Using wrapper cookbooks in Chef

Not sure if this is considered a Chef best practice or not -- I would like to get some feedback, hopefully via constructive comments on this blog post. But I've started to see this pattern when creating application-specific Chef cookbooks: take a community cookbook, include it in your own, and customize it for your specific application.

A case in point is the haproxy community cookbook. We have an application that needs to talk to a Riak cluster. After doing some research (read 'googling around') and asking people on Twitter (because Tweeps are always right), it looks like the preferred way of putting a load balancer in front of Riak is to run haproxy on each application server that needs to talk to Riak, and have haproxy listen on on some port number, then load balance those requests to the Riak backend. Here is an example of such an haproxy.cfg file.

So what I did was to create a small cookbook called haproxy-riak, add a default.rb recipe file that just calls

include_recipe haproxy

and then customize the haproxy.cfg file via a template file in my new cookbook (I actually didn't do it via the template yet, only via a hardcoded cookbook file, but my colleague and Chef guru Jeff Roberts is working on templatizing it).

I also added

depends haproxy

to metadata.rb.

I think this is pretty much all that's needed in order to create this 'wrapper' cookbook. This cookbook can then be used by any application that needs to talk to Riak. As a matter of fact, we (i.e. Jeff) are thinking that we should have such a cookbook per application (so we would call it app1-haproxy-riak for example) just so we can do things like search for different Riak clusters that we may have for different types of applications, and populate haproxy.cfg with the search results.

In any case, I would be curious to find out if other people are using this 'pattern', or if they found other ways to apply the DRY principle in their Chef cookbooks. Please leave a comment!


lightpriest said…
We also use this pattern sometimes but with a small caveat, recipes included like this are not listed in
While it isn't really a problem, some cookbooks out there are still searching with "recipes:server_recipe" to find companion nodes.

I like this approach very much because this way I can use more logic without modifying "external" cookbooks, and it also means that this configuration is kept versioned.

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