RailsConf 2009, Full of Awesome!

RailsConf 2009 may be over, but the work continues back at home as people put into practice the tools and concepts they learned about last week. We are excited about the buzz Chef made at the conference. Between Edd Dumbill's Chef Tutorial on Monday and Ezra Zygmuntowicz's glowing coverage during his talk about building scalable web application infrastructures with Ruby, many people were talking about Chef throughout the week.

Shortly after Edd's tutorial, Fabio Akita from Akita on Rails and I discussed Chef. During the interview, we talked about Chef's components, how Rails developers can use it to replace Capistrano (with chef-deploy by Ezra), and how it can be used to program infrastructure.

Most people at RailsConf are quite obviously Rails developers. I did meet some system administrators and "operations people" as well, but they were definitely the minority. I was surprised at how many people are not fully automating their infrastructures, though. The deployment tool of choice is still Capistrano and it can do some automated setup for applications, but it doesn't automate everything well. I was also surprised at how many people were looking at writing their own tools, or had already done so.

Test driven development was a recurring theme throughout the conference. Aslak Hellesøy's Cucumber session was quite excellent, and applicable – we're using Cucumber for feature tests in Chef. Bob Martin's keynote on Wednesday was well received, and stirred up a lot of Twitter traffic even days after the talk, including a rebuttal.

Another big topic at the conference was scalability. This was a main point in talks about cloud computing optimization and cloud lessons learned. The Phusion guys showed that Ruby does in fact scale for a variety of applications, and Ezra showed how Engine Yard is using Chef and Nanite to scale infrastructures. Not surprisingly, the key is scaling horizontally when it comes to Rails applications, by deploying more web/app server instances automatically configured. Chef can help here, because new systems can be configured and ready for deployment to scale based on demand.

I was honored to represent Opscode at RailsConf. I thoroughly enjoyed the sessions and look forward to making Chef better with the technologies and concepts I learned about. Here at Opscode, we're thrilled to hear that Chef is making Rails infrastructures and deployments better for you. We are also interested in hearing about your deployments, so leave a comment here, send us an email or stop by IRC.

Joshua Timberman

Joshua Timberman is a Code Cleric at CHEF, where he Cures Technical Debt Wounds for 1d8+5 lines of code, casts Protection from Yaks, and otherwise helps continuously improve internal technical process.