Review: Puppet 3.0 pulls more strings

Version 3.0 of Puppet Labs' configuration automation tool shines with speed boosts, orchestration improvements, and deeper support for Windows servers

With virtualization driving the meteoric rise in server instance counts, it's no wonder that so many configuration automation tools are hitting their stride. Where once we either did without configuration management or created our own custom scripts, we now have many options to manage changes to large numbers of servers.

One of the best options is Puppet Enterprise, the commercial version of the Puppet open source project. Version 3.0, just arrived, passes along many advances borne from the community edition, as well as new features found only in the enterprise version.

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If you're already well versed in Puppet, then this version will bring with it welcome changes. The first is the speed. Although I wasn't able to fully corroborate Puppet Labs' claims of a 60 percent faster catalog core compilation, 2.7x speed in agent runtimes, or the heralded "200 percent performance boost," the reality is definitely close to that. For longtime Puppet users with large-scale deployments, the speed improvements are a very big deal, as they will reduce the load on both Puppet servers (that is, Masters) and managed nodes, as well as the time required to roll out changes across the board.

Puppet Enterprise 3.0 also introduces a new orchestration engine that allows for more granular and more stable large-scale changes. As compared to earlier versions, the new orchestration features include finer-grained filtering to select subsets of systems to modify or directly control, as well as batching functions to permit a gradual rollout of changes rather than performing them all at once.

Another major change is the deeper support of Windows servers. Previously, many actions such as Live Management would not work with Windows. The new version brings Live Management (a Web UI for managing nodes in real time) and orchestration of Windows servers into the fold.

Puppet Enterprise supports a broad range of platforms, providing Red Hat, Ubuntu, Debian, Solaris, and AIX packages, as well as a general Unix tarball. In addition, the open source community has released code for a variety of other operating systems. These packages are unsupported by Puppet Labs, but they offer some functionality for other Linux distributions, various BSD flavors, and Mac OS X.

Inside the Puppet
Puppet is definitely a Linux/Unix-centric app. Although there is greater support for Windows in the new version, this tool is designed by and for Linux/Unix admins. Any Puppet deployment larger than a smattering of servers will require custom code and a fairly deep knowledge of Linux/Unix internals. This is not a click-and-drag tool, nor a Web-based configuration management tool, but a configuration file-based tool with a Web UI for monitoring and organizational tasks -- as it should be.

InfoWorld Scorecard
Interoperability (20.0%)
Performance (10.0%)
Scalability (20.0%)
Value (10.0%)
Availability (20.0%)
Management (20.0%)
Overall Score (100%)
Puppet Enterprise 3.0 9.0 9.0 9.0 9.0 9.0 9.0 9.0
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