Your Time At ChefConf 2019: scale, Scale, SCALE

Are you working in a large-scale computing environment? Do you have lots of services and systems spread out all over? ChefConf 2019 is the place to get some help managing all of the information and behaviors you need for big deployments, big workflows, and all other things in the largest of large scales.

Large environments introduce all sorts of complexities that don’t necessarily exist with smaller installations, and some of those issues aren’t apparent until you’re already in the thick of them. Chef’s products, Chef Infra, Chef InSpec, and Chef Habitat are built with large scale complexities in mind. Let our speakers help you avoid some of the pitfalls they’ve experienced and give you some guidance on getting work done when the work is BIG!


ChefConf officially starts on Monday, May 20, with a set of workshops tailored to a variety of topics. There are two that may be of interest to folks working in large environments.

Chef’s Jody Wolfborn and Tom Robinson-Gore will present Workshop: Enterprise Automation Stack: Chef Automate Up and Running, which will take you through the features that make Chef Automate and the Enterprise Automation Stack a key component of managing and automating large environments:

The Enterprise Automation Stack is a platform that allows you to manage your applications & infrastructure at scale by capitalizing on the rich compliance data from Chef InSpec and configuration management data from Chef Infra. This session will provide hands on experience with installing, using and administering Chef Automate. You will experience all the power of Chef Automate across the entire software development lifecycle plus learn to troubleshoot and proactively prevent issues both on-prem and in the cloud. You will leave this course prepared to deploy Chef Automate within your workplace and get your co-workers hooked on the Enterprise Automation Stack.  

If you’re looking for something more on the topic of managing people working in complex technology environments, Jon Cowie and Stephen Horning present an updated version of their very popular ChefConf 2018 workshop, Managing a DevOps Transformation:

Managing people in a transformed, high-velocity work environment is full of exciting challenges. Working through the many changes for yourself and your team, understanding the role of a manager in an agile work environment, dealing with the financial implications of “waterfall” not being the way to do work are just a few of these challenges. This workshop, lead by managers who have gone through this transition, will focus on the techniques that will set you up for success in managing and directing the DevOps Transformation.

Monday is also our ChefConf Community Summit, where you’re likely to meet other folks who are working in large environments, and you can pick their brains. It’s all Open Spaces format, so we talk about whatever you want to talk about!

At the end of the day, come on up to the 7th floor for the Exhibit Hall opening and have some drinks and chat with your new #ChefFriends.


Tuesday morning gets started with keynotes in the main hall on the third floor. Hear how Chef is helping enterprise companies build out the technology platforms they need for the future and some of the things we’ve been working on.

After lunch, it’s time for breakout sessions. Chef’s community has a lot to share, and there’s plenty of content for folks solving automation and management issues in large environments.

At 1pm in 602, Chef’s Matt Ray and Egor Cole of Fastlane focus on the financial services industry and the evolution of automation in large environments in their talk Banking on Automation: Modernizing Chef Across the Enterprise:

Financial services across APAC have similar problems. They’ve deployed Chef on tens of thousands of servers with no standardization of patterns and techniques used by themselves and multiple integrators. They have compliance requirements that are well-documented but poorly verified, and auditors are unhappy. They want to move like fast-paced startups but they are heavily regulated with thousands of applications in production. This is the story of how they’ve started their migrations from the wilderness to modern, cutting-edge Chef implementations built on software pipelines and fully automated, with full visibility across their stacks with limited human interaction. We’ll dive into the specifics of how their air-gapped architectures are managed, how they’ve upgraded their Chef infrastructure, and how these patterns are being applied across multiple customers through Chef’s Customer Success program and with our partners in the Asia Pacific region.

At 2pm, a couple of talks will feature solutions for large environments. Join Wal-Mart’s Jeff Moody in Quinault on the 5th floor for his talk Chef and Habitat in IRL:

The Intelligent Retail Lab is Walmart’s in-store AI lab. Leveraging both hardware and software, we’re testing a broad range of concepts, including Artificial Intelligence, Computer Vision, Machine Learning and Sensor Fusion, inside an existing and fully-operating grocery store in Levittown, NY. Every day, we’re processing a substantial amount of data, and we’re using Habitat to help.

Or maybe head to Elwha B on the 5th floor for Galen Emery and John Snow from Chef and their talk relating their experiences working with some of Chef’s largest customers and their compliance requirements, Exception Handling: Compliance as Code:

In the coded enterprise, it is straight-forward to apply a profile across our entire fleet of systems. But in our enterprises, we run hundreds or thousands of applications, with various servers, and we must modify our profiles to accommodate all of these exceptions. This quickly turns into an agonizing sprawl of hundreds or thousands of profiles. How do we manage all of these profiles? How do we know which exceptions are approved, and how do we manage new ones?

