Frequently Asked Questions

The FAQ below is designed to answer the most common questions we have received from our customers and communities. If you have more questions please feel free to contact Chef or visit our community Slack.

Q: Why is Chef changing its business model?

Coming off the best quarter in our company’s history we felt it was time to better align our business objectives more closely with our community objectives. We believe the best way to build software is to collaborate with the people who use software in the open. This change, open sourcing 100% of our products enables us to focus on providing the most value to everyone while creating a clearer, simpler monetization model for our enterprise customers.


Q: How is Chef changing its business model?

Beginning on April 2, we will be making all of our products open source under the Apache 2 license and we will begin to attach commercial license terms to our software distribution (binaries) with the next major release. This is very similar to the “open source product” model most effectively run by Red Hat®, where they develop software in the open while attaching enterprise license terms to the distribution of RHEL (Red Hat® Enterprise Linux®).

This will enable us to develop all of our products in the open with the community instead of being constrained to adding proprietary intellectual property on top of open source projects.

For existing commercial customers there will be no immediate changes until their next renewal when they will get licensed onto new SKU’s representing the same core products.

Other users who want the fully supported, warranted, indemnified, highest-quality distribution of Chef’s products (Chef Infra (formerly known as Chef), Chef InSpec, Chef Habitat, Chef Automate, Chef Workstation) and access to our industry leading automation and DevOps expertise have the ability to receive it by purchasing a commercial license to our distribution.


Q: What do I have to do differently today than I had to do yesterday?

For our existing commercial customers there is no action required.

For existing customers using Chef for non-commercial purposes, experimentation, or individual use there is no change.

For contributors to Chef OSS projects, non-profits, and other special groups we are still working on how we will partner with those communities around licensing Chef products. Stay tuned for more info.

Everyone else can continue using our current releases in perpetuity – although they will be end-of-support in 12 months and no further bug fixes or security updates will be available for those versions without a commercial arrangement. Customers who choose to use our new software versions will be subject to the new license terms and will have an opportunity to create a commercial relationship with Chef, with all of the accompanying benefits that provides.


Q: Why do I want to establish a commercial relationship with Chef?

Overwhelmingly our users have told us that they want a validated, secure, and packaged solution directly from Chef to solve their enterprise-scale automation challenges. Chef is the best company in the world at producing that solution as a turnkey distribution that customers can use immediately and at scale.

Why customers will want to purchase a Chef subscription:

  • Enterprise Distribution – We build Chef’s stack as packaged software for our commercial customers
  • Enterprise Content and Software updates – Chef is the best, fastest, most reliable way to get Chef products, product updates and content
  • Automation Expertise: We are the leading experts in automation, DevOps and Chef products
  • Assurance & Support – We provide broad-based assurance in the form of support, warranty and indemnification


Q: How will this impact existing customers?

For existing customers this change will not impact their usage or contracts. Companies that already pay us for Chef Infra (formerly Chef), Chef Inspec, Chef Habitat and/or Chef Automate will continue to do so and we will continue to increase the value of their relationship with Chef.

Users who do not pay Chef today (use our free open source binaries), and net new users, will have three options going forward:

  1. License our commercial software distribution.
  2. Take our open source code and create a software development org to build and manage their own distro (create their own downstream fork) or leverage a public free distribution (which may or may not exist).
  3. Stay on an older free distribution in perpetuity. For example, they could use Chef 14.7.17 forever but they would not receive security updates , bug fixes or support from Chef starting 1 year after Chef 15 is released.

We will make licensing accommodations for individuals and significant community contributors to continue to use Chef Infra, Chef Inspec and Chef Habitat in the same way that they have been. In addition, we want to make it equally easy to experiment and self-learn with our various products.

Finally, we will have a low cost “Essentials” suite of our commercial distributions that should satisfy the needs of smaller businesses.


Q: What is the philosophy behind the change?

We strongly believe code is the mechanism for collaboration, trust, and velocity that will enable tomorrow’s leading organizations. In keeping with that philosophy, moving forward, all of our code will be developed as open source so we can collaborate via code and coding practices with our users. This aligns our business objectives directly with our community objectives.


Q: How will this impact community contributors?

This change should have no impact on community contributors.


Q: When will the changes take place?

We will be releasing new major versions of our distributions in calendar year Q2 2019 that will be distributed under the terms of the new license.


Q: How has the license changed?

  1. Source Code remains governed by the Apache 2.0 license. It is the same code and license that existed before April 2.
  2. Binary will be governed by the Chef commercial relationship or the Chef End User License which grants a limited license to individuals and some experimentation/educational uses for businesses.
  3. Businesses who wish to deploy a Chef binary will need commercial relationship with Chef.
  4. All trademarks remain the property of Chef. Use of the source code and binary are always subject to the Chef Trademark Policy.


Q: Are you open source or free software?

We are open source and we believe in free software and look forward to how communities partner with us in the future.


Q: What is the difference between experimentation and commercial use?

If you are using the software to learn, prove or test its fit for your business it is experimental use. If you are using the software to deploy or test systems or software in any environment that is used to get things to your production environments for commercial gain, it is commercial use.


Q: How are you enforcing the license?

All Chef’s software is mission critical and runs in a variety of different use cases and environments. As a result, we have not implemented hard enforcement and we don’t have any plans to change that. What we do have are commercial terms that we expect users of the software to honor. Users will have to accept the terms of the Chef End User License when they first run our software. Once the license acceptance has been acknowledged, acceptance can be automated to avoid the need for user input for further deployments.


Q: Did Adam Jacob leave Chef because he disagrees with this direction?

No. In fact, Adam was a direct contributor to this strategy and has been and will continue to be an ongoing supporter in his role on our board of directors. His platform regarding Sustainable Open Source Software (read his 30 page book) is 100% compatible with these changes.


Q: Are you closing your support channels for the community?

Chef Support is delivered exclusively through our existing formal support channels which include and our Customer Support slack channels. We will continue to maintain community slack, Discourse, and GitHub for collaborating with the community at large.


Q: Do you think there will be a fork?

It is absolutely possible that there will be derivative branches of Chef’s projects and we look forward to welcoming them into our communities and working with them to ensure that their contributions can benefit everyone in the Chef open source ecosystem.


Q: If I want to fork a Chef product, what do I need to change?

Please see our guidelines for forks.