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Chef eyes bigger things with analytics, support for testing tools, and a ride on the Docker bandwagon

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Open source configuration management (CM) company Chef today released a slew of new features, including an analytics platform for its Chef CM tool, full integration with Linux containers and Docker and commercial support for a package of open source tools tailored for testing.

Essentially, the new analytics platform offers a visual display of everything going on with the Chef server, which is the heart of the Chef CM tool. Every time a user makes a change in the network, the analytics platform logs that information and presents a searchable database that all team members can connect to in order to see what is being altered.

“It is a searchable log of all the actions and changes to the configuration policy and data for the Chef server,” said Colin Campbell, director of patterns and practices at Chef. “If there is a change made, it is very easy to go back look at everything that changed.”

Figure displaying what the new analytics tool will look like
Figure displaying what the new analytics tool will look like

The company is also letting the world know that it’s joining the container bandwagon by announcing a new plug-in for Docker called Knife Container as well as full integration with Docker in the open source Chef Test Kitchen platform. With the plug-in, customers will be able to manage Docker containers that can be spun up and used with the Chef Test Kitchen platform in order to perform system testing using containers instead of virtual machines. While containers are getting pretty popular with developers, said Campbell, operations staff still need to have a “testable and repeatable process for working with them,” which is something the Chef Test Kitchen platform will supposedly offer.

Finally, the company is bundling together a couple of open source testing tools like Chef Test Kitchen into a single package that will be a part of the company’s open source development kit, which the company sells consulting services around. While users who have the skills to set up the open source testing tools on their own probably won’t find much use out of having everything bundled together, Campbell said that this testing package will be useful for the enterprises who need a little help managing their infrastructure.

“Chef can integrate with almost everything out there,” said Campbell. “It’s about helping the customer get familiar with the testing.”

It’s interesting to note that Chef’s new announcements are the sort of thing that drive open-source purists like former Chef employee Noah Kantrowitz up the wall. Kantrowitz got up in arms last week over whether or not Chef was behaving like a truly open source company in regards to the way it deals with its Chef community. But Chef has made no secret that it wants to be a big company and in order for it to do that, it has to find a way to make money with the most obvious way to do so entailing selling consulting services around its open source tools.

“We have a tremendous open source footprint,” said Jay Wampold, vice president of marketing at Chef. “We’re building a business around that.”

Post and thumbnail images courtesy of Shutterstock user DrHitch.

Update: Story was corrected to say “Knife Container”

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