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VMware Cozies Up To Chef

VMware integrates the open source configuration engine Chef, a favorite of DevOps teams, into its vCloud Air cloud service. Here's what it means for hybrid cloud operations.
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VMware has integrated the open source configuration engine Chef, frequently used by DevOps teams, into its vCloud Air cloud service and will use it to make vCloud more amenable to hybrid cloud operations.

"The value of Chef's integration is that it will support both vSphere in the data center and hybrid cloud," Jay Marshall, VMware principal cloud development strategist, told InformationWeek in an interview. Chef became available as part of vSphere and vCloud Air Monday.

Chef will prove one of the "fundamental building blocks" of combined data center and VMware public cloud operations, added Ajay Patel, VP of application services for VMware's Cloud Services unit. "Chef will provide complete workload transparency across both environments," he said in an interview.

Chef uses kitchen metaphors to describe what it does. It captures "recipes" of complex systems, stores them with correct workflows in a "cookbook," and makes available a piece of open source code known as a "knife" when it wants to insert its configuration workflow into a new platform. VMware and the team behind Chef have worked together to generate a knife that connects Chef to vCloud Air, allowing workloads to be generated there in the same manner as they are in the virtualized data center.

[Want to learn more about how Chef has adopted Docker containers? See Chef Finds Docker A Close Fit.]

VCloud Air consists of VMware's public cloud data centers in Santa Clara, Calif., Sterling, Va., Las Vegas, Dallas, and Slough, UK. It also offers facilities through China Telecom on mainland China and through Softbank in Japan. VCloud Air offers cloud services through VMware's vCloud Suite, a set of software that includes vSphere, vCenter Operations Management, and vCloud Automation Center.

In addition to configuration management and workload visibility, Chef's availability means both developers and IT operations managers can order the configuration of a multi-tier application that includes database and Web services, then decide how it should be deployed. Parts of it dealing with transaction and personal data should be kept on premises, while informational and public-facing Web services should be assigned to vCloud. In many cases, Chef can help with such a deployment, said Patel.

Alternatively, with Chef a system administrator could take a complete code stack running in the data center and test drive it on a virtual machine in the cloud to make sure it and its dependencies can operate there, then cut over operations to the cloud.

Patel said the Chef integration, which will bring VMware environments closer to a DevOps Cloud's ability to incorporate Chef configuration, is a draw for developers, who take responsibility for their code after it's put into production.

"A lot of our customers are moving to continuous integration," where production code is updated frequently, with quick testing occurring in a staging virtual machine before the change is implemented in production. "You will see additional solutions coming from us in the next few weeks related to DevOps," said Patel.

At VMworld at the end of August, CEO Pat Gelsinger made a quick reference to "continuous integration as a service," without explanation of what VMware might have to offer or when it would be available. The integration of Chef into the vCloud Air provisioning and operations process brings "continuous integration" a step closer.

In addition, developers are taking a greater interest in Linux containers as a simpler way to create applications composed of microservices, each in its own container. The incorporation of Chef into vSphere and vCloud gives developers in the virtualized data center more direct access to container use. Chef has integrated support for Docker containers in its configuration management. Microservices managed in portable containers also bring DevOps a step closer to reality.

For VMware to become a focus of the DevOps community, developers need to feel comfortable with the tools and deployment methods available to them in virtualized environments. So far, the specifics of virtualization have remained beyond the reach of most development teams. VMware appears to be preparing to try to close that distance in the near future.

Integrating your private cloud with public clouds can provide agility, security, and control. But getting the minutiae right is daunting. Get the new Hybrid Cloud: Details Matter issue of Network Computing Tech Digest today. (Free registration required.)

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