7 of the Best Free Linux Configuration Management Tools

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System administrators are responsible for the maintenance and operation of a computer system and network. This is a major task with a huge number of decisions to be made regarding the configuration of the system.

Configuration Management is a term that may not be familiar to many Linux users. But for system administrators the concept will be well known. In a nutshell, Configuration Management software enables administrators to automatically manage the entire configuration of one or multiple computers.

Why is this type of software important? By having tools that automate the configuration and software infrastructure, an organisation’s server administration costs are reduced. Furthermore, this type of software enables a large complicated infrastructure to be supported with fewer system administrators. There are also efficiency improvements made by helping to reduce the amount of repetitive tasks performed by the administrator. Moreover, configuration management software help organisations to be able to scale up their computer infrastructure more easily and to instill flexibility in server configuration.

Configuration Management tools work by changing the state of the system. The goal is to get a system from whatever state it is in, into the desired state. The state of a system is mostly described by all the configuration files in the file system, and by the programs and processes that are running.

The software featured in this article are declarative configuration management system. Here the system administrator decides what state the system is to be in, and a runtime pushes the system into that state.

To provide an insight into the quality of software that is available, we have compiled a list of 7 high quality Linux Configuration Management tools. Hopefully, there will be something of interest for any organisation that wants to streamline their computer infrastructure.

Now, let’s explore the 7 Configuration Management tools at hand. For each title we have compiled its own portal page, a full description with an in-depth analysis of its features, together with links to relevant resources and reviews.

Configuration Management Tools
CfengineTool for configuring and maintaining network machines
Bcfg2Generates configuration sets for clients bound by client profiles
ChefConfiguration management system written in Ruby
PuppetCentralised configuration management for networks
OCS Inventory NGHardware and software inventory tool
PIKTProblem Informant / Killer Tool
SmartFrogSmart Framework for Object Groups

Read our complete collection of recommended free and open source software. The collection covers all categories of software.

The software collection forms part of our series of informative articles for Linux enthusiasts. There's tons of in-depth reviews, open source alternatives to proprietary software from large corporations like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, IBM, Cisco, Oracle and Autodesk. There are also fun things to try, hardware, free programming books and tutorials, and much more.
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