SaltStack Review

We have moved from managing a handful of individual servers to being able to manage large scale collections.


What is most valuable?

States, pillars, and custom modules have all taken us a long way in achieving our goals. There is great depth to it and we're looking forward to exploring all of its features.

How has it helped my organization?

We are moving from managing a handful of individual servers to being able to manage large scale collections. If we need to fit a particular use case, SaltStack makes it very easy to provision a new cloud instance quickly and almost effortlessly.

What needs improvement?

There are a number of bugs and regression errors that can make it frustrating at times, but given the flexibility so far I have found adequate workarounds.

The GITFS is flawed and requires a lot more work. We were able to construct our own workaround with local clones of all git repositories that are refreshed whenever a new commit or merge is made. GITFS is a feature in SaltStack which allows the salt-master to directly interact with git repositories. In theory, this is an incredibly efficient and useful capability. However, when implemented, we found server processes and load would escalate out of control whenever anyone made a git commit to the GITFS repositories. We were using v2015.8.5 at the time.

After researching the problem with the SaltStack community, we learned that there were multiple problems in the implementation of GITFS and what we witnessed was experienced by other users. Several SaltStack users recommended not using GITFS. As a workaround, I set up our salt-master with its own local copy of all of our git repositories and made use of the salt event reactor feature. When a git commit is made on our git server, a git hook triggers a salt event. Salt-master reacts to the salt event by performing a pull on its local repository copy. Its not as slick as the intended design of GITFS, but it works very well and has proven quite stable, completely eliminating the problems we experienced with GITFS.

At some point in the future we will revisit the GITFS feature, but for now we are satisfied with the current solution.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using the solution for six months.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

We have encountered quite a few stability issues with the GITFS option, but its been quite stable since we switched to our workaround solution.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We have not yet encountered any scalability issues.

How is customer service and technical support?

This is an open source tool so we find out about fixes, patches, and other solutions through the online community and other online resources, such as Stack Overflow.

Which solutions did we use previously?

We did not have a previous solution as we are new to using DevOps management tools, but we researched others before we decided on SaltStack as our tool of choice.

How was the initial setup?

Initial setup seemed so easy, but there is an art to designing pillars, writing state files, and other customizable structures.

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

This is an open source solution, but there is a paid enterprise option. If you plan to pursue the enterprise solution route, contact SaltStack for details. The open source option is very approachable.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We evaluated Puppet, Chef, and Ansible.

What other advice do I have?

If you are planning to use the open source version, plan to allocate more project time than you think you need. However, once it's in place it will save you a great deal of effort.

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