Chef Start here with ease..


Until I discovered cooking, I was never really interested in anything. Julia Child

Chef, the lead in automation industry has many tickling facet and calibre. Before introducing the potentials of “The Chef”, it’s non negotiable to evade the foresight of its relevance to devops exercises. Chef can take care of server automation, infrastructure environment and continuously deliver your application.

Motive behind this array

With this blog series, we will familiarize you with the concepts of chef and will try to make you comfortable with our hands on blogs. This series of blog contains 15 blogs in a row which will enhance the knowledge and draw your faith in chef.

Always Pre-Heat The Oven Before Putting The Meat In !!


For all the upcoming blogs we presume that you have basic understanding of Git, Docker,Vagrant and Linux. This blog series is written in consideration with centos as platform, although you can apply them on ubuntu by following some minor changes.

We are going to use our public git repository for all the blogs in this series. We will be using centos7 vagrant box to spin up our testing environment.

We are going to follow a single problem statement in our all blogs to maintain the uniformity and avoid the ambiguity. We are going to install nginx using chef and deploying two virtual host (, with it.

Blogs in this series

In this blog we describe Nginx and manually setup the nginx, as per the problem statement and also create two virtual host(,
Here we took some example of resources such as package, git, file and service and put our hands to work with chef-apply. We perform some simple task using chef resources.
This blog provides you theoretical concepts about chef resources. In this article  resources and their attributes elaborated.
Chef recipes is in consideration for this edition. Create your first recipe and apply it with chef. Complete doctrine behind the recipes of chef with simplified examples.
Walls of chef house, the cookbook, written from scratch with step to step explanation. Setup of nginx and proxy implementation with sample cookbook.
This blog furnish entire theoretical stuff about cookbooks. This includes command line cookbook generation and handling. One by one description of complete directory structure of a cookbook.  
Installation of chef kitchen. Testing of our nginx cookbook in different environment using docker container. Create, converge, verify and destroy a node with kitchen.
  1. Chef-Kitchen Chefs diagnosis center..
Theory behind the chef kitchen. Complete cycle of kitchen. With in this article elaborated view of .kitchen.yml file, and .kitchen folder provided.
  1. Chef Foodcritic && Chef Rubocop Handle it casually..
Chef lint tools, foodcritic and rubocop requirement. Theory, setup and practice exercises for foodcritic and rubocop.  
  1. Chef-Databags Carry all at once..
Introduction to databags and their need. Division of code and data with databags.  Databags implementation with chef-solo. Setup of mysql password with databags.  
  1. Chef-Roles Club everybody..
Requirement and implementation of chef roles. Clubbing of multiple nodes with chef roles. Complete web stack (webserver, proxy server and database) setup with roles.
  1. Chef-Environment  Organized wisely..
Chef environments for better management of the need of an organization. A complete organizational view with chef to setup different environment. Handle environments with chef-knife.
  1. Chef Server-Client Setup
Complete setup of chef client-server mode. Use of vagrant provisioning only, to spin up chef-server, chef-client and workstation.
  1. Collaboration of Client Server and Workstations
How chef-server, client and workstations work together to automate a complete infrastructure. Chef-server web interface.
  1. Chef Server-Client Work quietly..
Kickoff working with workstation. Chef-client. Install nginx and setup proxies with nginx cookbook on client node.

Chef Journey

I’m starting a blog series on chef where I would be taking you to a journey of managing my current infrastructure using Chef. To start with these are the high level tasks lists that I’ve in mind:

  • User Management : User’s creation or deletion on an environment(Dev/QA/Staging/Production) should be managed by chef, along with kind of access on the environment i.e read-only access, root access, or adding a user to some groups.
  • VPN Setup : Currently we are using openvpnas for managing secured access to our environment, it is manual right now so the vpn set-up will also be done by chef.
  • Apache Setup : We are using apache as web server that sits in front of our app server and also provides SSL.
  • Jar App : We have a SOA based set-up in which we have multiple micro java services, so we would be using chef to manage those jar app i.e deploying those jar app’s, starting/stopping those jar app’s.
  • Tomcat : Another major component type in our application are web apps that are hosted on tomcat server, the tomcat server is not managed as a service instead we create tomcat as an app user along with tomcat management scripts.
  • Mongo : We use replicated mongo as No SQL database in our application.
  • Logstash : For managing logs we are using log stash in a clustered set-up where all the log agents publish the logs to a central server and then served by Kibana, so this complete setup should also be managed by chef
  • ActiveMQ : We are using ActiveMQ for our queuing purpose

This list is not complete surely, I’ll be adding many more tasks in this list as I proceed in setting up my environment using chef as this is the first time I’ll be doing a set-up using Chef, but this list will be a good starting point.

Before jumping into creating the Chef cookbooks, runlists or data bags I’ve to setup the base infrastructure of Chef that is Chef Server to which all chef agents talk to, a chef workstation which would be updating the server with the configurations and a git repo to keep track of all my configuration as shown in the image given below.

In the next blog I’ll talk about how I’ll set-up a chef server. Let me know if you have any inputs for me or suggestion that how I should proceed with the chef set-up.

How to secure your Linux Server

Yesterday was a good and bad day for me, bad day because one of my linux server has been hacked. Good day because it was one of the most important task in my pipeline which I wanted to take up, that is securing my systems. As people say being agile or lazy :), do when it is actually required and yesterday was that day.

