Cloud 101 – Chef Automation

Chef is an open-source IT automation tool for configuration management, much like Ansible. It acts as infrastructure as code and follows the client-server architecture. To write configurations, it uses Ruby, a domain-specific language (DSL). It can use both physical and virtual machines to manage infrastructure.

Key concepts

Chef Infra

Chef Infra helps transform infrastructure into code. It does this regardless of the size of infrastructure and environment where you run it.

Chef Server

Chef Server is the main machine that is the source of all the configuration data. For instance, it contains Cookbooks, policies, and metadata to manage the Chef Nodes. Three types of Chef Servers are available, Chef Solo, Open-Source Chef and Hosted Chef.

Chef Workstation

Chef Workstation is a machine from where you manage all the configurations. It contains a local Chef repository to push configuration to the Chef Server. It uses a command-line tool named knife to interact with Chef Server. You can also use several workstations to manage a single Chef Server.


Chef is a command-line tool that Chef Workstation provides. It helps manage Chef repositories, recipes, cookbooks, templates, and Ruby dependencies.

Test Kitchen

Test Kitchen tests cookbooks data across several platforms. It is an integration framework and is part of Chef Workstation.

Chef Node

Chef Nodes are machines that the Chef Server manages. All the Chef Nodes contain Chef Clients on them. They help pull configuration data from the Chef Server to the Chef Nodes. Chef Client also registers the Chef Node with the Chef Server for the first time.


A recipe contains instructions for system configuration. For instance, a recipe can contain instructions to install Nginx Web Server on Chef Nodes. You will write the recipe on the Chef Workstation in a programming language named Ruby.


A cookbook is the primary configuration unit. And, the purpose of the cookbook is to handle a specific scenario. It contains everything to support that scenario. It may consist of recipes, templates, file distributors, attribute values, and libraries. You use Ruby to create cookbooks.


A template helps update the default settings in a Chef Node. You can define it both in recipes as well as in cookbooks. Templates have the .ebr extension that means embedded Ruby.


A knife is a command-line tool to interact with the Chef Server. Using the knife, you can manage nodes, cookbooks, recipes, data bags. You can also manage resources in the cloud and the installation of chef-client on the nodes.

Chef Supermarket

Chef Supermarket is a place where people share and manage cookbooks. Because these are community cookbooks so, anybody can use them. The use of community cookbooks changes from organization to organization.

Why use Chef?

Here are some reasons why you should use Chef:

  • With the help of Chef, you can manage and automate your entire infrastructure.
  • It can manage as many nodes as you need in your infrastructure.
  • Chef is compatible with most of the public cloud providers such as AWS. You can also integrate it with Google Cloud, DigitalOcean, and Microsoft Azure, etc.
  • You record your infrastructure in Chef repository form. And, you can recreate another infrastructure using the same Chef repository.
  • After you automate infrastructure using Chef, you can do fast deployments of applications. Your speed increases in configuring new software, updating and testing your code base.
  • Chef automation helps lower the risks involved in application deployment.
  • This solution helps you in all types of scenarios, whether you are in a data center or a cloud.
  • It helps you do continuous deployment of your infrastructure from start to end.
  • Chef automation helps saves time and increases the productivity of your team.

Frequently asked questions about Chef automation

What is the purpose of using an SSL certificate in Chef?

You use an SSL certificate between the Chef Client and the Chef Server. The purpose of SSL is to make sure that each node accesses the correct data.

What is the data bag in Chef?

A Data bag is a global variable that you access from the Chef Server. You can load it with a cookbook, and it helps us in searching. You may store some confidential information by protecting it with a password.

What is the Ohai in Chef?

Ohai is a tool in Chef that helps us fetch system configuration data that a cookbook uses. For example, it can collect attributes like CPU, memory, kernel, network, OS, etc.

What is the Chef Desktop?

Chef Desktop helps manage laptops and desktops using code. For example, you can use YAML to define and audit your device profiles. It includes essential functions like encryption of drives. It also includes the Screensaver along with a password, and application management, etc.

Related Automation Tools

There are many related automation tools that you need to know. Every organization, small or large, need automation. Finding the right automation tool to meet your needs is essential.

Below is a full-list of the related automation tools covered by Anto Online:

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Having started his career in 1999 as a Desktop Support Engineer, Anto soon changed paths and became a developer. After several years of development experience, he transitioned into a consultant. As an enterprise application consultant for a leading SaaS software provider, Anto specializes in AWS's serverless technologies. By day, Anto focuses on helping customers leverage the power of serverless technologies. By night, he indulges his passion for cloud computing by playing with Python and trying out things that are currently beyond the scope of his work. Sometimes Anto needs help as there are not enough hours at night. So Anto relies on a team of fellow Cloud enthusiasts to help him out. Each one is a Cloud expert in their own right, and Anto takes great pride in helping them learn and grow.

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