Chef expands its cloud and container menu

Chef, the popular DevOps company, has expanded its Chef Automate program to handle cloud-native and container-first server environments.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Chef, a leading DevOps company, announced at ChefConf 2017 that it was adding new capabilities to it flagship Continous Automation/DevOps program, Chef Automate. This enables enterprises to transition from server- and virtual machine- (VM) based IT systems to cloud-native and container-first environments with consistent automation and DevOps practices.

Chef started as an open-source cloud configuration management and deployment application. It's meant to help anyone orchestrate servers in a cloud or just in a departmental data center. Instead of system administrators sweating over management programs that were designed for single, stand-alone servers, Chef enables DevOps users to spin up dozens or hundreds of server instances in seconds.

That's still it's primary use, but in the eight-years since Chef was created, we've moved from server- and VM-dominated data centers to container and cloud-based infrastructures. That's where Chef Automate steps in. Ken Cheney, Chef CMO explained, "We're helping organizations with where they are at today, but we provide a bridge to the future, (showing) how they can go about delivering software across those environments."

While Chef Automate was only introduced in 2016, it was already facing stiff competition. Container orchestration programs such as Kubernetes, Mesosphere Marathon, and Docker swarm mode, are already major players. Still, that isn't stopping Chef from trying to move from server and VM DevOps to cloud and container DevOps.

Chef Automate is being extended with capabilities for:

  • Compliance Automation: Chef Automate now integrates directly with InSpec, the company's compliance automation framework. This provides consistent workflows and practices for validating security requirements and compliance controls. Defining compliance as code enables security requirements to 'shift left' into DevOps processes, enabling teams to deliver software with increased speed, improved efficiency, and decreased risk.
  • Application Automation: Chef also showed the future of Chef Automate's integration with Habitat. This Chef-sponsored open-source project gives you a consistent way to build and run your applications from legacy servers to container-based, cloud-native, microservices, and everything in between.

Chef also released InSpec-AWS, InSpec-Azure, and InSpec-vSphere as incubation projects that bring code compliance to the cloud. These projects provide resources to test, interact, and audit these cloud platforms directly and easily access their configuration inside of InSpec.

In addition, Chef released its Habitat Builder service. This is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform to build Habitats for packaging, managing, and running apps. Habitat's mew productivity capabilities, include:

  • Habitat Scaffolding: New helper functions in Habitat provide scaffolding to enable rapid packaging of apps built in with popular languages and frameworks such as Ruby on Rails and Node.js with more to follow. Packaged apps can then be exported to any target runtime such as Docker and ACI for container environments such as Kubernetes, OpenShift, and Mesosphere DC/OS.
  • Enterprise-ready Habitat Plans: An initial set of 20 core build plans to enable developers and teams to more quickly package applications for common enterprise scenarios. These cover Big Data (Cassandra, Spark, Storm, Kafka, Zookeeper, CrateDB), Monitoring (Prometheus, Grafana), Middleware (WebSphere, Mulesoft, Varnish, RabbitMQ, Consul), Databases (PostgreSQL, MySQL, Redis, Shield backup), and Developer and Content Tools (Jenkins, Drupal, Wordpress).
  • Core Package Auto-Rebuilds: Packages accepted and curated as 'Core' will be automatically rebuilt as their dependencies are updated. Users can then consume these to power their own applications.

Chef can do all this on most popular public clouds. This includes: Amazon Web Services (AWS) OpsWorks; Microsoft Azure, and VMware vRealize 7 on both Windows and Linux platforms.

For companies already using Chef as their DevOps tool of choice, this makes Chef even more promising as they move to a cloud-native, container-driven IT world. For those who haven't committed to Chef, it gives them reason to try Chef for their IT meals. I think it quite possible they'll find Chef's recipes delicious.

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