What Is Chef: Here's What You Need to Know

There's always a demand for deploying new services and software in an organization. And the deployment process may sound like a very tedious task, especially when it is a large organization. To solve this, a configuration management tool, Chef, was introduced that enabled infrastructure management. But What is Chef, you might wonder! Well, we have got you covered. In this article, you will learn all the aspects of this tool. 

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Before we jump on to what exactly is Chef, here’s an example to give you a clearer picture of the tool.

Let's say there is a system administrator whose responsibility is to maintain the upstate of all the systems in the network. There may be many systems that need maintenance, which is why it is okay if one of them goes down. That one system can be handled. However, if there are several issues in multiple systems at once, due to the existence of g only a single source of contact, it would be extremely difficult to maintain all the systems at once leading to a severe condition.

This problem could have been sorted if the environments of different systems would have been in sync. If all this process would have been automated, then fixing these systems would have been a piece of cake. And this is where Chef comes into the play.


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What is Chef?

A chef is an open-source configuration management tool that uses Ruby to develop essential building blocks like recipes and cookbooks. It is an automation tool that converts infrastructure to code. It focuses on writing code instead of using the manual process. This feature enables Chef to manage and configure multiple systems with ease. The code can be tested and continuously deployed using Chef.  

Chef supports various platforms such as AWS, Google Cloud Platform, OpenStack, and SoftLayer, etc.


Configuration Management in Chef

Let’s take another example and see if that makes understanding Configuration Management simpler! Suppose you are the system administrator in your company, and it is your responsibility to update the software on more than hundreds of systems before the next day. It does not seem like a good idea to do that manually because it may leave several errors, and in case any system crashes while updating you won't be able to bring it back to the previous version. And here’s where your savior configuration management comes into the play.

Configuration Management is a technique that keeps a record of all the information related to an organization's hardware, software, and infrastructure. Configuration management plays a significant role in managing complex infrastructures. It helps in automating tasks that are tedious and time-consuming. 

Configuration Management enables automated deployments to restore services of a server in case of some unwanted disasters. Along with that, if there are any changes in the infrastructure, that can be handled automatically.

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Why Chef?

As mentioned earlier, Chef is used to automating the process of infrastructure provisioning. The Chef tool helps in speeding up the deployment process and software delivery. Being a DevOps tool it helps in streamlining the configuration task and managing the company's server.

Here are a few salient features of Chef that contribute to its soaring popularity:

  • Chef can easily manage a large number of servers with fewer employees.
  • It allows continuity in the deployment process from building to testing, until the end.
  • It can be managed using different Operating Systems like Linux, FreeBSD, and Windows.
  • It can be integrated with several major cloud service providers.
  • A single chef-server may be used as a center for all policy deployment.
  • Chef is a reliable and stable tool for large deployments.
  • It also helps in managing the risk at all stages of deployment.

Now, after you know What is Chef and why exactly it is of so much importance, let’s jump into the architecture and components of Chef.

Architecture and Components of Chef 

The architecture of Chef can be divided into three components:

  1. Workstation
  2. Chef Server
  3. Nodes

Let's have a look at all these three in detail:


1. Workstation

The workstation in the simplest terms is the admin's system. This workstation makes the interaction with Chef-server possible and also with the Chef-nodes. It is this place where all the cookbooks are created and tested. The process of deployment of cookbooks takes place from the workstation. 

The workstation may also be used to download cookbooks created by other Chef users. Here are a few more critical components of the workstation that you need to know to get a clearer  understanding of Chef:

  • Development Kit: Development Kit contains all the packages that are required for using Chef.

  • Chef-Repo: Chef-Repo is a directory of the workstation where all the cookbooks are present and maintained. Chef repository can be created using the following command chef to generate repo repo-name.

  • Knife: The knife command enables the workstation to communicate the content of its chef-repo directory with the chef server.

  • Test Kitchen: Test Kitchen provides a development environment to the workstation that enables it to create and test workbooks before they are distributed.

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2. Chef Server

Chef Server is the center of the workstation and the nodes. All the cookbooks, recipes, and metadata are stored here. The workstation sends the cookbook to the server using a knife. The nodes communicate with the server using the Chef client. 

If there are any changes made to the infrastructure code, they must be passed through the Chef Server to apply them to the nodes. 

3. Nodes

Nodes refer to the machines that are managed or configured by the Chef Server, which may be virtual servers, network devices, or any other storage devices.

Chef client is installed to execute the steps needed to bring the node into the required state as defined by a cookbook. Chef client makes it possible for the nodes to stay up to date and runs individually on each node to configure them.

Get the overview of Chef and demonstrate the Chef configuration with the DevOps Certification Training Course. Enroll today!

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Next Step to DevOps Success

From understanding what exactly is Chef to its architecture and components, now you are one step closer to your DevOps career success. And if you wish to become an expert in this field you can also enroll in our DevOps Engineer Master’s Program to learn the principles of continuous development and deployment, automation of configuration management, inter-team collaboration, and much more. So what are you waiting for? Get the learning going, and unlock the door to your DevOps career success now. 

About the Author

Ishan GabaIshan Gaba

Ishan Gaba is a Research Analyst at Simplilearn. He is proficient in Java Programming, Data Structures, and Project Management. Graduated in Information Technology, Ishan is also passionate about writing and traveling.

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