SaltStack Review

Gave us automation tools that allowed us to standardize our environment.

What is most valuable?

The ability to programmatically describe the desired state of a single, or an entire fleet of servers, on-premises, and in a cloud environment.

How has it helped my organization?

SaltStack gave us very useful automation tools that allowed us to standardize our environment, move at a much faster pace through repeatable deployments, and self-documentation of our infrastructure.

It allows us to describe the desired state of our entire fleet of servers through simple to understand syntax and templates all available at a single place.

This is great for things like documenting what a single machine or a group of machine does and how they are configured. It is also good in the event that one of them is lost and a new one needs to be provisioned quickly.

Instead of setting it up by hand, we end up telling it "you are this type of machine" and SaltStack will take care of ensuring that the machine becomes what is expected.

It also means that any machine of "this type" will be setup in a consistent manner thus avoiding unexpected surprises that could potentially become the cause of outages.

What needs improvement?

Each new version seems to bring a new set of bugs to the table and upgrading is risky, especially for a tool at the core of the operations and infrastructure.

A hardened set of tests would be much appreciated.

We have encountered many bugs during upgrades in the past and it seemed to me like those could have been caught by the developers at a much earlier stage then after doing a widespread release.

For how long have I used the solution?

We have used this solution three years in production

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

We have encountered several issues when we upgraded to 2015.8. Some of those were eventually fixed by the community and through fixes we submitted to the project.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We have managed a fleet of hundreds of servers without any scalability issues on the horizon.

How are customer service and technical support?

We have not requested technical support.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We evaluated Chef, CF Engine, and Puppet and we ultimately decided on SaltStack because:

  • It is written in Python: Introspecting the code base, committing fixes and improving on the tools were easy for us to do.
  • The amount of tools already baked in the product and the extensive list of formulas made available by the community.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was simple enough to get started and see the benefits that the solution brings. There are many tutorials available to get someone started.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Unfortunately, our experience is limited to the open-source (community) version. We have no information in regards to the enterprise offering.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We evaluated CF Engine, Chef, Puppet, Capistrano, and Fabric.

What other advice do I have?

Take some time to learn the types of problems it can solve and you will easily see the benefits that it can bring.

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