Simple, easy-run, fast-start in-memory Chef server for testing and solo purposes
Latest commit c5298da Feb 3, 2017 @lamont-granquist lamont-granquist update changelog + Rakefile task
Signed-off-by: Lamont Granquist <>

Chef Zero

Status Gem Version


Chef Zero is a simple, easy-install, in-memory Chef server that can be useful for Chef Client testing and chef-solo-like tasks that require a full Chef Server. It IS intended to be simple, Chef 11+ compliant, easy to run and fast to start. It is NOT intended to be secure, scalable, performant or persistent. It does NO input validation, authentication or authorization (it will not throw a 400, 401 or 403). It does not save data, and will start up empty each time you start it.

Because Chef Zero runs in memory, it's super fast and lightweight. This makes it perfect for testing against a "real" Chef Server without mocking the entire Internet.


This server can be installed as a Ruby Gem.

$ gem install chef-zero

If you're using bundler, add chef-zero as a development dependency:

group :development do
  gem 'chef-zero'

Or in a .gemspec

s.add_development_dependency 'chef-zero'

You can also clone the source repository and install it using rake install.


One of chef-zero's primary uses is as a small test server for people writing and testing clients. Here's a simple example of starting it up:

require 'chef_zero/server'
server = 4000)

This will create a server instance in the foreground. To stop the server:


This is great for debugging and logging requests, but you'll probably want to run this in the background so you have full control of your thread.

To run Chef Zero in the background, simply issue the start_background command:

require 'chef_zero/server'
server = 4000)

You can stop the server the same way:


Valid Options

You may currently pass the following options to the initializer:

  • host - the host to run on (Default: '')
  • port - the port to run on (Default: 8889)
  • debug - run in debug mode to see all requests and responses (Default: false)

CLI (Command Line)

If you don't want to use Chef Zero as a library, you can simply start an instance with the included chef-zero executable:

$ chef-zero

Note, this will run in the foreground.

You now have a fully functional (empty) Chef Server running.

To try it out, go into the chef-zero/playground directory and run knife. It will behave the same as a normal Chef Server, and all normal knife commands will work (show, list, delete, from file, upload, download, diff ...). For example, with +knife-essentials+ (or Chef 11) you can upload everything in the repo:

chef-zero/playground> knife upload .
Created nodes/desktop.json
Created data_bags/dns
Created environments/production.json
Created nodes/lb.json
Created nodes/dns.json
Created nodes/ldap.json
Created nodes/www.json
Created data_bags/dns/services.json
Created environments/staging.json
Created data_bags/passwords
Created data_bags/users
Created data_bags/users/jkeiser.json
Created data_bags/passwords/github.json
Created data_bags/passwords/twitter.json
Created data_bags/users/schisamo.json
Created data_bags/users/sethvargo.json
Created cookbooks/apache2
Created cookbooks/php

chef-zero/playground> knife environment list

To use it in your own repository, create a knife.rb like so:

chef_server_url   ''
node_name         'stickywicket'
client_key        'path_to_any_pem_file.pem'

And use knife like you normally would.

Since Chef Zero does no authentication, any .pem file will do. The client just needs something to sign requests with (which will be ignored on the server). Even though it's ignored, the .pem must still be a valid format.

Now, stop the Chef Zero server and all the data is gone!

Run chef-zero --help to see a list of the supported flags and options:

Usage: chef-zero [ARGS]
    -H, --host HOST                  Host to bind to (default:
    -p, --port PORT                  Port to listen on (e.g. 8889, or 8500-8600 or 8885,8888)
        --[no-]generate-keys         Whether to generate actual keys or fake it (faster).  Default: false.
    -d, --daemon                     Run as a daemon process
    -l, --log-level LEVEL            Set the output log level
        --log-file FILE              Log to a file
        --enterprise                 Whether to run in enterprise mode
        --multi-org                  Whether to run in multi-org mode
        --file-store PATH            Persist data to files at the given path
        --[no-]ssl                   Use SSL with self-signed certificate(Auto generate before every run).  Default: false.
    -h, --help                       Show this message
        --version                    Show version


For information on contributing to this project see


Copyright 2012-2016, Chef Software, 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,
See the License for the specific language governing permissions and
limitations under the License.