Comparison of open source configuration management software
Basic properties 
"Verify mode" refers to having an ability to determine whether a node is conformant with a guarantee of not modifying it, and typically involves the exclusive use of an internal language supporting read-only mode for all potentially system-modifying operations.
|Language||License||Mutual auth||Encrypts||Verify mode||First release||Latest stable release|
|Arusha Project (ARK)||Python||BSD ||Yes||Yes||2001-07-21||2005-04-19 20050419|
|Bcfg2||Python||BSD ||Yes||Yes||Yes||2004-08-11||2013-03-21 1.3.1|
|Chef||Ruby||Apache||Yes||Yes||Yes ||2009-01-15 0.5.0||2013-02-13 11.4.0, 2013-02-15 11.0.6 (server)|
|CFEngine||C||GPL, COSL ||Yes||Yes||Yes||1993||2013-03-15 3.4.4|
|ISconf||Python||GPL ||Yes||No||1998||2006-08-13 188.8.131.52|
|Juju||Python||Affero General Public License||2010-09-17|
|Local ConFiGuration system (LCFG)||Perl||GPL||Partial||Partial||1994||Weekly Releases|
|OCS Inventory NG with GLPI||Perl, PHP, C++||GPL||No||Yes||2003||2011/09/13|
|Open pc server integration (Opsi)||Python, Java||GPL||No||Yes||2004||2010-10-01 4.0|
|PIKT||C||GPL ||Yes||Yes||1998||2007-09-10 1.19.0|
|Puppet||Ruby||Apache from 2.7.0, GPL before then||Yes||Yes||Yes ||2005-08-30||2013-03-12 3.1.1|
|Quattor||Perl, Python||EDG, Apache 2.0||Yes||Yes||2005-04-01||2013-02-17|
|Radmind||C||BSD ||Yes||Yes||2002-03-26||2008-10-8 1.13.0|
|Salt ||Python||Apache ||Yes||Yes||Yes||2011-03-17 0.6.0||2013-03-23 0.14.0|
|Spacewalk||Java (C, Perl, Python, PL/SQL)||GPLv2||Yes||Yes||2008-06||2012-03-07 1.7|
|STAF||C++||CPL ||No||Partial||1998-02-16||2012-06-29 3.4.10|
Platform support 
Note: This means platforms on which a recent version of the tool has actually been used successfully, not platforms where it should theoretically work since it's written in good portable C/C++ or an interpreted language. It should also be listed as a supported platform on the project's web site.
|AIX||*BSD||HP-UX||Linux||Mac OS X||Solaris||Windows||Others|
|Arusha Project (ARK)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||No||No|
|Bcfg2||Partial ||Yes ||No||Yes ||Partial ||Yes||No||No|
|CFEngine||Yes||Yes ||Yes||Yes||Yes ||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Chef||Yes ||Yes||Yes ||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes ||Yes|
|Local ConFiGuration system (LCFG)||No||No||No||Partial ||Partial ||Partial ||No||No|
|OCS Inventory NG||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Open pc server integration (Opsi)||No||No||No||Yes||No||No||Yes||No|
|SmartFrog||No ||No ||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No |
|Salt||No ||Yes||No ||Yes ||Yes||Yes ||Yes||Partial |
|Spacewalk||No ||No||No||Yes ||No||Yes ||No||No|
|STAF||Yes ||Yes ||Yes ||Yes ||Yes ||Yes ||Yes ||Yes |
Short descriptions 
Not all tools have the same goal and the same feature set. To help distinguish between all of these software packages, here is a short description of each one.
- Combines multi-node deployment, ad-hoc task execution, and configuration management in one package. Manages nodes over SSH and does not require any additional remote software to be installed on them. Modules work over JSON and standard output and can be written in any language. Uses YAML to express reusable descriptions of systems.
- Arusha Project (ARK)
- Manage package and configuration specification of hosts via a custom XML description language. Can be used as a front end for CFEngine or PIKT. Provides some collaboration features between administration 'teams'. The last commit dates from April 2007.
- Software to manage the configuration of a large number of computers using a central configuration model and the client–server paradigm. The system enables reconciliation between clients' state and the central configuration specification. Detailed reports provide a way to identify unmanaged configuration on hosts. Generators enable code or template based generation of configuration files from a central data repository.
- Lightweight agent system. Manages configuration of a large number of computers using the client–server paradigm or stand-alone. Any client state which is different from the policy description is reverted to the desired state. Configuration state is specified via a declarative language. CFEngine's paradigm is convergent "computer immunology"
- cdist is a zero dependency configuration management system: It requires only ssh on the target host, which is usually enabled on all Unix-like machines. Only the administration host needs to have Python 3.2 installed.
