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Opscode, the commercial entity behind the open source Chef configuration management tool for servers and their software, is getting into the services racket. Not just because it wants another revenue stream, but because customers need help getting up to speed on using Chef quickly.

The company, which is based in Seattle, Washington, has tapped Paul Edelhertz as vice president of services, who was previously CEO at Zamba Solutions, a consultancy focused on customer relationship management software.

Edelhertz also spent a dozen years at IT consultancy Accenture doing IT planning, and he tells El Reg that with big projects, companies can often identify they need a certain kind of application or tool, but they often need a bit of help to get the most out of what they buy.

"A lot of people have concluded that automation is important, and many think that Chef is the right tool for them," Edelhertz says. "But they don't necessarily know how to go about using it. Helping them to assess their skills and teaching them how to fish as quickly as possible is what this is all about."

Chef was created by Adam Jacob, an independent consultant who built infrastructure for 15 different startups and then said to heck with that and built a tool for configuring software stacks atop n-tier architectures that would do the job for anyone.

Christopher Brown, formerly the architect and lead developer of Amazon's EC2 compute cloud, is now CTO at Opscode. The Chef management framework is designed to make a system administrator's job easier by letting them build "recipes" for cooking up software stacks for physical and virtual servers, creating what is called a "cookbook."

You can see how Chef works here. Opscode raised its third round of venture funding back in March, for a total of $31m to date from Ignition Partners, Battery Ventures, and Draper Fisher Jurvetson.

There have been over 1.2 million downloads of the open source Chef tool to date, and Jay Wampold, director of marketing at Opscode, says there are 23,000 active users with the tool and 16,000 registered users in the open source Chef community.

The services that Opscode is peddling are not aimed at the users of the open source tools, but mainly at those who buy the Hosted Chef SaaS version of the tool or Private Chef, which runs locally in the corporate data center.

A basic license to Hosted Chef covers up to 20 nodes (physical or virtual doesn't matter, it is based on the number of unique VMs or physical devices that Chef Server has to uniquely track) and costs $100 per month.

Standard Hosted Chef costs $300 and covers 50 nodes, and Enterprise Hosted Chef costs $700 and covers 100 nodes and has more features to make it worth more. Private Chef has had a price rise and now costs $200 per node under management (that's a perpetual license), up from $106 last fall; there's still a 22 per cent annual fee for maintenance.

We bring up that pricing only so you have a gauge against which to judge the pricing for services that Opscode is now peddling. Edelhertz says that a three-day training course for a team of system administrators costs $11,750, while an infrastructure assessment and automation roadmap engagement will run somewhere between $10,000 and $25,000, covering companies that have thousands to tens of thousands of machines under management.

And if you want to hire Opscode to help you build recipes and cookbooks on your own application stacks and clouds, it costs on the order of a few thousand dollars per day.

Opscode has also cooked up three different bundles of Chef and services. The first is a basic configuration management bundle. Another one is a twist of Chef and tweaks and training aimed at scale-out Web data center operations, where Opscode has a lot of experience.

The third bundle marries Chef with the Go agile release management tool from ThoughtWorks Studios and the open source Jenkins alternative for Java apps to create what it calls the continuous delivery bundle. Pricing for these bundles was not available at press time. ®

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