Chef Automate 2.0 renews appeal to DevOps shops

Chef Automate 2.0 lays the groundwork for tighter integration between the IT automation software and third-party tools, as Chef stakes its claim in the DevOps gold rush.

CHICAGO -- Chef Automate 2.0 will spearhead Chef's attempts to shore up its customer base and also make inroads within forward-thinking DevOps shops.

Chef has reconstructed its IT automation software, from a monolith to a more flexible microservices app with RESTful APIs. These changes, unveiled here at ChefConf this week, enhance the software's performance and improve integrations between Chef Automate and other tools within the vendor's own portfolio, as well as tools from partners.

"We've seen good improvements in performance," said Brittany Woods, automation engineer at automotive data service provider Carfax Inc. in Centreville, Va., which beta tested Chef Automate 2.0. "Previously, large Node objects impacted Elasticsearch performance within Chef Automate."

Chef Automate 2.0 checked off other wish-list items for Woods, such as a comprehensive event feed that correlates automation issues with specific Chef cookbooks.

Chef Automate 2.0 event feed
Chef Automate 2.0 event feed correlates automation issues with Chef cookbooks.

Chef Automate 2.0 lays groundwork for expanded use

With this release, Chef Automate broadens integrations with other tools commonly used in DevOps shops. For example, it can open incidents in ServiceNow on client run failures or InSpec failures, with deduplication. The hooks between InSpec and ServiceNow will be important as Carfax improves DevSecOps processes, Woods said.

Chef Automate 2.0 integration updates also enhance support for other Chef tools, such as InSpec 2.0, which pulls in InSpec 2.0's AWS API support. Security and compliance scans initiated by Chef Automate 2.0 through InSpec will also support Cisco IOS devices and offer beta support for Google Cloud Platform.

InSpec 2.0 support is crucial for Standard Bank Group, a South African financial institution, to put Chef Automate into production.

"We've tried some custom integrations between [previous versions of] Automate and InSpec, but it's been a bit of a challenge," said Trevlin Pillay, DevOps engineer in Standard Bank's corporate and investment bank division. "We've been waiting for version 2."

Chef Automate 2.0's APIs will also ease integration with third-party tools such as GitLab, which means Pillay's team can spin up test environments more easily as they train fellow engineers to use Chef tools in monthlong dojo sessions.

Chef Automate users call for improved integrations

Integrations available with this release are welcome, but Chef's work is hardly done, especially as it seeks to expand its customer base.

Chef has to look at CI/CD integration and help their current users in infrastructure and operations communicate with developers about a broader automation strategy.
Stephen Elliotanalyst, IDC

"Chef has been busy building the foundation of its own IT automation software and making sure its core capabilities are solid," said Stephen Elliot, analyst at IDC. "Chef has to look at CI/CD integration and help their current users in infrastructure and operations communicate with developers about a broader automation strategy."

Chef dipped a toe into CI/CD integration with an experimental plug-in for Jenkins, which was released this week, but it should also expand its integrations with third-party DevOps pipeline and infrastructure automation tools such as VMware's vRealize portfolio to appeal to new customers, Elliot said.

Chef's existing customers also want brushed-up integrations between Chef Automate and third-party tools beyond Jenkins. For example, Carfax uses Atlassian's Bitbucket for Chef cookbook source control, and Chef Automate's integration with that also could use improvement, Woods said.

Chef Automate pushes data to Bitbucket, but does not retrieve data from it, which hinders the company's ability to make changes to cookbooks outside of Workflow. Chef Automate also retains its own copy of cookbook source code internally, which fills up data stores and causes problems with Chef Automate backups, Woods said.

Chef's existing users also would like to see finer-tuned integrations between Chef Automate, which is meant to be an umbrella management product for the other tools in its portfolio, and other Chef products.

When Chef Automate pushes changes to the Chef client, for example, logs from those jobs don't come back to Automate, Pillary said.

"It just tells us if the job passed or failed," he said. "We want it to pump the full logs back in."

Dig Deeper on Systems automation and orchestration

Software Quality
App Architecture
Cloud Computing
Data Center