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cookbooks Add a helper for specs Oct 13, 2018

Facebook Cookbooks Suite

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This repo contains attribute-driven-API cookbooks maintained by Facebook. It's a large chunk of what we refer to as our "core cookbooks."

It's worth reading our doc before reading this. It covers how we use Chef and is important context before reading this.

It is important to note that these cookbooks are built using a very specific model that's very different from most other cookbooks in the community. Specifically:

  • It assumes an environment in which you want to delegate. The cookbooks are designed to be organized in a "least specific to most specific" order in the runlist. The runlist starts with the "core cookbooks" that setup APIs and enforce a base standard, which can be adjusted by the service owners using cookbooks later in the runlist.
  • It assumes a "run from master" type environment. At Facebook we use Grocery Delivery to sync the master branch of our git repo with all of our Chef servers. Grocery Delivery is not necessary to use these cookbooks, but since they were built with this model in mind, the versions never change (relatedly: we do not use environments).
  • It assumes you have a testing toolset that allows anyone modifying later cookbooks to ensure that their use of the API worked as expected on a live node before committing. For this, we use Taste Tester.


Unlike other cookbook models, we do not use resources as APIs, we use the node object. Configuration is modeled in arrays and hashes as closely and thinly as possible to the service we are configuring. Ideally, you should only have to read the docs to the service to configure it, not the docs to the cookbook.

For example, if the service we are configuring has a key-value pair configuration file, we will provide a simple hash where keys and values will be directly put into the necessary configuration file.

There are two reasons we use attribute-driven APIs:

  1. Since our cookbooks are ordered least specific (core team that owns Chef) to most specific (the team that owns this machine or service) it means that the team who cares about this specific instance to always override anything. This enables stacking that is not possible in many other models. For example, you can have a runlist that looks like:

    • Core cookbooks (the ones in this repo)
    • Site/Company cookbooks (site-specific settings)
    • Region cookbooks (overrides for a given region/cluster)
    • Application Category cookbooks (webserver, mail server, etc.)
    • Specific Application cookbook ("internal app1 servier")

    So let's say that you want a specific amount of shared memory by default, but in some region you know you have different size machines, so you shrink it, but web servers need a further different setting, and then finally some specific internal webserver needs an even more specific setting... this all just works.

    Further, a cookbook can see the value that was set before it modifies things, so the 'webserver' cookbook could look to see if what the value was (small or large) before modifying it and adjust it accordingly (so it could be relative to the size of memory that the 'region' cookbook set.

  2. Allows for what we refer to as "idempotent systems" instead of "idempotent settings." In other words, if you only manage a specific item in a larger config, and then you stop managing it, it should either revert to a less-specific setting (see #1) or be removed, as necessary.

    For example let's say you want to set a cron job. If you use the internal cron resource, and then delete the recipe code that adds that cronjob, that cron isn't removed from your production environment - it's on all existing nodes, but not on any new nodes.

    For this reason we use templates to take over a whole configuration wherever possible. All cron jobs in our fb_cron API are written to /etc/cron.d/fb_crontab - one you delete the lines adding a cronjob, since they are just entries in a hash, when the template is generated on the next Chef run, those crons go away.

    Alternatively, consider a sysctl set by the "site" cookbook, then overwritten by a later cookbook. When that code is removed, the entry in the hash falls back to being set again by the next-most-specific value (i.e. the "site" cookbook in this case).


How you formulate your runlists is up to your site, as long as you follow the basic rule that core cookbooks come first and you order least-specific to most-specific. At Facebook, all of our runlists are:

recipe[fb_init], recipe[$SERVICE]

Where fb_init is similar to the sample provided in this repo, but with extra "core cookbooks."

We generally think of this way: fb_init should make you a "Facebook server" and the rest should make you a whatever-kind-of-server-you-are.

Getting started

Grab a copy of the repo, rename fb_init_sample to fb_init, and follow the instructions in its (coordinating guidance is in comments in the default recipe).