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Librarian is a framework for writing bundlers, which are tools that resolve, fetch, install, and isolate a project's dependencies, in Ruby.

Librarian ships with Librarian-Chef, which is a bundler for your Chef-based infrastructure repositories. In the future, Librarian-Chef will be a separate project.

A bundler written with Librarian will expect you to provide a specfile listing your project's declared dependencies, including any version constraints and including the upstream sources for finding them. Librarian can resolve the spec, write a lockfile listing the full resolution, fetch the resolved dependencies, install them, and isolate them in your project. This is what Bundler does for projects that depend on Ruby gems.


Librarian-Chef is a bundler for infrastructure repositories using Chef. You can use Librarian-Chef to resolve your infrastructure's cookbook dependencies and fetch them and install them into your infrastructure.

Librarian-Chef is for resolving and fetching third-party, publicly-released cookbooks, and installing them into your infrastructure repository. It is not for dealing with the cookbooks you're actively working on within your infrastructure repository.

Librarian-Chef takes over your cookbooks/ directory and manages it for you based on your Cheffile. Your Cheffile becomes the authoritative source for what cookbooks your infrastructure repository depends on. You should not modify the contents of your cookbooks/ directory when using Librarian-Chef. If you have custom cookbooks specific to your infrastructure repository that you need, those should go in your site-cookbooks/ directory.

The Cheffile

Every infrastruture repository that uses Librarian-Chef will have a file named Cheffile in the root directory of the repository. The full specification for which third-party, publicly-rleased cookbooks your infrastructure repository depends will go here.

Here's an example Cheffile:

site ""

cookbook "ntp"
cookbook "timezone", "0.0.1"

cookbook "rvm",
  :git => "",
  :ref => "v0.7.1"

cookbook "cloudera",
  :path => "vendor/cookbooks/cloudera-cookbook"

Here's how it works:

We start off by declaring the default source for this Cheffile.

site ""

This default source in this example is the Opscode Community Site API. This is most likely what you will want for your default source. However, you can certainly set up your own API-compatible HTTP endpoint if you want more control.

Any time we declare a cookbook dependency without also declaring a source for that cookbook dependency, Librarian-Chef assumes we want it to look for that cookbook in the default source.

Any time we declare a cookbook dependency that has subsidiary cookbook dependencies of its own, Librarian-Chef assumes we want it to look for the subsidiary cookbook dependencies in the default source.

cookbook "ntp"

Our infrastructure repository depends on the ntp cookbook from the default source. Any version of the ntp cookbook will fulfill our requirements.

cookbook "timezone", "0.0.1"

Our infrastructure repository depends on the timezone cookbook from the default source. But only version 0.0.1 of that cookbook will do.

cookbook "rvm",
  :git => "",
  :ref => "v0.7.1"

Our infrastructure repository depends on the rvm cookbook, but not the one from the default source. Instead, the cookbook is to be fetched from the specified Git repository and from the specified Git tag only.

We do not have to use a :ref =>. If we do not, then Librarian-Chef will assume we meant the branch master. (In the future, this will be changed to whatever branch is the default branch according to the Git remote, which may not be master.)

If we use a :ref =>, we can use anything that Git will recognize as a ref. This includes any branch name, tag name, SHA, or SHA unique prefix. If we use a branch, we can later ask Librarian-Chef to update the cookbook by fetching the most recent version of the cookbook from that same branch.

The Git source also supports a :path => option. If we use the path option, Librarian-Chef will navigate down into the Git repository and only use the specified subdirectory. Many people have the havit of having a single repository with many cookbooks in it. If we need a cookbook from such a repository, we can use the :path => option here to help Librarian-Chef drill down and find the cookbook subdirectory.

cookbook "cloudera",
  :path => "vendor/cookbooks/cloudera-cookbook"

Our infrastructure repository depends on the cloudera cookbook, which we have downloaded and copied into our repository. In this example, vendor/cookbooks/ is only for use with Librarian-Chef. This directory should not appear in the .chef/knife.rb. Librarian-Chef will, instead, copy this cookbook from where we vendored it in our repository into the cookbooks/ directory for us.

The :path => source won't be confused with the :git => source's :path => option.

How to Use

Install librarian-chef:

$ gem install librarian

Prepare your infrastructure repository:

$ cd ~/path/to/chef-repo
$ git rm -r cookbooks
$ echo cookbooks >> .gitignore
$ echo tmp >> .gitignore

Librarian-Chef takes over your cookbooks/ directory, and will always reinstall the cookbooks listed the Cheffile.lock into your cookbooks/ directory. Hence you do not need your cookbooks/ directory to be tracked in Git. If you nevertheless want your cookbooks/ directory to be tracked in Git, simple don't .gitignore the directory.

