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Cookbook to install standalone Chef Server
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Chef Server

This cookbook configures a system to be a Chef Server. It will install the appropriate platform-specific chef-server Omnibus package and perform the initial configuration of Chef Server.

Omnibus-based Chef-Server Overview

To understand how this cookbook works it is useful to understand how a Chef Server instance installed via Omnibus packages behaves.

Know an Omnibus

Omnibus allows you to build self-contained full-stack software packages. We use Omnibus to to distribute the Chef Server bundled with its dependencies such as Erlang, Ruby, PostgreSQL, RabbitMQ, and Nginx. The result is a single package that can be installed on the target system and configured.

Omnibus packages separate the installation step from the configuration step. After an Omnibus package is installed, a configuration step must be run before the installed system can be used. In particular, this approach makes handling upgrades easier.

Configuring Chef Server

Chef Server is configured through the /etc/chef-server/chef-server.rb file. Standalone single-server configurations do not require custom configuration and can use the default values for everything.

You can read all about Chef Server's configuration options.

Applying configuration changes

The chef-server-ctl reconfigure command reads the /etc/chef-server/chef-server.rb file and applies the specified configuration to the system. Any time you make a change to your configuration, you need to run chef-server-ctl reconfigure to apply it.


Omnibus-based Chef Server installs have a command line utility, chef-server-ctl, which is used to operate the Chef Server. For example, you can use chef-server-ctl to start and stop individual services, reconfigure the entire server, and tail server log files.

chef-server-ctl commands are documented below:

$ chef-server-ctl COMMAND
command Action
help Print a list of all the available chef-server-ctl commands.
status Shows the status of the Chef Server services.
start Start all the enabled Chef Server services.
stop Stop all the enabled Chef Server services.
restart Restart all the enabled chef server services.
tail Follow the Chef Server logs for all services.
test Executes, chef-pedant, the integration test suite against the Chef Server installation. By default only a subset of tests are run, add the --all flag to run the full test suite.

The status, start, stop, restart, and tail commands can optionally be applied to a single service by adding the service name to the end of the command line. For example, to get the status of the erchef component of Chef Server, you can run:

chef-server-ctl status erchef


Chef 10


Chef Server Omnibus packages are available for the following platforms:

  • CentOS 5 64-bit
  • CentOS 6 64-bit
  • Ubuntu 10.04, 10.10 64-bit
  • Ubuntu 11.04, 11.10 64-bit
  • Ubuntu 12.04, 12.10 64-bit


The attributes used by this cookbook are under the chef-server name space.

Attribute Description Type Default
api_fqdn Fully qualified domain name that you want to use for accessing the Web UI and API. String node['fqdn']
configuration Configuration values to pass down to the underlying server config file (i.e. /etc/chef-server/chef-server.rb). Hash
package_file Location of the Omnibus package to install. This should not be set if you wish to pull the packages from the Omnitruck S3 bucket. String nil
package_checksum SHA256 checksum of package referenced by package_file. String nil
version Chef Server version to install. This value is ignored if package_file is set. String :latest
prereleases Indicates prerelease builds should be downloaded from Omnitruck. Prerelease builds come out in the weeks leading up to a major release. Prereleases offer an early preview of the next upcoming stable release and are intended for testers and advanced users. This value is ignored if package_file is set. Boolean false
nightlies Indicates nightly builds should be downloaded from Omnitruck. Nightly builds of chef-server usually come out every night, but may be less frequent if there are no changes to the code, or the CI infrastructure is unable to create a build that day. The nightly builds are intended for testing only. This value is ignored if package_file is set. Boolean false


This section describes the recipes in the cookbook and how to use them in your environment.


This recipe:

  • Installs the appropriate platform-specific chef-server Omnibus package.
  • Creates the initial /etc/chef-server/chef-server.rb file.
  • Performs initial system configuration via chef-server-ctl reconfigure.

Omnibus package selection is done based on the following logic:

  1. If a value has been provided, the chef-server Omnibus package is fetched from node['chef-server']['package_file']
  2. If node['chef-server']['package_file'] is unset (ie nil or empty string), the candidate package is retrieved from the Omnitruck REST API based on node['chef-server']['version'] AND the node platform, platform_version and architecture. By default the latest package is installed. If you would like to download pre-release or nightly builds set appropriate attribute to true.


This recipe converts a Chef Server installation into development mode for easy hacking on the underlying server components. This recipe should not be run on a production server.

This recipe will place checkouts for all of Chef Server's main software components at /opt/chef-server-dev/code. These component checkouts will also be symlinked into the underlying Chef Server installation. Changes made to component code will be reflected in the running Chef Server instance (most often only after a restart of the given service).


Bootstrap Chef (server) with Chef (solo)

The easiest way to get a Chef Server up and running is to install chef-solo (via the chef-client Omnibus packages) and bootstrap the system using this cookbook:

# install chef-solo
curl -L | sudo bash
# create required bootstrap dirs/files
mkdir -p /var/chef/cache /var/chef/cookbooks/chef-server
# pull down this chef-server cookbook
wget -qO- | tar xvzC /var/chef/cookbooks/chef-server --strip-components=1
# GO GO GO!!!
chef-solo -o 'recipe[chef-server::default]'

If you need more control over the final configuration of your Chef Server instance you can create a JSON attributes file and set underlying configuration via the node['chef-server']['configuration'] attribute. For example, you can disable the webui with the following configuration:

echo '{
  "chef-server": {
    "configuration": {
      "chef_server_webui": {
        "enable": false
  "run_list": [ "recipe[chef-server::default]" ]
}' > /tmp/no-webui.json

You would then pass this file to the initial chef-solo command:

chef-solo -j /tmp/no-webui.json

Demo Chef Server with Vagrant and Berkshelf

We <3 the wonderful open-source tools Berkshelf and Vagrant. You can take Chef Server for a spin using the Berksfile and Vagrantfile that ship alongside this cookbook. The only requirements for standing up a virtualized Chef Server are:

The vagrant-berkshelf and vagrant-omnibus Vagrant plugins are also required and can be installed easily with the following commands:

$ vagrant plugin install vagrant-berkshelf
$ vagrant plugin install vagrant-omnibus

Once the pre-requisites are installed you can start the virtualized environment with the following command:

$ vagrant up

Although things have only been tested with Vagrant's virtualbox provider everything should work with other providers like vmware_fusion or ec2.

You can easily SSH into the running VM using the vagrant ssh command. The VM can easily be stopped and deleted with the vagrant destroy command. Please see the official Vagrant documentation for a more in depth explanation of available commands.

The running Chef-Server components are accessible from the host machine using the following URLs:

Note: It can be helpful to use the host workstation's /etc/hosts file to map to chef-server-berkshelf.

Contribute to and Hack on Chef Server (including Erchef)

This cookbook ships with a recipe named dev that will take any Chef Server instance and flip it into development mode. If you want to use the Vagrant-based environment referenced above, edit the chef.run_list value in the Vagrantfile to include an additional recipe[chef-server::dev] run list item.


Copyright 2012, Opscode, Inc

Licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0 (the "License"); you may not use this file except in compliance with the License. You may obtain a copy of the License at

Unless required by applicable law or agreed to in writing, software distributed under the License is distributed on an "AS IS" BASIS, WITHOUT WARRANTIES OR CONDITIONS OF ANY KIND, either express or implied. See the License for the specific language governing permissions and

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