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Philosophy

Some general principles of how we use Chef.

  • Chef server is never the repository of truth -- it only mirrors the truth. A file is tangible and immediate to access.
  • Specifically, we want truth to live in the git repo, and be enforced by the Chef server. This means that everything is versioned, documented and exchangeable. There is no truth but git, and Chef is its messenger.
  • Systems, services and significant modifications cluster should be obvious from the clusters file. I don't want to have to bounce around nine different files to find out which thing installed a redis:server. The existence of anything that opens a port should be obvious when I look at the cluster file.
  • Roles define systems, clusters assemble systems into a machine.
    • For example, a resque worker queue has a redis, a webserver and some config files -- your cluster should invoke a @whatever_queue@ role, and the @whatever_queue@ role should include recipes for the component services.
    • the existence of anything that opens a port or runs as a service should be obvious when I look at the roles file.
  • include_recipe considered harmful Do NOT use include_recipe for anything that a) provides a service, b) launches a daemon or c) is interesting in any way. (so: @include_recipe java@ yes; @include_recipe iptables@ no.) You should note the dependency in the metadata.rb. This seems weird, but the breaking behavior is purposeful: it makes you explicitly state all dependencies.
  • It's nice when machines are in full control of their destiny. Their initial setup (elastic IP, attaching a drive) is often best enforced externally. However, machines should be able independently assert things like load balancer registration which may change at any point in their lifetime.
  • It's even nicer, though, to have full idempotency from the command line: I can at any time push truth from the git repo to the Chef server and know that it will take hold.
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