SaltStack Review

We use the beacons to alert based on whatever monitoring metric we see fit.

Valuable Features

The two most valuable features to us are beacon related. We can use the beacons to alert that a service is stopped, and restart it almost instantly. Also, we can use the beacons to alert based on whatever monitoring metric we see fit. For example, if a server is running out of usable RAM, for example, we can alert on that, and react to it in whatever way we see fit. We could in fact automate any aspect of scaling – all because of SaltStack. Also, it enables you to have a remote CLI on every server in your infrastructure and issue a command to it. Within seconds, you will have the results of that command in an organized list.

Improvements to My Organization

We use it to automatically install software on servers with the minion installed – based on the server name. So we can bring any machine up to spec by simply changing the host name. We have plans to automate it even further; it is just a matter of time.

Room for Improvement

The online documentation is lackluster at best. It usually only gives one example of how to do something. If you want to see all possibilities, you have to look at the Python code for the SaltStack modules themselves. They are commented extremely well, and what isn't there you can write yourself! Anything is possible when you edit the code on your own. We have modified many modules to suit our specific needs.

Use of Solution

I have used it for 10 months.

Stability Issues

I have not encountered any stability issues.

Scalability Issues

I have not encountered any scalability issues. It has helped us scale other applications.

Customer Service and Technical Support

We are all self-taught on this product. I have not initiated a call to their support. I will say their online documentation leaves something to be desired; however, that is all made up in the code itself. It is commented really well.

Previous Solutions

We were previously using SCCM and SCOM. We have brought in SaltStack and it is slowly taking over those two spaces. SaltStack is a great orchestration tool, but not intended to be used for monitoring. We are looking at switching over to Zenoss for our monitoring solution.

Initial Setup

The initial setup was complex because we did not think it would be as simple as it was. I can build a new SaltStack infrastructure in a matter of minutes now, but initially it took me longer than I would like to admit. Again, it is hard to make your way through the documentation. I was using YouTube videos for instruction.

Pricing, Setup Cost and Licensing

We use the free, open-source version. I have no information or experience with their pricing.

Other Solutions Considered

We looked at Ansible, Puppet, and SCCM. All were really good at what they do, but SaltStack seemed to be much more feature rich than the competition. I am extremely happy with our decision.

Other Advice

Absolutely, positively, go to YouTube first before looking at the documentation. Documentation gives you a great start of what you need, then you look at the code to see the configurable options.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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