Among the various configuration management frameworks available today, Opscode's Chef is a relative newcomer. But as the double-digit version number would suggest, Chef has been making strides toward adding new features and appears to be gaining some ground against its older and more mature competitors.
For any shop considering Chef for configuration management, the main question will be the level of familiarity and comfort with the Ruby programming language, which Chef relies on for driving all configuration changes.
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Chef is available in a variety of different flavors. Opscode offers Hosted Chef, which is a hosted service that Opscode runs in the cloud and allows you to implement Chef without running your own local Chef server. Then there's Opscode's Private Chef, a commercial product that installs locally and offers an extended selection of features such as high availability and an enhanced Web UI. Lastly, there's the open source Chef, which is free but lacking in enterprise-grade features and somewhat more challenging to set up and deploy. For this review, I'll focus on Private Chef.