Chef 12.1.0 chef_gem resource warnings

Apologies for the new Warn SPAM

Chef 12.1.0 will be released shortly and commits have been merged to master which will result in the following warning banners being output for all uses of the `chef_gem`:

[2015-02-17T23:59:35+00:00] WARN: chef_gem[fpm] chef_gem compile_time installation is deprecated
[2015-02-17T23:59:35+00:00] WARN: chef_gem[fpm] Please set `compile_time false` on the resource to use the new behavior.
[2015-02-17T23:59:35+00:00] WARN: chef_gem[fpm] or set `compile_time true` on the resource if compile_time behavior is required.

Sorry for the annoyance, but this is being done for a good reason. Making these warnings go away will also be substantially easier than the CHEF-3694 errors.


When Omnibus was first created we needed a way to target installing gems into the omnibus repo so that chef could internally use it and installing them into the base system, so the `chef_gem` resource was created. Back then we didn’t know any better than throwing `require “mysql”` directly into recipe code and since the require was compile-time it would always blow up with LoadError if the installation of the `chef_gem` was delayed until converge time. We decided to bake into the resource that `chef_gem` would always install at compile time to avoid this problem.

Now, fast forward 2 or 3 years and best practice is to make require lines more lazy. Library cookbooks that use `chef_gem`’s should expose LWRPs and the require should occur in the provider code which moves it to converge time. That eliminates the need to install the `chef_gem` at compile time. We now somewhat regret the choice that was made in forcing `chef_gem` to run at compile time.

And this causes issues where if you’re doing things right and don’t require gems at compile time you’re still forced to install `chef_gem`s at compile time. If you are installing a native gem this forces build-essentials to be installed at compile time. If your native gem depends on zlib or libxml2 or libxslt then you need those libraries installed first at compile time and now those cookbooks need `compile_time` flags to get exposed. It creates a bit of a race to install things at compile time where there is no longer any need to do so.

Changes in Chef 12.1.0

The `chef_gem` resource gets a `compile_time` boolean property in 12.1.0 so that `compile_time false` will shut this behavior off. This is now the recommended setting. In Chef 12.1.0 the default is still to install at compile_time so there is no breaking change being shipped in Chef 12.1.0.

However, the intent is to change this default. In order to make that future transition less painful, the warning is letting you know that you must be explicit about if you want your `chef_gem` resources to run at compile time or converge time. There are actually two switches which can be used.

Per-Resource Flag

This will be a bit tedious since it requires updating every `chef_gem` resource, but to adopt the new behavior you can just add `compile_time false` like:

chef_gem "aws-sdk" do
compile_time false

If you wind up with your recipes throwing a LoadError somewhere (and you should test with fresh builds or manually delete the gem out of your omnibus install in order to surface this problem) then you may need `compile_time true`:

chef_gem "aws-sdk" do
compile_time true

Global Config Flag

A global `Chef::Config[:chef_gem_compile_time]` flag was added which can be used to globally switch behavior and it has effects on the warnings. It has three different values:

* nil: this is the current default and results in all the spammy warnings
* false: this will be the future default, it removes ALL warnings, but will flip the behavior of `chef_gem` and some recipes may fail
* true: this maintains the current default behavior, suppresses the individual warnings, but WARNs once per chef run that this is set to true

So, `nil` is for spammy warnings, `false` is for early adopters (some cookbooks certainly will break, those will need `compile_time true` flags on their
`chef_gem` resources or will need to get fixed), and `true` means that you’re too busy to care, but the tradeoff is that when the default does change at some point in the future you will likely get broken at some point in the future when that default changes *AND* when you stat pulling cookbooks that assume that as the default.

Community Cookbooks

All the community cookbooks will need fixes to suppress these warnings. Since they require backwards compatibility with prior Chef versions, the preferred PR to submit will look something like this:

chef_gem "aws-sdk" do
compile_time false if Chef::Resource::ChefGem.method_defined?(:compile_time)

Again, Sorry

Sorry for the Warn SPAM but it’s for a good cause. The ultimate goal is much less need to force anything to compile mode, which is vastly more annoying.

Posted in:

Lamont Granquist