In this talk, we’ll discuss some of our experiences solving these issues inside the US Federal Government, and the solution that underpins the changes necessary to the waiver approval process in order for this to work.

At 3pm, SAP joins us this year to talk about their OHAI work collecting data across large installations. Juan Martinez and Dan-Joe Lopez will present Custom OHAI Plugins at Enterprise Scale, in Quinault on the 5th floor:

Learn how SAP’s DevOps Center of Excellence is extending OHAI in the enterprise. We will take you through a hands-on to create your own plugin, and also dissect some other plugins we created. You’ll not only learn about the benefits of using OHAI to collect data, but you’ll get our latest open-source contribution for FREE!!

Or, maybe you want some ideas on deploying Chef Habitat in large environments and keeping your code private. Indellient’s Skyler Layne will be in room 502 to talk about Bringing the Habitat Depot On-Premise in the Enterprise:

Bringing a Chef Habitat Depot on-premise in the Enterprise and managing it can pose some unique challenges.  During this session we’ll cover the challenges you may come across, how to overcome them and bring in real-life examples of how companies have implemented it in the Enterprise. This will include taking a look at the use of a proxy-Habitat Depot, scaling out individual parts of the Habitat Depot for high-availability and using CI to enforce role-based access control.  

After that busy day, join us in the Expo Hall on the 7th floor for happy hour, then the Chef Community in Elwha A on the 5th floor for game night. Maybe you’re a secret railway tycoon or you’re ready to explode some kittens? We’ve got you covered.


Wednesday morning starts bright and early in the main hall on the 3rd floor for keynotes, featuring customer stories from folks like CARFAX and GDIT. Hear how these companies are bringing their environments into the future with Chef’s products and automation! Get there early to secure a good seat!

After lunch it’s time for 5! Yes, FIVE sessions! Let’s take a look at what’s in store for our large-scale focused attendees!

At 1pm, Joseph Milla of AppLovin’ will be presenting Optimizing Chef Vault concurrency in a large-scale distributed infrastructure: Lessons at AppLovin in room 602:

AppLovin is a mobile marketing platform that handles a growing demand for compute power – 60 billion requests per day. At AppLovin, we manage thousands of nodes, and with a fast-growing team, it is only logical to move to an automated and secure way to store credentials.

With a huge demand for compute power and a fast-growing team, there has been a great need for an automated and secure way to store credentials in AppLovin’s infrastructure. This session highlights the technology, architecture, and processes that enable us to manage secrets using Chef Vault.

Also at 1pm, Rob Ericsson of Rizing will present Rizing to the Challenge: See How Chef Enables An SAP Partner To Efficiently Deliver SAP S/4HANA in Elwha A on the 5th floor:

SAP is a labor-intensive system to install and configure, which slows down our ability to adapt to change. See how we use Chef Automate, Inspec and Habitat to install a secure, working SAP S/4HANA environment in an hour. Automation gives us a newfound agility and allows us to offer compelling new solutions.

As a premier SAP partner working with enterprise customers around the world, Rizing saw this as an opportunity to deliver unique value to our customers. Working with Chef, we achieved our goal to install SAP S/4HANA in less than an hour. See how we use Chef Automate, Inspect and Habitat to install and configure a complete and secure SAP S/4HANA solution on AWS.

If you’re after something more about managing the people in an enterprise context and helping them get comfortable with automation, Brittany Woods from CARFAX might have what you are looking for in Quinault on the 5th floor. Her talk is Bridging the Great Divide: Using Chef as a Spark for DevOps:

Historically, dev teams and ops teams have set on separate sides of the fence. DevOps has been sold as the answer. Bring your teams together and work will be more efficient and harmonious. What happens if you work in a slower moving industry or for a company that is just getting started in this movement? How can you ignite change? Many tools we work with today have been developed with DevOps principles in mind — Chef being one of them. In this talk, I’ll highlight how you can use Chef to spark change in your org and get on a path to a more collaborative future. I’ll also talk about how using Chef can lead a person on a personal DevOps journey by highlighting my path to Chef enlightenment.

Now you have a really tough choice to make. At 2pm we have three good talks addressing large scale and enterprise challenges. Unless you’ve got a time-turner, you’ll be watching two of these on the recordings.

In Elwha B on the 5th Floor, Zachary Schmitt and Bradley Shelton from GDIT will get in-depth about their automation solution. GDIT’s “Chef-as-a-Service” Enterprise Solution:

Our Enterprise covers 200+ AWS accounts and multiple Air-Gapped networks. We had no real insight into what was happening within our Enterprise. We also had to deal with our security team’s manual processes which is typically a 6-18 month Time-To-Prod. “Chef-as-a-Service” is our solution.

