Chef Overview and Chef Server Deployments

A Chef is an open-source declarative configuration management tool and automation platform that translates infrastructure to code using components, such as a Chef server and workstation. Chef is written in Ruby to develop building blocks such as recipes and cookbooks. It makes deployment and development processes more efficient and predictable, testing processes better, centralizing versioning, and easily reproducing environments across all servers.


Chef Core Components

The following are the three core components that make Chef work:

  1. Chef Server – considered the center of all operations that manages and provides configuration data on all Chef components.
  2. Chef Work Station – these are PCs or virtual servers where the Chef configuration code is created, tested and revised.
  3. Chef Nodes – these are the servers to which Chef forwards its changes, basically a number of machines that need the advantages of automation. Nodes may be virtual servers, storage, container, and network devices that Chef can manage. Every node that Chef manages is called a Chef client.

Chef Server

These core components enable Chef to communicate in a simple linear way, wherein revisions from the chef workstation to the server are pushed, and the Chef client gets the changes from the nodes that were pulled from the server. Data from the node goes through the Chef server to know which files are different from the current configuration and need to be updated.


Chef Server Deployment

The Chef deployment process needs the following steps to establish end-to-end connectivity between the workstation and the Chef client. The code is created on the Chef workstation and is stored in a file known as the recipe. It is then uploaded to the Chef server to be used in the environment.

The command-line tool used to upload cookbooks is called a knife and the knife command to execute an upload is ‘knife upload cookbookname. A Chef repository that stores its cookbooks is called a bookshelf.

A chef-repo directory is where the cookbooks are authored and maintained. Cookbooks created can be stored privately by an enterprise or uploaded to the Chef supermarket to be utilized by other chef users.


There are four types of Chef server deployments, and these are:

  1. Chef Solo – the chef server is hosted on a workstation locally.
  2. Chef Client and Server – a common chef deployment wherein components are distributed.
  3. Hosted Chef – the cloud hosts the Chef server.
  4. Private Chef – all the components of Chef are within the bounds of the same enterprise network.


A chef kitchen is where all recipes and cookbooks are automatically executed and tested before reaching production nodes. The recipe in the test kitchen does not affect the recipes in the production environment. The kitchen supports testing within cloud providers and virtualization technologies, apart from the enterprise environment. It also supports Ruby testing frameworks, such as:

  • Bash Automated Testing System (BATS)
  • Minitest
  • RSpec
  • Serverspec

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