Chef extends DevOps deeper into Kubernetes multiclouds

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DevOps is a pipeline for rapidly deploying changes to infrastructure and application components. It also involves continuous verification of application compliance with relevant policies and mandates.

Speed is the essence of DevOps success, as long as application quality and compliance are not compromised. Unfortunately, most DevOps professionals spend far too long getting their apps released into production. According to a recent survey conducted by longtime DevOps solution provider Chef Software, almost three-quarters of DevOps professionals regard “time from code to production” and “time from commit to deploy” as paramount considerations. However, speed is often difficult to achieve in practice. A majority of the survey’s respondents say they routinely spend days, weeks or months to complete application builds and around the same amount of time deploying apps into production and verifying their compliance with the relevant policies and mandates.

In the trenches, DevOps shops can only address stringent speed, quality and compliance mandates through strong automation tools. That, in turn, requires highly visual and flexible tools that help application, infrastructure and compliance personnel define the automation process and monitor its orchestration in production across complex multiclouds. As one of the pioneering DevOps tooling vendors, Chef has been providing automation solutions for several years. Built upon open-source configuration-management codethat was released almost a decade ago, Chef’s solution portfolio continues to deepen its reach into the new world of complex multiclouds where DevOps automation rides on Kubernetes orchestration fabrics for deploying containerized application and infrastructure code.

Chef’s domain-specific language enables DevOps professionals to write detailed system configuration “recipes” and streamline the task of automating their provisioning and verification in a wide range of cloud-based application environments, including Amazon EC2, Google Cloud Platform, Oracle Cloud, OpenStack, SoftLayer, Microsoft Azure and Rackspace.

In the cloud-native computing arena, Chef now counts more than a thousand users worldwide for its continuous automation solutions. At its annual developer conference this week, Chef rolled out significant additions and enhancements to its solution portfolio designed to boost DevOps productivity in today’s complex enterprise multiclouds. The announcements address the following core DevOps tasks:

  • Fast creation and deployment of complex application change-management packages: The new Chef Workstation bundles all the tooling previously included in the ChefDK. What’s new is that it enables DevOps teams and practitioners to complete a full range of DevOps automation tasks — which Chef refers to as “recipes” and “cookbooks” — in ad-hoc fashion but without requiring agents on target platforms. Users access the workstation to complete tasks and then execute those tasks through Chef’s flagship Automate platform. The workstation provides a new standard Chef desktop/laptop experience for Chef and includes a new “target mode” for executing Chef recipes or entire cookbooks remotely.
  • Closed-loop change management and compliance automation: The new major version of Chef Automate provides a unified dashboard for closed-loop release-pipeline automation. Automate 2.0 supports continual visualization, query, and analysis of streaming feeds of infrastructure and compliance data. It also incorporates a Go-based microservices architecture to support a fast, flexible web UI atop a REST API to support automation of changes and verifications across tens of thousands of nodes from a single installation. Existing Automate 1.0 customers can do in-place upgrades with automatic data migration of all historical information.
  • Orchestration of application and infrastructure changes across complex multi-clouds via Kubernetes: Chef’s Habitat tool, a component of Automate, now supports a wider range of application types, deployment targets and DevOps analytics. Customers can now take use Habitat behind the firewall. The tool includes an updated Kubernetes Operator, supports export of Helm charts for complex Kubernetes applications, integrates with the Open Service Broker API, and exports containerized apps to Azure Kubernetes Service. It now can also store application-release data in Splunk for operational analytics.
  • Automation of change-management compliance-verifications to the leading public clouds and edge platforms: Chef’s InSpec tool, also a component of Automate, now automates verification of AWS and Microsoft Azure policies, with Google Cloud Platform support in beta. It now includes built-in support for verification of infrastructure and application compliance on 30 new targets, including support for Cisco IOS network devices as agentless targets. It supports enhanced compliance scanning and reporting in AWS, Azure and Google clouds via APIs on either an ad-hoc or ongoing basis.

Chef’s incorporation of an agentless architecture into its new workstation starts to put its solutions into the same architectural camp as Red Hat’s Ansible. However, Chef is at a competitive disadvantage compared with the much larger, more diversified Red Hat, lacking the broader Kubernetes and hybrid-cloud solutions and partnerships needed to prevail long term in cloud-native configuration management.

Indeed, it’s hard to see how Chef, or its closest traditional rival Puppet, will be able to stick it out when Red Hat, IBM, Microsoft, HPE and other diversified solution providers are offering mature application, infrastructure and compliance automation tools under diversified hybrid-cloud portfolios.

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