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Opscode cooks up deals to serve Chef automation from IBM, Joyent clouds

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Opscode's Chef configuration, change, and cloud management tool is spreading around the clouds and has been formally adopted on the heavenly infrastructure from IBM and Joyent.

The news comes as Opscode is hosting its ChefConf 2013 user and partner conference in San Francisco this week and is touting the uptake of Chef as a tool for both server configuration and deployment of physical or virtual software stacks on bare metal machines.

Chef creates what are called recipes to configure machines and these are assembled into cookbooks, which you processing from back to front, to setup a server's entire software stack.

Under a partnership inked between Big Blue and Opscode, customers using IBM's SmartCloud public cloud will have a Chef Server image, it will plug into the OpenStack cloud controller that IBM is switching to from its own homegrown SmartCloud controller.

This will allow Chef to be the default software installer for SmartCloud if customers don't want to do it by hand, and IBM and Opscode are working together to port some 800 cookbooks from the Chef Community so they will work on SmartCloud infrastructure services.

The Chef Client management console will also now run on AIX, IBM's Unix variant, and so will Chef Server. So customers who opt for AIX-based SmartCloud instances running on Power Systems iron will be able to use Chef to automate the configuration of images; presumably support for the PowerVM hypervisor for Power iron is also available, and if not, it needs to be.

AIX support also means that companies running bare metal or cloudy Power iron inside their own data centers will be able to use Chef to configure and manage their systems and software stacks.

IBM and Opscode are working on a cookbook for installing WebSphere middleware on systems and on the SmartCloud and presumably there will be others for DB2 and other key systems software.

Oracle's Solaris Unix variant was added Chef Server 10.14 back in September 2012, and Jay Wampold, vice president of marketing at Opscode says that there hasn't been any demand to port Chef's server and client to HP-UX, but it could happen. The AIX support for Chef Server 11 will be available in the next few months, according to Wampold.

The Joyent Cloud, created by the company of the same name, is also announcing formal support for Chef on its cloud. Joyent's fluffy infrastructure is based on a custom version of the Solaris operating system called SmartOS that uses a KVM hypervisor that was ported over from Linux. SmartOS also includes D-Trace fine-grained monitoring for virtual machines and software stacks and is backed by the ZFS file system, which is an offshoot of Solaris as well.

Jason Hoffman, CTO at Joyent, tells El Reg that Chef was a key component of the Hadoop service that the company spun up on its cloud with the help of Hortonworks back in late January, and it is natural to extend formal support of Chef Server to all infrastructure services on the Joyent Cloud.

Chef is by no means the only configuration management tool in use on the Joyent Cloud, but it has rapidly become the most popular, according to Hoffman. CFEngine, a configuration management tool originally created by Mark Burgess to set up a cluster of workstation at Oslo University back in 1993, was the first configuration tool used on the Joyent Cloud, and in fact Puppet Labs founder Luke Kanies used to work at Joyent and was doing CFEngine consulting for customers before he left to start a company to develop a better tool.

Both Puppet and Chef are written in Ruby, which is a popular application for web applications, but according to Hoffman, "Chef looked most like Ruby and was tightly integrated with Ruby and therefore was more widely adopted by Ruby developers."

So it is no surprise, then, that among the customers on the Joyent Cloud that use configuration management tools today, only about 10 per cent use CFEngine, about 20 per cent use Puppet, and about 70 per cent use Chef.

Under the deals inked between Opscode and both IBM and Joyent, the cloud operators provide Level 1 and 2 support for the Chef tools and Opscode backs them up with Level 3 tech support, which is the standard way to do OEM deals in the IT racket.

Chef is already supported on the HP Cloud, and Amazon Web Services took an earlier version of Chef Solo (not the Chef Server 11 that came out a few months ago) and mixed it up with some configuration tools it got from the acquisition of Peritor last year, to create its own configuration control freak called OpsWorks. Google Compute Engine, Microsoft Azure, and Rackspace Cloud all support Chef as well, and there has been lots of integration for OpenStack as well. "We think we have the bulk of the cloud market covered," says Wampold.

Opscode is a private company and does not provide any financial results or other precise and pertinent information about itself, but Wampold tells El Reg that it has more than 25,000 registered users, which is twice as many as a year ago, and that there have been over 2 million downloads of Chef thus far.

The number of cookbooks being created by users in the Chef community is growing at a "phenomenal rate," with over 900 cookbooks being created thus far. The Chef community has over 1,300 individual and 200 corporate contributors. ®

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