too: Comparison of open source configuration management software

What's included:
1. Basic properties
2. Platform support
3. Short descriptions

  • 1
    I saw that, but it's just not enough. That's why I came here. Now, the answers given so far are very much what I'd like to see, even if they cover just a small part of what's available. BESIDES, I'm not limiting myself to open source. Jan 4 '11 at 12:29

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