Chef at Config Management Camp

Config Management Camp is a conference that is 100% dedicated to configuration management. The conference took place February 6th and 7th at the SchoonMeersen Campus of the University College Gent. The event brought together config management users from all over Europe, including Chef staff from the US who gave talks on both Habitat and Chef. Overall, the conference was a great mix of tech agnostic talks along with product specific talks. Both days featured a main track covering overall infrastructure and configuration management topics, as well as smaller technology specific tracks covering topics like Chef and containers.


The conference started off with an excellent keynote speech by John Vincent entitled “Configuration Management is a Solved Problem?”. John retracted a now Internet famous statement he made in 2011, in which he said that configuration management was a solved problem. Instead of being a solved problem, John discussed the many areas in which configuration management may not be the best solution, such as orchestration and binary distribution. He gave a nice shoutout to Habitat as a potential solution for many of those operational woes. John then went on to discuss several next generation configuration management ideas he had. The idea that stuck out the most to me was the idea of solving system drift using a more event driven configuration management model. It’s an interesting idea that could potentially function on systems with a limited number of changes to monitor.

Chef Community Room

After John’s keynote, I spent the majority of the conference in the Chef Community Room was evenly split between community member and Chef employee presentations. We started the track off with a Chef Ask Me Anything session, which was an excellent way to let the community throw out question they have. If you run a Chef Meetup and Chef employees are in town, I’d highly recommend the format. After our AMA session, Thom May gave a talk on the upcoming Chef Client 13 and what that means for community. After Thom, I gave a talk on Building Better Community Cookbooks.

The Chef track talks presented by community members were particularly interesting to me. Both Steffen Gebert and Brian O’Connell gave talks on CI systems they had built for their Chef infrastructure. Steffen built a CI solution using Jenkins 2.0 pipelines defined in code. This CI system manages infrastructure changes for the TYPO3 project which he works on. His system runs cookbook changes through several phases including integration testing with Test Kitchen. Brian O’Connell showed off a CI system also built on Jenkins 2.0 Pipelines, but utilizing UrbanCode Deploy to manage cookbooks for multiple worldwide teams at IBM. Brian’s talk focuses extensively on the workflow and best practices they’ve codified through workflows including a role cookbook system they built to provide many of the dependency management features now possible with Policyfiles.

Marek Hulán showed off the Foreman with Chef. Marek’s talk struck a particular chord with me, having previously managed large numbers of hardware systems. Marek has built some very impressive turn key solutions for managing large hardware installations across multiple data centers. It’s great to see work being done to ease large scale hardware management.

Hallway Track

Perhaps the most interesting part of Config Management Camp, like many other conferences, were the hallway track discussions. The conference is laser focused on the problem set of configuration management, yet vendor neutral, which makes for wonderful conversations across different tool communities. As a Chef employee, I found it incredibly reassuring to hear that the daily challenge of automating complex software systems is a shared problem. It was also great to discuss many possible solutions to managing that complexity through improvements to project and the underlying systems we manage.

Learn more about infrastructure and application automation at ChefConf. Register for ChefConf 2017 by March 31 to receive the Early Bird rate of $995.

Tim Smithh

Tim was the Product Manager for Chef Infra.