Learning Chef
A Guide to Configuration Management and Automation
Publisher: O'Reilly Media
Final Release Date: March 2014
Pages: 372

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Solve configuration management issues in enterprises large and small with Chef, the software tool that helps system administrators unravel configuration problems and explore new avenues in automation, deployment, and orchestration. With this practical guide, you’ll quickly learn the basics of Chef before diving into complex use cases.

Not only will this book enable you to solve detailed issues, such as the best way to manage 400 EC2 nodes, but it will also help you understand the changing organizational politics and thought-processes that come with infrastructure automation.

  • Gain a firm understanding of Chef: Who created it and what problems does it solve?
  • Set up your workstation and workflow: Installing Chef can be a headache. There's no prescribed workflow that’s useful for everyone.
  • Write custom recipes: Because every infrastructure is different, you may need to write a custom recipe. Writing good cookbooks is crucial for having a sustainable infrastructure.
  • Tailor Chef to your infrastructure: Eventually, even custom recipes won't be enough. You’ll want to extend the Chef’s core functionality.
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by PowerReviews
oreillyLearning Chef

(based on 1 review)

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(4 of 13 customers found this review helpful)


Not Ready for Pime Time

By kgunders

from Boise, ID

About Me DevOps, Sys Admin

Verified Buyer


  • Easy to understand
  • Helpful examples


  • Not comprehensive enough
  • Too basic
  • Too many errors

Best Uses

  • Novice

Comments about oreilly Learning Chef:

Day job uses Chef to manage several hundred nodes. If they would have asked me, I would have recommended SaltStack, but they didn't so I needed to get up to speed on Chef in a hurry. Online Chef docs leave much to be desired (big $ support contracts anyone??). And pretty much all the other Chef books out there suck or are mediocre at best so this preview release seemed timely and worth taking a chance. Glad I got it 50% off because it has a long ways to go before becoming useful as anything other than base primer targeting novice to junior level sysadmins.

Book is a follow along, tutorial format that mandates use of author's favorite toolsets. I don't like the vendor lockin. There are other options for running virtual machines other than VirtualBox. Probably all of which are in wider use, e.g. VMware, various cloud providers, SmartOS, etc. Yeah, I know Virtual Box is free and favored by winweenies, but us *nix geeks prefer to keep our options open and eschew software from companies run by major jerks, even if it is free (e.g. many Linux distros have replaced MySQL with MariaDB). So it would be nice if this book talked at least a bit about them. Also no mention of things like rvm.io for managing Ruby virtual env. Perhaps I make much ado about nothing but it just put me off and left a bad taste in my mouth right out of the gate.

The book is also too basic. Just because I'm just learning Chef, doesn't mean that I am not interested in advanced features. Indeed, it's the advanced stuff that most warrants/requires explanation. So where's the beef? As it stands now, the Appendices are the most valuable parts, if you can get past the typos. Speaking of which....

Learning Chef is full of typos & grammar errors. Kick the current tech editor to the curb and find someone who knows Chef. And Ruby. Seriously. Other minor, but annoying grammar errors, such as "to" when mean "for" are distracting but tolerable as it would seem one of the authors is perhaps not a native English speaker.

Yes, I do realize that this is a preview release (hence 2 stars instead of 1). Perhaps my criticism is harsh but I'm hoping also constructive. This book has potential if they flesh it out and put some meat on its bones, fix the typos, etc. And I am hoping that they will. In it's current state, however, I could not recommend it.

Well, that's my two cents worth. You get what you pay for. If you're lucky.

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November 2014 (est.)