- Chef is a configuration management tool written in Ruby, and uses a pure Ruby DSL for writing configuration "recipes". These recipes contain resources that should be put into the declared state. Chef can be used as a client–server tool, or used in "solo" mode.
- Tool to execute commands and replicate files on all nodes. The nodes do not need to be up; the commands will be executed when they boot. The system has no central server so commands can be launched from any node and they will replicate to all nodes. It implements many of the ideas in "Why Order Matters: Turing Equivalence in Automated Systems Administration".
- Local ConFiGuration system (LCFG)
- LCFG manages the configuration with a central description language in XML, specifying resources, aspects and profiles. Configuration is deployed using the client–server paradigm. Appropriate scripts on clients (called components) transcribe the resources into configuration files and restart services as needed.
- Open pc server integration (Opsi)
- Open pc server integration (Opsi) is desktop management software for Windows clients based on Linux servers. It provides automatic software deployment (distribution), unattended installation of OS, patch management, hard- and software inventory, license management and software asset management, and administrative tasks for the configuration management.
- PIKT is foremost a monitoring system that also does configuration management. "PIKT consists of a sophisticated, feature-rich file preprocessor; an innovative scripting language with unique labor-saving features; a flexible, centrally directed process scheduler; a customizing file installer; a collection of powerful command-line extensions; and other useful tools." 
- Puppet consists of a custom declarative language to describe system configuration, distributed using the client–server paradigm (using XML-RPC protocol in older versions, with a recent switch to REST), and a library to realize the configuration. The resource abstraction layer enables administrators to describe the configuration in high-level terms, such as users, services and packages. Puppet will then ensure the server's state matches the description. There is support in Puppet for using a pure Ruby DSL as an alternative configuration language in version 2.6.0 and later.
- The quattor information model is based on the distinction between the desired state and the actual state. The desired state is registered in a fabric-wide configuration database, using a specially designed configuration language called Pan for expressing and validating configurations, composed out of reusable hierarchical building blocks called templates. Configurations are propagated to and cached on the managed nodes. 
- Radmind manages hosts configuration at the file system level. In a similar way to Tripwire (and other configuration management tools), it can detect external changes to managed configuration, and can optionally reverse the changes. Radmind does not have higher-level configuration element (services, packages) abstraction. A graphical interface is available (only) for Mac OS X.
- Salt started out as a tool for remote server management. As its usage has grown, it has gained a number of extended features, including a more comprehensive mechanism for host configuration. This is a relatively new feature facilitated through the Salt States component. With the traction that Salt has gotten in the last bit, the support for more features and platforms will continue to grow.
- Java-based tool to deploy and configure applications distributed across multiple machines. There is no central server; you can deploy a .SF configuration file to any node and have it distributed to peer nodes according to the distribution information contained inside the deployment descriptor itself.
- Spacewalk is an open source Linux and Solaris systems management solution and is the upstream project for the source of Red Hat Network Satellite. Spacewalk works with RHEL, Fedora, and other RHEL derivative distributions like CentOS, Scientific Linux, etc. We are working on getting it packaged for inclusion in Fedora. It allows you to inventory your systems (hardware and software information, install and update software on your systems, collect and distribute your custom software packages into manageable groups, provision your systems (from bare metal via KOAN and cobbler), manage and deploy configuration files to your systems, monitor your systems, provision virtual guests, start/stop/configure virtual guests and delegate all of these actions to organisations with fine grain local or LDAP user controls and system entitlements.
- Key Pair: Uses public/private key pairs and key fingerprints for mutual authentication, like SSH.
- Secure Shell: Uses the Secure Shell protocol for encryption.
- Ansible CHANGELOG
- Certificate and Passwords: Uses SSL X.509 certificate and fingerprint for clients to authenticate server, and passwords for server to authenticate clients; clients should only share the same password if they are allowed access to each other's configuration data.
- SSL: Uses the Secure Sockets Layer, Transport Layer Security (TLS) for encryption.
- Full support for non-modifying determination of node compliance, including nodes not previously modified by a Bcfg2 configuration pass.
- Chef 10.14.0+ (called why-run mode)
- Custom: Uses code specific to the software for this function.
- Called dry-run, used to verify what would happen
- HMAC: Uses HMAC signatures on all network traffic.
- Improved security which would include an encrypted, mutually authenticated, peer-to-peer message bus is tracked here.
- LCFG does not provide its own transport mechanism; it relies on an external program, most often Apache. Using Apache it should be possible to do mutual authentication in several ways; however the documentation at The Complete Guide to LCFG, Section 9.4: Authorization and Security, shows access control based on IP address ranges, implying that the client does not authenticate itself to the server via an SSL certificate; it also does not mention if the LCFG client checks the validity of the server's SSL certificate (such as via a per-site fingerprint distributed with the client, or a chain of trust to an accredited CA). It mentions that there can be a per-client password in the profile, but also states that "The contents of the LCFG profile should be considered public".
