Awesome Community Chef: Fletcher Nichol – “Drumming Up Test Kitchen”

One could argue there are major similarities between bands and open source communities, especially a community built around code. If written music is a sort of code that enables freedom of creative expression, then Ruby/Chef plays the same role for the Chef Community, providing the foundation to create new, better ways to build systems and applications.

Fletcher Nichol, award-winning Awesome Chef and the focus of this profile, certainly thinks so. A drummer by passion and sys admin/developer/consulting wizard by trade, Fletcher has met many a like-minded musician in the Chef Community, all of whom also enjoy collaborating on using code to solve tough IT problems.

Fletcher began his career as a sys admin at a university where one server = one service = one sys admin. As we all know, for almost every organization, those days are over. Frustrated with the repetitive manual tasks and lack of elegance in the various higher education IT infrastructures he cam across, Fletcher started looking for a way to automate servers. During his search, he found work as a Java app developer and found enjoyment writing applications in Ruby.

“I really enjoyed the app dev side of things, but often I’d still be executing sys admin tasks to make sure my apps deployed right into production the first-time. I wanted to automate server configs so I could deploy apps faster without risking the production servers, but I needed something in a code language I knew,” Fletcher said.

Enter Chef stage left.

Of course, in 2010, Chef, and the Community, were just starting out. Fletcher found Chef difficult to get going with and took it upon himself to help fill some of the holes by open sourcing cookbooks he’d create on GitHub. As the Chef Community grew and the platform matured, Fletcher found kindred spirits multiplying around him, as more and more contributors began posting cookbooks for using Chef to automate all sorts of operations.

Inspired by the awesomeness he was seeing around him – and between jobs with free-time to spare – Fletcher accepted a contributor ticket to the first Chef Summit and met a bevy of like-minded problem-solvers all ready to help each other and hear new ideas.

“That first Chef Summit is where it all came together for me. I felt more dialed in there and to the Chef Community than any office setting. These were friends and colleagues, all about collaborating and doing so without being forced into any one way of doing things,” Fletcher continued. “It was really all organic and natural, nothing felt forced.”

Emboldened by his Summit experience Fletcher dug deeper into Chef and eventually delivered Test Kitchen, a framework for running integration tests of Chef cookbooks in isolated environments. Though Fletcher says Test Kitchen was nearly an “accident”, all of us in the Community surely agree it’s simply awesome, helping bulletproof code for all sorts of operations.

Looking ahead, Fletcher sees more collaboration, more Community goodness… and more drum solos,

“It all boils down to problem solving. I love working with all the like-minded Chefs out there on finding news ways to make things better, faster, and easier.”

Rock on Fletcher, rock on.


Lucas Welch

Former Chef Employee