Chef is an automation tool that helps organizations automate the configuration management process and various other tasks using simple steps. Well, that’s the basic explanation of this tool.

To know why this tool is so admired by the world’s best organizations, let’s first understand configuration management, its significance, and Chef role.

What Is Configuration Management?

It is a process to maintain computer systems, servers, and software in an environment. The goal of configuration management is to make sure that systems perform in the desired way when a change is made over a period of time. To manage computer systems, teams have to define the desired state of the systems and servers in advance, and simultaneously, monitor the behavior so that the needful changes can be made on time.

Traditionally, configuration management was a manual task that required a system administrator. The biggest drawback of monitoring a system’s performance manually is that it requires a lot of manual work which includes documenting the state of systems carefully. But when a system administrator encounters a bigger environment of systems and servers, manual configuration management doesn’t work nor is it feasible. And most of the time system’s state goes undocumented. This is the reason IT teams need automated configuration management tools like Chef.

Benefits of Chef

Maintains Consistency: No matter if you have hundreds or thousands of systems, by stating your current and desired states of your infrastructure, you can maintain stability across all your devices. Whether you want to update, automate, or monitor systems you can use infrastructure as code to achieve it.

Swift Deployments: Unlike manual configuration or repetitive manual work, with Chef, you can deploy software and applications across all your entire infrastructure using a few lines of code and clicking some buttons. This process is not only agile but also ensures efficacy.

Easy Integration With Any Cloud Technology: For any company, integrating the infrastructure has a lot of pains, but Chef Knife offers seamless integration of your IT organization’s infrastructure with any cloud technology irrespective of the number of roadblocks you have faced in the past.

Components of Chef

Masters: These devices hold information regarding initial changes, updates, and maintenance records. From these devices, the information is pushed on the Chef server. Recipes are also created on these devices so that the policies can be implemented on the worker nodes. These workstations use Knife - a command-line tool - to communicate with the server.

Chef Server: The Chef server is responsible for seamless communication across all devices in the workplace infrastructure. However, cookbooks, recipes, and policies are created on the master device but they are stored on the Chef server and can be pulled by worker nodes anytime.

Worker Nodes: Worker nodes communicate with the Chef server using a pre-installed Chef client in every node. The pull-based mechanism helps worker nodes to pull updates, new policies, and other relative changes from the Chef server. When a worker node undergoes changes, this state is called “state changes”, which are defined by the Chef cookbook created on the master device.

Additional Features of Chef

Chef Analytics: It provides real-time monitoring of the changes that happen on the Chef server including:

  • What changes made on the server?
  • When were the changes made?
  • Who made the changes?

Various modes like report generation, rule processing system and audit make Chef one of the powerful DevOps tools in the market.

Chef Development Kit: The Chef development kit, “ChefDK”, makes the development and testing of Chef cookbooks easier. It has all the necessary tools to check your infrastructure from any machine or device.

Chef Knife: It’s a command-line tool that helps DevOps team members to interact with the Chef server. Developer uploads the state changes to the Chef server using master devices and worker nodes pull them from the server using the Chef client.

How Chef Helped Danske Bank?

Danske Bank, the largest bank in Denmark, used to manage a Linux server or other virtual machines manually. The process had many flaws like excessive time consumption and scalability issues. They needed a solution to replace manual server configuration with an advanced approach because setting up manual tasks was not only error-prone but there was also no way to verify the changes. In simple words, they required a tool that could automate provisioning while ensuring efficiency.

That’s why they chose Chef. With the help of Chef cookbooks, you can automate provisioning, and at the same time, Chef InSpec ensures the competence of cookbooks as they are developed. After deploying Chef, Danske Bank was able to:

  • Provision their server with a push of a button.
  • Scale requirements using executable codes.
  • Catch and fix deviations immediately.

Like Danske Bank, there are several other organizations including Facebook that also use Chef.


Believe it or not, but a lot of prominent organizations have admitted that automating configuration management is the only way to thrive. With tools like Chef, any organization attains speed and accuracy. Besides automating server provisioning, it documents the record of each system that is nearly impossible if you rely on manual configuration.