Infrastructure Automation: A Boilerplate Comparison


We've been using Chef to deploy our infrastructure for a while now. One of the main sticking points we've run into is the barrier to entry for develoepers as a result of the boiler plate required to perform a simple deployment task. Our ideal framework would be equally accessible to the ops, who use the system every day, and development teams, who know their application environments best.

In that spirit, this article compares the boilerplate necessary to perform a simple configuraiton task. Since one of the most common, and straight forward, needs is installing a system package we'll use that as an example. This is not intended to demonstrate that one framework is overall "better" than another. Rather it's merely a comparison of workflows.


The following frameworks are covered:

Article Series Format

I already have a chef environment ready to go. So first, we'll cover that workflow. In subsequent posts, I'll cover the other frameworks.

The Objective

To install the tmux package.

The Chef Workflow

For the purposes of our example, we assume Chef Server is already configured and working. We also assume a working repository is already created and the users credentials/environment is set up.

Step One: Create a Cookbook

First, we create the chef cookbook.

% knife cookbook create tmux
** Creating cookbook tmux
** Creating README for cookbook: tmux
** Creating metadata for cookbook: tmux

Step Two: Edit the Default Recipe

Next, we edit the package to perform the task we need. To do so, we open the default recipe.

% vim cookbooks/tmux/recipes/default.rb

And add the following:

# add multiple case statements for other target platforms
case node[:platform]
  when "ubuntu","debian"
    package "tmux" do
      action :install

Though technically not required, updating the metadata is certainly best practice.

% vim cookbooks/tmux/metadata.rb
maintainer       "AT&T Foundry"
maintainer_email ""
license          "All rights reserved"
description      "Installs/Configures tmux"
long_description, ''))
version          "0.0.1"

Step Three: Add the Cookbook to Your Repository

% git add cookbooks/tmux
% git commit cookbooks/tmux -m "Tmux package cookbook added"
% git pull origin master
% git push origin master

Step Four: Upload Cookbook to Chef Server

% knife cookbook upload tmux
Uploading tmux
[0.0.1] upload complete

Step Five: Add Recipe to Role

Next we need to add the recipe to a role. This may require the creation of a new role. In that case, an additional creation, commit, upload is required for the role.

% vim roles/tmux.json
  "name": "tmux",
  "default_attributes": {   },
  "json_class": "Chef::Role",
  "env_run_lists": {   },
  "run_list": [
  "description": "Install Tmux",
  "chef_type": "role",
  "override_attributes": {   }

Commit & Upload the role:

% knife role from file roles/tmux.json
% git commit roles/tmux.json -m "added tmux role"
% git push origin master

Step Six: Apply Role to Server

The final step is applying the role to a server.

knife bootstrap -i ~/.ssh/keys/jk328n_rsa -d ubuntu12.04-gems-att \
  -x ubuntu --sudo -N jkyle-test -E foundry-services_pao1 -r 'role[tmux]'

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