Packt Publishing has just released “Instant Chef Starter” by John Ewart, another installment in Packt’s “Instant” series of short topics in programming and system administration. The book is attractively priced at $7.99 for the eBook format. It’s also well edited and a quick read at 70 pages.
The book’s format is quite logical, starting from a discussion of what Chef is, and defining terms and concepts within Chef. This is an excellent approach for those who have asked themselves about the difference between a cookbook and a recipe. Ewart also spends some time talking about the installation of the Open Source Chef 10 server. He then presents a real-world use case with which many system administrators are already familiar, the setup and configuration of a LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP) stack. Ewart shows how the installation and maintenance of this stack can be automated using Chef and out-of-the-box community cookbooks, downloaded directly from Opscode’s community site at community.opscode.com. He then delves more into detail, talking about Chef’s other concepts (roles and environments), and also discusses data bags, which can hold global data about an entire infrastructure. Finally, he wraps up by introducing other resources for further learning about Chef and Ruby.
The introduction to Chef and real-world scenario really help the reader get acquainted with Chef. The section on installing a Chef server is comprehensive but is already a bit out-of-date, because Opscode released Chef 11 after the book was written. The good news is that installing a Chef server is dramatically easier with Chef 11.
If you’re ready to try out Chef, we definitely recommend the free version of Hosted Chef as the best way to get started — without having to install server components. Couple Hosted Chef with this book and you’re well on your way to managing your own infrastructure!