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AWS bets on Chef automation tool with OpsWorks update

Amazon refreshed its Chef-based AWS OpsWorks offering and also has made a minority investment in Chef Software as part of the commercial deal, according to execs.

LAS VEGAS -- Infrastructure as code purveyor Chef received a vote of confidence from Amazon as the public cloud...

giant rolled out a new version of its AWS OpsWorks based on Chef Automate, and apparently has invested in the company itself.

AWS and Chef Software have a longstanding relationship, as Chef's automation tool underpins Amazon's OpsWorks IT management offering. The partnership deepened this week with a new fully managed service based on Chef's newest automation tool, Automate, which automates everything from infrastructure to application delivery to compliance.

Additionally, this new deal includes AWS investing an undisclosed amount in Chef. "This is a joint offering that is positive for both companies. It also includes an ownership stake that AWS is taking in Chef," Barry Crist, CEO of Chef, told SearchAWS.com. Ken Cheney, chief marketing officer, added that AWS is "a very good investor to help us navigate." A Chef spokesperson described the deal as an "option" to take a minority investment with no option to take a controlling interest, on similar terms to the investment Hewlett-Packard Enterprise made in Chef last year. AWS spokespersons did not respond to requests for comment.*

"It's a show of good faith," said Greg Arnette, CTO of Sonian, Inc., an email archiving and analytics cloud service provider located in Waltham, Mass. "Chef on AWS is used by many teams, and this allows Chef to continue to innovate as an independent company while also showing other third-parties that AWS can be a good partner."

Boon for some, while others eye serverless

AWS OpsWorks for Chef Automate is a fully managed service based on Chef's newest automation tool, which can automate everything from infrastructure to application delivery to compliance. Users get initial deployment and configuration of the Chef Automate software, automatic backups, a built-in restore mechanism, and automatic software updates.

Attendees here this week at AWS re:Invent expressed interest in the new version of OpsWorks, as it is simpler than the previous version and relieves them of the need to manage Chef Server themselves.

"We want to start putting our server configurations into Chef but we don't want to run a dedicated Chef server and we don't want to pay Chef to manage it," said Daniel Klein, technical lead at TicketBiscuit, an online event ticketing company in Birmingham, Ala. "This will bring us back to OpsWorks."

The existing OpsWorks service is available as AWS OpsWorks Stacks, which was built on a forked version of open-source Chef and operates in a serverless mode, according to a blog post from Chef product marketing director George Miranda.

"Historically, OpsWorks users haven't been able to use the full ecosystem of Chef tools (e.g. test-kitchen, community cookbooks, etc). Recently AWS OpsWorks made many improvements to ease the gap, but significant barriers remain."

Other AWS users said the Chef automation tool is for the old guard in the enterprise and were much more interested in AWS's server-less offerings.

"I'm guessing that AWS is using [OpsWorks] to try to get more enterprise clients to migrate to AWS with minimal impact on staffing and development style," said Chris Moyer, vice president of technology with ACI Information Group, a web content aggregator based in New York, and a TechTarget contributor.

"OpsWorks isn't something I've ever looked at, and I passed Chef by pretty quickly in favor of Ansible, and now we're not doing any of that because we're running most things on Lambda," he said.

AWS' OpsWorks update comes amid a flurry of new releases from AWS this week designed to appeal to DevOps shops. AWS also unveiled CodeBuild, a service which automates code compilation and unit testing for applications, and X-Ray, which allows distributed apps to be debugged in production.

"The enhanced unit testing capabilities will be welcomed to accelerate feedback of code written at the unit level and the integrated combination of tools will encourage use of smaller releases of code that can be automatically deployed," said Robert Stroud, an analyst with Forrester.

Chef Automate and OpsWorks also give AWS a foothold in on-premises data centers, Stroud said.

"If you think about Chef's ability to operate across multiple platforms, it does help Amazon in a hybrid play," he added.

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for TechTarget's Data Center and Virtualization Media Group. Write to her at bpariseau@techtarget.com or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

Michelle Boisvert is an Executive Editor in the Data Center and Virtualization media group of TechTarget.

 Information changed after publication

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