If you are manually tracking/vendoring outside cookbooks within the repository, put them in another directory such as vendor/cookbooks/ and use the :path => source when declaring these cookbooks in your Cheffile. Most people will typically not be manually tracking/vendoring outside cookbooks.

Librarian-Chef uses your tmp/ directory for tempfiles and caches. You do not need to track this directory in Git.

Make a Cheffile:

$ librarian-chef init

This creates an empty Cheffile with the Opscode Community Site API as the default source.

Add dependencies and their sources to the Cheffile:

$ cat Cheffile
    site ''
    cookbook 'ntp'
    cookbook 'timezone', '0.0.1'
    cookbook 'rvm',
      :git => '',
      :ref => 'v0.7.1'
    cookbook 'cloudera',
      :path => 'vendor/cookbooks/cloudera-cookbook'

This is the same Cheffile we saw above.

$ librarian-chef install [--clean] [--verbose]

This command looks at each cookbook declaration and fetches the cookbook from the source specified for that cookbook, or from the default source if none is provided for that cookbook.

Each cookbook is inspected and its dependencies determined, and each dependency is also fetched. For example, if you declare cookbook 'nagios', and that cookbook depends on other cookbooks such as 'php', then those other cookbooks including 'php' will be fetched. This goes all the way down the chain of dependencies.

This command writes the complete resolution into Cheffile.lock.

This command then copies all of the fetched cookbooks into your cookbooks/ directory, overwriting whatever was there before. You can then use knife cookbook upload -all to upload the cookbooks to your chef-server, if you are using the client-server model.

Check your Cheffile and Cheffile.lock into version control:

$ git add Cheffile
$ git add Cheffile.lock
$ git commit -m "I want these particular versions of these particular cookbooks from these particular."

Make sure you check your Cheffile.lock into version control. This will ensure dependencies do not need to be resolved every run, greatly reducing dependency resolution time.

Update your cheffile with new/changed/removed constraints/sources/dependencies:

$ cat Cheffile
    site ''
    cookbook 'ntp'
    cookbook 'timezone', '0.0.1'
    cookbook 'rvm',
      :git => '',
      :ref => 'v0.7.1'
    cookbook 'monit' # new!
$ git diff Cheffile
$ librarian-chef install [--verbose]
$ git diff Cheffile.lock
$ git add Cheffile
$ git add Cheffile.lock
$ git commit -m "I also want these additional cookbooks."

Update the version of a dependency:

$ librarian-chef update ntp timezone monit [--verbose]
$ git diff Cheffile.lock
$ git add Cheffile.lock
$ git commit -m "I want updated versions of these cookbooks."

Push your changes to the git repository:

$ git push origin master

Upload the cookbooks to your chef-server:

$ knife cookbook upload --all

Knife Integration

You can integrate your knife.rb with Librarian-Chef.

Stick the following in your knife.rb:

require 'librarian/chef/integration/knife'
cookbook_path Librarian::Chef.install_path,

In the above, do not to include the path to your cookbooks/ directory. If you have additional cookbooks directories in your chef-repo that you use for vendored cookbooks (where you use the :path => source in your Cheffile), make sure not to include the paths to those additional cookbooks directories either.

You still need to include your site-cookbooks/ directory in the above list.

What this integration does is whenever you use any knife command, it will:

  • Enforce that your Cheffile and Cheffile.lock are in sync
  • Install the resolved cookbooks to a temporary directory
  • Configure Knife to look in the temporary directory for the installed cookbooks and not in the normal cookbooks/ directory.

When you use this integration, any changes you make to anything in the cookbooks/ directory will be ignored by Knife, because Knife won't look in that directory for your cookbooks.

How to Contribute

Running the tests

# Either
$ rspec spec
$ cucumber

# Or
$ rake

You will probably need some way to isolate gems. Librarian provides a Gemfile, so if you want to use bundler, you can prepare the directory with the usual bundle install and run each command prefixed with the usual bundle exec, as:

$ bundle install
$ bundle exec rspec spec
$ bundle exec cucumber
$ bundle exec rake

Installing locally

$ rake install

You should typically not need to install locally, if you are simply trying to patch a bug and test the result on a test case. Instead of installing locally, you are probably better served by:

$ $PATH_TO_LIBRARIAN_CHECKOUT/bin/librarian-chef install [--verbose]

Reporting Issues

Please include relevant Cheffile and Cheffile.lock files. Please run the librarian-chef commands in verbose mode by using the --verbose flag, and include the verbose output in the bug report as well.


Written by Jay Feldblum.

Copyright (c) 2011 ApplicationsOnline, LLC.

Released under the terms of the MIT License. For further information, please see the file MIT-LICENSE.

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