30 May 2017

The Place: Austin, TX

ChefConf is the premier DevOps gathering, luring thousands of practitioners from around the world to talk about Chef things. What Chef things you ask? Knives but not cutlery. Stove, but software testing, not Viking. You see, we like our cooking metaphors in the Chef community. Yeah, it’s a bit confusing. No, we’re not actual chefs as in cooking food… That was several conversations with other folks in Austin who had no idea what was this ChefConf thing. Being able to bring it to a level where someone could understand that IT automation is like preparing a meal elicited the light bulbs.

When people look at Chef out of context, we think this:

And not this:

When you say OpenStack, it’s an immediate “I know/don’t know what you’re talking about”. When you say you work with Chef, the non-technical person in the elevator with you thinks a meal, which is a good visual representation, and acts as an icebreaker, but a bit off the mark. You start with the awkward, “well, no, we’re not talking about knife sharpeners, but we’re talking about how to automate business processes using techniques that can be thought of like preparing a four-course meal”, and then the CFL flickers on.

Not this:

Monday, while technically the start of ChefConf, consisted mostly of workshops. I spent the day connecting with people in the community and getting a better understanding of how people Chef responsibly.

Day Two

Day one, er, two! My trusty quad espresso acquired and on with the day. The theme of the keynotes were about digital transformation, and, of course, how Chef has had a hand in that. Reflecting on my last ChefConf, the theme there was very much DevOps-as-a-lifestyle and what defined that, but a lot can happen in a couple of years. Oh, hey, there’s Kubernetes, too. That guy sure gets around a lot. Onward! Having special interest in Habitat, I focused on that track. In there, I learned about the advancements made since I started out with Habitat at launch, and how the Supervisor choreographs services. With only a limited amount of time, one has to carefully pick and choose what is worth sitting (most of the time standing) and listening to, especially since the videos won’t be up for a month or so.

Day Three

Day three, er, two? The highlight was definitely @kelseyhightower on stage demonstrating what he had just learned with Habitat the night before after garnering enough retweets to pivot his talk to Kubernetes. Hey, there’s that guy again. The excitement was that nobody knew if it would work, but it did! We also learned that a most unlikely company has joined the open source movement: Microsoft. Over 15,000 developers contribute to projects on GitHub. Maybe this open source thing has some legs after all.

In the sessions, I learned that, yes, some people still use OpenStack and Chef together. Some people even use it in production. Testing for these use cases is a Hard Problem, and every few milliseconds one can shave off a test suite, image build, or provisioning is dollars saved. Also, why aren’t you using Vault yet? Not chef-vault, but Hashicorp Vault. It spews unicorns and rainbows, and keeps secrets secret.

The day ended with the Awesome Chef Awards, in which a few lucky community members got to be embarrassed in front of a large crowd by being shown how they are awesome. And you’re awesome. We’re all awesome. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.

Closing Thoughts

In summary, several things can be taken away from such an event. DevOps is here to stay, and it’s not just a checkbox or a job title. You probably practice DevOps in some way without knowing it. In particular, the things that stuck out to me were:

  • Secret management is hard. Use Vault and quit shopping around.
  • Why aren’t you using Kubernetes yet?
  • Habitat will automate your application if you open your mind to its simplicity. Quaid… open… your… mind…
  • People still use Chef to automate OpenStack. wat.
  • Open source is the way forward. Crown jewels can be omitted and kept in local repos.

That’s it for ChefConf 2017. On my way back to the Bay Area, I made sure to grab some cue on the way back through the airport.

Obligatory meat porn.