|Initial release||January 2009|
|Written in||Ruby (client) and Ruby / Erlang (server)|
|Operating system||GNU/Linux, AT&T Unix, MS Windows, FreeBSD, Mac OS X, IBM AIX illumos|
|Type||Configuration management, System administration, Network management, Cloud management, Continuous delivery, DevOps, Infrastructure as Code|
|License||Apache License 2.0|
Chef is both the name of a company and the name of a configuration management tool written in Ruby and Erlang. It uses a pure-Ruby, domain-specific language (DSL) for writing system configuration "recipes". Chef is used to streamline the task of configuring and maintaining a company's servers, and can integrate with cloud-based platforms such as Internap, Amazon EC2, Google Cloud Platform, OpenStack, SoftLayer, Microsoft Azure and Rackspace to automatically provision and configure new machines. Chef contains solutions for both small and large scale systems, with features and pricing for the respective ranges.
The user writes "recipes" that describe how Chef manages server applications and utilities (such as Apache HTTP Server, MySQL, or Hadoop) and how they are to be configured. These recipes (which can be grouped together as a "cookbook" for easier management) describe a series of resources that should be in a particular state: packages that should be installed, services that should be running, or files that should be written. These various resources can be configured to specific versions of software to run and can ensure that software is installed in the correct order based on dependencies. Chef makes sure each resource is properly configured and corrects any resources that are not in the desired state.
Chef can run in client/server mode, or in a standalone configuration named "chef-solo". In client/server mode, the Chef client sends various attributes about the node to the Chef server. The server uses Solr to index these attributes and provides an API for clients to query this information. Chef recipes can query these attributes and use the resulting data to help configure the node.
It is one of the four major configuration management systems on Linux, along with CFEngine, Bcfg2, and Puppet. More than a configuration management tool, Chef, along with Puppet and Ansible is one of the industry's most notable Infrastructure as Code (IAC) tools.
Chef was created by Adam Jacob as a tool for his consulting company, whose business model was to build end-to-end server/deployment tools. Jacob showed Chef to Jesse Robbins, who saw its potential after running operations at Amazon. They founded a new company with Barry Steinglass, Nathen Haneysmith, and Joshua Timberman to turn Chef into a product.
The project was originally named "marionette", but the word was too long and cumbersome to type; the "recipe" format that the modules were prepared in led to the project being renamed "Chef".
Chef is supported on multiple platforms according to a supported platforms matrix for client and server products. Major platform support for clients includes AIX, RHEL/CentOS, FreeBSD, OS X, Solaris, Microsoft Windows and Ubuntu. Additional client platforms include Arch Linux, Debian and Fedora. Chef Server is supported on RHEL/CentOS, Oracle Linux, and Ubuntu.
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