Sbal Sbal - 4 years ago 157
Ruby Question

Chef libraries or definitions?

Being relatively new to Chef, I am required to create libraries or definitions from existing recipes.

There recipes use bash resource, ruby block resource (which notifies another ruby block resource with delayed timing), template resource again which notifies a ruby block etc.

What would be the best approach to this? Library or definition?

I have read that if I use definition, I won't be able to notify a resource within the definition, does that mean I can notify a resource in a different definition file?

I also read that in libraries you cant use the resources directly. If this is true, how can I use a resource within my library?

Answer Source

So, this is "primarily opinion based", but I'll answer it anyway. There are 4 distinct choices here:

  1. Definition
  2. LWRP
  3. HWRP
  4. "Library"

A definition is just a wrapper around one or more resources with some parameterization. However, definitions are not added to the resource collection. Meaning you can't "notify" or trigger events on a definition. They are solely for wrapping and naming a series of repeatable steps found in a recipe.

An LWRP (Light-weight resource and provider) is a Chef-specific DSL that actually compiles into an HWRP (Heavy-weight resource and provider) at runtime. Both LWRPs and HWRPs are Chef extensions. In addition to wrapping a series of repeatable tasks, *WRPs will create a top-level resource in Chef (like template or package) that's available for use in your recipe and other cookbook's recipes as well.

The difference between and LWRP and HWRP is really the Ruby. HWRPs use full-blown Ruby classes. If you aren't a Ruby developer, they may be a bit intimidating. Nonetheless, you should give it a try before writing and LWRP. LWRPs use a Chef-specific DSL for creating resources. At the end of the day, they compile to (roughly) the same code as the Heavy-weight counterpart. I'll link some references at the end. You have access to Chef resources inside either implementation, as well as the run_context.

Finally, "libraries" (notice the quotes) are often misunderstood and abused. They are Ruby code, evaluated as Ruby, so they can do pretty much anything. HWRPs are actually a form of a library. Sometimes people use libraries as "helpers". They will create a helper module with methods like best_ip_for or aggregate_some_data and then "mix" (Rubyism) that library into their recipes or resources to DRY things up. Other times, libraries can be use to "hack" Chef itself. The partial-search cookbook is a good example of this. Facebook talked about how they limited the number of attributes sent back to the server last year at ChefConf too. Libraries are really an undefined territory because they are the keys to the kingdom.

So, while I haven't actually answered your question (because it's opinion-based), I hope I've given you enough information about the best direction moving forward. Keep in mind that every infrastructure is a special snowflake and there is no right answer; there's only a best answer. I'd suggest sharing this information with your team and weighing the pros and cons of each approach. You can also try the Chef mailing list, on which people will give you many opinions.


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