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Opscode Brings Chef to Windows

By Sean Kerner (Send Email)
Posted October 24, 2011


Managing server and application configuration on Linux and Unix boxes during the past several years has gotten easier thanks to open source tools like Chef and Puppet. Now Opscode, the lead commercial sponsor behind the Chef project, is bringing the benefits of Chef to Windows users.

The Chef system enables administrators to leverage 'recipes' that define configuration for automated deployments.

"Our early community and our early adopter were much like us, so we developed our system all around deployment and monitoring on Linux and Unix," Christopher Brown, chief technology officer at Opscode, told InternetNews.com.

That said, Brown said Chef historically has had some limited Windows capabilities in terms of discovery. Chef has been able to do asset management down to the version of applications that are running on a network.

"What we were missing was more of the richness that we had on the Linux, side in terms of enabling the Chef recipes to actually take actions," Brown said. "Now we're at the point where we can do things like install IIS, but also install the applications within it, in a dynamic fashion in a co-ordinated way."

The system can also install SQL Server as well as other Windows Service management capabilities. The Chef system is heterogenous, so networks running Windows and Linux can be managed from the same Chef backend.

"So now folks that are Windows-only or run a mixed environment can have all the same benefit that the rest of the Linux folks have had for three years now," Brown said.

Managing applications on Windows often means dealing with commercial applications that have licensing and entitlement requirements. Brown noted that the Chef system does not handle software entitlements, and it does not deal with the licensing issue.

"From our standpoint the way that the recipes are written today, we know what the item is that is set for deployment, and we take the action to deploy it," Brown said. "We haven't had any customers come to us yet and say they also want some form of license enforcement."

When it comes to getting Chef up and running on Windows, Opscode is bundling the open source Ruby language in with the installed.

"We have an all-in-one installer, since we recognize that Windows folks expect a higher level of polish for an installer," Brown said. "Getting Ruby and some of the other required dependencies is not always straightforward, that's why the all-in-one installer is necessary."

The addition of Windows support isn't changing the development approach for Chef either. Brown said that there is one version of Chef for Windows and Linux. He explained that the backend of Chef is basically a publishing platform that doesn't really care what system the bits are running on.

"The bits that are specific happen in the recipes," Brown said. "People will write recipes that will only work on Linux or Windows, but that's not a difference in the Chef backend."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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