Maybe you’d rather head to Quinault on the 5th floor for some Chef Habitat. Chef’s Joshua Hudson and Andrew Dufour will present Lessons from the Field: Habitat at Enterprise Scale:

What does a sane Habitat ring look like? How big can a Habitat ring be? What does a provisioning process that includes Habitat, secrets management, etc look like?

Come join me to talk about the saga of deploying Habitat across thousands of servers. We’ll discuss the patterns that succeeded, those that failed, and many in between. We’ll dive into how big a Habitat ring can be, why it’s limited, and the ring architectures that will work at any scale.

We’ll dive into local development, on-boarding new teams onto Habitat and getting them to work on automating their applications. I’ll walk you through deploying many services with Habitat, and how you can manage that heterogeneous environment.

Or you could head downstairs to 401 to hear about what’s up at Mastercard. Ulises Galeano shares his experiences in his talk Bringing a DevOps Mindset to Big Enterprise:

Having worked at both Government and Fortune 500 enterprise companies there are several issues that come up in our fields, that start up or technology first companies do not have to deal with. Often things are slower, more expensive, and have more obstacles to deal with, most of which are not even technological in nature. This presentation will talk about those very topics, along with advocating for Open Source in the enterprise and dealing with long-term structural complexities. This talk will address five key elements – Documentation, Communication, Governance, Representation, and Community – that can be used to create and encourage cultural shifts for success in a DevOps journey.

Next up at 3pm is an update from one of the most popular talks of ChefConf 2018. Capital One’s John Casanova gives us the update in Quinault on the 5th floor. Evolution of Capital One’s Enterprise Chef Platform:

After a major overhaul of our Chef architecture in 2017, we’ve completed our migration and made significant improvements in the past year. Come see what we’re doing to offer what is one of the most mature core Chef platform offerings, at true enterprise scale.

We’ll cover our current architecture; our 2018 Elasticsearch migration for our Chef servers; cross-region Elasticsearch synchronization for Chef server; our use of InSpec; our pipelines for making changes to Chef servers; the chef-load tool; and releasing Chef Client 14 at Capital One.

Grab a snack and a drink to keep your energy up and get into Quinault for John Willis’ talk, DevOps’ Seven Deadly Diseases. John’s seen it all, and you’ll want his advice and wisdom for automating in large environments:

Devops is now officially 10 years old. In that decade, we have learned that although prescriptive practices like Lean, Agile, SAFE and even DevOps may be necessary for IT acceleration, they are in most cases are not sufficient for long-term systemic improvement. We’ll explore what can go wrong with DevOps and why.

Last one. Are you still with us? Good. You’re going to want to save your strength for one of these final sessions.

In Elwha B on the 5th floor, HashiCorp’s Erik Rygg will cover Networking Habitat Apps with Consul and getting power out of the combination of these tools:

HashiCorp Consul is a distributed networking tool to connect, secure, and configure heterogeneous applications. In this talk, we’ll explore and demonstrate Consul’s relationship with Habitat, and how they can be used together to connect and secure distributed applications.

This talk will dive into how the Consul service mesh can be integrated into Habitat applications and how they can securely connect to other disparate applications using one of Consul’s newer features, Consul Connect. Connect allows disparate applications to utilize TLS to talk securely amongst each other, as well as provide specific policies on which applications can talk to each other.

Or head next door to Elwha A for Michael Greene from Microsoft getting into the power of Azure Policy in his talk, Implementing Chef InSpec Scanning at Scale Through Azure Policy:

Enterprise organizations often need to create 100’s of cloud subscriptions to enable application teams. How then, should you implement tools for verifying compliance requirements before you release to production? In this session we will discuss how to use native capabilities in Microsoft Azure Policy to run InSpec inside virtual machines and validate industry baselines before you release changes.

Now it’s time to take a break for some fun. This year’s Chef Community Party will be at Seattle’s historic Paramount Theatre, featuring Mudhoney and Deep Sea Diver. This is definitely not a part of the conference to miss.

Deep Sea Diver
Deep Sea Diver


If you’re still up at 9am on Thursday, find us in Elwha A on the 5th floor for some hacking. It’s an unstructured day for you to work on some of the things you’ve seen and heard over the past few days and get hands on keyboards. Whatever you want to work on, bring it along, and maybe you’ll find a like-minded hacker to help you out.

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Mandi Walls

Mandi is Technical Community Manager for Chef. She can be found online @LNXCHK.