It's just before the start of the second day at ChefConf here in San Francisco, where BMC is a Gold sponsor, and it's been a busy 24+ hours. We've got a booth, we're giving a talk on "Orchestration in Meatspace" later today, and we've got a team of people soaking up the interesting talks and having some great conversations with folks from the Chef community.
I figured this is as good an opportunity as any to talk about why we're sponsoring ChefConf and what we hope to gain from it.
Chef: A quick primer
For those of you who might not be familiar, Chef is at the core an open source programming language for your infrastructure. As a quick example, if you wanted to create a user called "bmc" with a specific home, shell, and password, in Chef's Ruby dialect it would look like this:
user "bmc" do
The clever part is that it's not just going to run "useradd" behind the scenes and create the user - it'll look to see if the user already exists and if the attributes like home, shell, and password match what's defined in the resource, it'll skip over and do nothing. If the user doesn't exist, or if the user exists but has been changed in some way, Chef will put it back the way it is defined in the resource.
Chef users define all of the different resources for their servers - packages, services, users, config files, etc. and periodically run the Chef client utility to bring all of the resources back into sync the way they should be configured for their server.
But wait - isn't that what BSA does?
Yes, both Chef and BSA have the ability to install packages, to check if permissions have changed, to test the validity of a server's configuration. There is a huge difference, though, in approach, technique, and process.
A deep dive on the differences is a topic for another time, but at a high level, I think it's fair to say that BladeLogic is very process- and event-driven - you want to check the configuration of a server once a day and generate a report or run a command once across 10,000 machines. You get the automation, but it's very controlled and deliberate process.
Chef, meanwhile, ascribes an extremely agile approach. Model all of your configurations inside of Chef and push that to all your servers. When you need to make a change to a server, you edit the code, commit it, and that change goes live on your machines. It’s designed to be continuous delivery for servers.
So why are we sponsoring ChefConf?
We're sponsoring ChefConf for a couple of reasons. First, we want to support the Chef community. BMC isn’t a name you think of when you think of open source, but we do want to be part of the exciting things that are happening in the open source world. Emerging patterns and technology like Docker show up first on the bleeding edge next to tools like Chef, and then eventually mature into solutions that our customers will want to use - and we want to be ready when they do.
Second, we believe that Chef and BladeLogic are not just compatible from a co-existence perspective, but that we can actually work better together. BladeLogic could stand to be more agile, and offer users easier ways of building and creating automation content. Chef is a great platform, but heavily pushes a hyper-agile cloud-focused operational pattern that doesn’t work well in many traditional enterprises. Together, maybe we can get the best of both worlds.
So we’ve built some first-generation integration between Chef and BladeLogic 8.5, which we're demoing in our booth for the first time here at ChefConf. You can use BladeLogic to call Chef cookbooks and recipes on a push/scheduled basis, and you can reference BladeLogic compliance policies from inside your Chef cookbooks. It’s all very early and not production-ready, but we want to put this integration front and center with the people here at ChefConf and start a conversation about how they want to blend these two approaches to a stable, managed IT infrastructure.
The early response from the first day of the show has been incredibly receptive and interested - particularly from enterprises who are grappling with these challenges. We’ve got one day left, so hopefully we’ll get some more feedback and can start to build tighter integrations between the solutions.
If you’re not at ChefConf, but are interested in talking about how we can integrate with tools like Chef or where we can add value by working together, drop me a note at email@example.com and we can show you what we’ve done .
If you are at ChefConf, come and say hi at booth #102 and check out Niek's talk "Orchestration in Meatspace" today at 3:15pm (and we'll be posting the slides online afterwards for sure).