- LCFG supports encrypted communications channels (SSL via Apache); however the documentation at The Complete Guide to LCFG, Section 9.4: Authorization and Security, states that "The contents of the LCFG profile should be considered public".
- Server authenticates to client, but client does not authenticate to server. See OCS Inventory NG Installation and Administration guide, page 114.
- PIKT uses shared secret keys for mutual authentication. "As an option, you can use secret key authentication to prove the master's identity to the slave. [...] If one managed to crack any system in the PIKT domain, one would have access to all common secrets. To solve this problem, you may use per-slave uid, gid, and private_key settings." - from Security Considerations.
- "For file installs, file fetches (to diff against the central configuration), and command executions, you can optionally encrypt all such data traffic between master and slave." - from Security Considerations.
- Certificates: Uses SSL X.509 Certificates for mutual authentication. Can use any SSL Certificate Authority to manage the Public Key Infrastructure.
- Using the --noop option
- "Client to server authentication and vice versa: on one hand, this allows to enforce access policies to sensitive data according to the client "name", on the other hand, clients are guaranteed to talk to the original server." - from Quattor Installation and User Guide: Version 1.1.x, page 70
- "[...] secure information transfer, since data are encrypted: this prevents eavesdroppers from obtaining information in transit over the network." - from Quattor Installation and User Guide: Version 1.1.x, page 70
- "SSL certificates can also be used to authenticate both the Radmind server and the managed clients, regardless of DNS or IP-address variation." - from Radmind: The Integration of Filesystem Integrity Checking with Filesystem Management
- "For network security, Radmind supports SSL-encrypted links. This allows nodes on insecure networks to be updated securely." - from Radmind: The Integration of Filesystem Integrity Checking with Filesystem Management
- See Using the new SmartFrog Security
- The release the Smartfrog pushes from its own site is 3.17.014 of 2009-09-04
- Salt Salt is an open source tool to manage your infrastructure. Easy enough to get running in minutes and fast enough to manage tens of thousands of servers
- 2.5, 2.6, and 2.7
- Spacewalk inception date; June 2008
- Network Trust: Trusts the network, like rsh.
- User-only Auth: User authenticates to server via password, but uses Network Trust to authenticate user to server, like telnet.
- There is a feature request for a Secure TCP/IP Connection Provider, and one of the developers stated on 2007-04-05 that "You will need to download the source code for OpenSSL and point the build files at it. Other than that, it should just work.", so it looks like there may be working encryption if you build from scratch instead of using the prebuilt binaries. It is unclear what if any authentication building against OpenSSL would give STAF.
- Encap, RPM, and POSIX File Support Only
- Debian, Ubuntu; Gentoo; RPM-based distributions (CentOS, Mandrake, Red Hat, RHEL, SLES, SuSE)
- POSIX File, Launchd, and MacPorts Support Only
- Support for Darwin, Mac OS X's *BSD base, via Darwin Ports
- "Recent versions run on Fedora Core (3, 5, 6). Various people have ported some of the LCFG core to other Linux distributions, such as Debian, but these ports have not been incorporated"
- "There has been an experimental port to Mac OS X, which does work and includes some Mac-specific components. However, this is not production quality and the lack of uniform packaging system under Mac OS X means that automatic management of installed software is likely to be difficult."
- "LCFG core has been ported back to Solaris and we are using this in production, although the software has not been packaged for distribution, and is not so well supported"
- Digital Unix; IRIX
- Written in Java, so should in theory work on this platform if there is the appropriate JVM version available for it; however it has not been tested on the platform, which should be considered unsupported.
- Will run anywhere Python runs, but handlers for different platforms are untested.
- Salt was added to the OpenCSW package repository in September of 2012 in version 0.10.2 of Salt
- Support for NIMOL feature request
- "Spacewalk works with RHEL, Fedora, and other RHEL derivative distributions like CentOS, Scientific Linux, etc"
- Managing Solaris Systems
- 4.3.3+ (Power 32); 5.1+ (Power 32/64)
- FreeBSD 4.10 (x86-32); FreeBSD 6.1+ (x86-32)
- 11.00+ (PA-RISC 32, IA-64)
- (x86-32, x86-64, IA-64, PPC 64, zSeries 32/64)
- 10.2+ (?)
- 2.6+ (Sparc 32); 10+ (x86-32, x86-64)
- 95, 98, Me, NT4, 2000, XP, 2003, Vista (x86-32), 7 (x86-32), 7 (x86-64); 2003, Vista (x86-64); 2004 (IA-64)
- OS/400 5.2+ (iSeries 32); z/OS Unix 1.4+