Product Announcement: Reliable Application Delivery for Edge Environments with Chef Habitat 1.6

Chef Habitat provides automation capabilities for defining, packaging, and delivering applications to almost any environment with any operating system, on any platform. Distributed and low-bandwidth edge sites like retail locations, manufacturing plants, and restaurant chains present unique challenges to DevOps teams trying to automate and optimize delivery practices to these devices. Teams must deal with environmental restrictions, device configuration variations, complex application architectures, inconsistent processes, government regulations and support staff skill gaps. 

As a result many customers are seeing that the traditional approaches and the UI-driven tools they’ve been using are failing to support new demands at the edge. They’ve found that Chef Habitat and Chef Enterprise Automaton Stack (EAS) drastically improve application delivery to these distributed environments. Having a consistent and reliable way to deliver applications and create build environments saves Devs and Ops 1000s of hours and enables better application outcomes.

Chef Habitat 1.6 Key Features for Reliable Application Delivery in Edge Environments

We’re excited to announce the general availability of Habitat 1.6. This release has enhanced functionality for ensuring DevOps teams can successfully and securely deliver applications at enterprise scale in distributed and edge-computing environments. New functionality includes:   

  • Rapid Rollback  
  • Automated Package Clean-Up
  • Layered Container Support

Rapid Rollback 

Not all application updates can be rolled back, but in low bandwidth/edge environments the ability to quickly rollback where applicable is critical. Consider updating POS devices in stores. Over a slow connection, the update may take 8+ hours to download and deploy. If the deployment fails there is not time to push another package. The only recourse is to rollback to the last working version. To do so, the device needs to have the last working version of the application and an agent that can execute the rollback locally. 

Chef Habitat can now trigger a service rollback by “demoting” a package via the Habitat Builder. Since not all application updates can be safely rolled back, when you configure a service, you can specify whether to track the channel for updates (rollback when demotions happen) or use the latest version on disk. 

The release notes for Habitat 1.5.71 provide more information on how to use this feature.  

Automated Package Clean-Up

Edge devices like kiosks, point of sale systems, and manufacturing devices often have limited storage. As you push software updates to these devices, it’s critical that you continually manage the available disk space. 

Chef Habitat now has an option to configure the number of latest versions to keep on disk when a service is started or updated. The Habitat Supervisor will perform an uninstall of the previous versions of the package and all of its dependencies (as long as they are not depended upon by other packages). This is especially valuable when paired with rapid rollback, allowing a user to make an explicit decision on the number of previous versions to keep on disk.

For more details on how to use this feature, see the release notes for Habitat 1.5.86

Layered Container Support

Containers are often the preferred form of delivery for applications across all industries and organizations. In low bandwidth, distributed environments, containers are a great strategy for minimizing the size of the package required to deliver the application. 

This release provides users with the ability to create a layered container to take advantage of container caching functionality. This reduces the time required to upload to the container registry, lowers storage costs, and reduces the time required to download to the target.

For more information on using the layered container support in Chef Habitat go see the release notes for Habitat 1.6.0.

Driving Innovation to the Edge Across the Chef Portfolio

In addition to new edge-related functionality released in Chef Habitat, Chef has amped up support for edge-based scenarios across its entire portfolio. 

Chef Infra 16: Deliver Infrastructure as Code to the Edge 

Chef recently released Chef 16, which boasts more new features than any other prior release. Enhancement key to edge use cases include: 

  • ARM Support: Chef Infra now supports multiple Linux flavors on ARM (aarch64) including Ubuntu, Amazon Linux, RHEL, and SLES 
  • Reduced Footprint: The Chef Infra client is up to 30% smaller on disk with this release, with performance optimizations up to 450% for clients running on Microsoft Windows

Read the Chef Infra 16 release notes here

Chef InSpec: Drive Continuous Compliance to the Edge

Chef provides a holistic solution for enterprises to achieve continuous compliance. Companies can audit their various edge devices for compliance against CIS or DISA standards using Chef InSpec, while viewing the aggregate compliance state of their fleet in Chef Automate.  

Recently Chef announced support for compliance waivers, which can be especially useful when dealing with edge environments that may require specialized local controls. Read more about waiver support in Chef compliance solutions here

To learn more about Chef solutions for edge computing visit https://www.chef.io/solutions/edge-computing/.

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Mike Krasnow

Mike Krasnow is a Product Manager at Chef. For the last 15 years, he’s been shipping products and developing strategy for companies such as F5 Networks and Qumulo. When he’s not working on his roadmap, he’s on a bicycle or wrestling with his kids.