I’m a novice in infrastructure management, but I really liked this field that’s why I plunged into this domain and now I’m really loving it because of such challenges. Now let’s cut the crap and straightaway jump to the point, I’ve figured few of the best practices that you should always do while configuring your “SECURE” linux server:

  • Don’t use default ssh port for login into the system, or best you can have a policy where you will change your ssh port every month or 2 month.
  • To go a step forward disable the password based login and just enable key base login.
  • Use some intrusion prevention framework, I’ve figured out fail2ban is a good one.
  • Keep all non public facing machines on private ip.
  • In case of public machines only open those ports which are actually required.
  • User firewall to it’s maximum effect. Iptables can be a good option.
  • Have a strong alert system that can monitor your system and raise an alert in case of any suspicious activity. We use Icinga.
Though this list may not cover all the required things that you can take care of, but it can serve as a very good starting point. Also I would love to hear more suggestions that can be used.

How to Manage Amazon Web Services Instances part 1

If you want to minimize the amount of money you spend on Amazon Web Services (AWS) infrastructure, then this blog post is for you. In this post I will be discussing  the rationale behind starting & stopping AWS instances in an automated fashion and more importantly, doing it in a correct way. Obviously you could do it through the web console of AWS as well, but it will need your daily involvement. In addition, you would have to take care of starting/stopping various services running on those instances.

Before directly jumping on how we achieved instance management in an automated fashion, I like to state the problem that we were facing. Our application testing infrastructure is on AWS and it is a multiple components(20+) application distributed among 8-9 Amazon instances. Usually our testing team starts working from 10 am, and continues till 7 pm. Earlier we used to keep our testing infrastructure up for 24 hours, even though we were using it for only 9 hours on weekdays, and not using it at all on weekends. Thus, we were wasting more then 50% of the money that we spent on the AWS infrastructure. The obvious solution to this problem was: we needed an intelligent system that would make sure that our amazon infrastructure was up only during the time when we needed it.

The detailed list of the requirements, and the corresponding things that we did were:

  1. We should shut down our infrastructure instances when we are not using them.
  2. There should be a functionality to bring up the infrastructure manually: We created a group of Jenkins jobs, which were scheduled to run at a specific time to start our infrastructure. Also a set of people have execution access to these jobs to start the infrastructure manually, if the need arises.
  3. We should bring up our infrastructure instances when we need it.
  4. There should be a functionality to shut down the infrastructure manually: We created a group of Jenkins jobs that were scheduled to run at a specific time to shut down our infrastructure. Also a set of people have execution access on these jobs to shut down the infrastructure manually, if the need arises.
  5. Automated application/services start on instance start: We made sure that all the applications and services were up and running when the instance was started.
  6. Automated graceful application/services shut down before instance shut down: We made sure that all the applications and services were gracefully stopped before the instance was shut down, so that there was be no loss of data.
  7. We also had to make sure that all the applications and services should be started as per defined agreed order.

Once we had the requirements ready, implementing them was simple, as Amazon provides a number of APIs to achieve this. We used AWS CLI, and needed to use just 2 simple commands that AWS CLI provides.
The command to start an instance :
aws ec2 start-instances –instance-ids i-XXXXXXXX
The command to stop an instance :
aws ec2 stop-instances –instance-ids i-XXXXXXXX 

Through above commands you can automate starting and stopping AWS instances, but you might not be doing it the correct way. As you didn’t restrict the AWS CLI allow firing of start-instances and stop-instances commands only, you could use other commands and that could turn out to be a problem area. Another important point to consider is that we should restrict the AWS instances on which above commands could be executed, as these commands could be mistakenly run with the instance id of a production amazon instance id as an argument, creating undesirable circumstances 🙂

In the next blog post I will talk about how to start and stop AWS instances in a correct way.

How to securely access your private app on cloud

One of the suggested practices in cloud administration is to always host your applications on a Virtual Private Cloud. Also, you should have a public subnet hosting the public facing apps, and a private subnet which hosts the private apps (like a database or a back-end service/app). To know more about why you need such kind of a setup, please read more about VPC.

This blog will talk about a scenario where you have multiple Virtual Private Clouds (hereafter referred to as VPC), and you need to access a private app hosted in one VPC from another VPC. An example of this scenario could be that you have a VPC for your staging environment and another VPC for production environment, then you’d like to sync the database from of production environment from the staging environment. In this case, it might not be straight forward to do this, as you might not be able to access the production database from outside the production VPC.

One of the solutions for this problem would be to first take a dump of the production database on one of the public facing machines in the production VPC, and then copy that dump to a public facing machine in the Staging VPC and finally applying this dump to the private database of Staging environment. This approach will work, but it would not be a perfect solution, as you have to copy the db dump between VPC’s.

A much better approach would be if you could directly connect to the production database from the Staging VPC & execute the dump & restore command, for that you need direct access of production database from staging environment. This approach is called port-forwarding. We configure port-forwarding at one of the public facing machines(NAT is the preferred one) in the production VPC in such a manner that if a request comes on this machine at port x it will be forwarded to port y on a private facing machine in the production VPC which is the database production in this case.

In the next blog I will talk about other alternate approaches that can be used to solve this problem.