Chef Habitat Builder Debuts for Container Cloud-Native App Deployments

The new SaaS offering aims to make it easier for developers to build, package and deploy container applications to any cloud-native application architecture.

Chef Habitat Builder

DevOps vendor Chef announced the launch of its Habitat Builder software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering on Oct. 9, providing new automation capabilities for developers who work with containerized cloud-native applications.

Habitat Builder is an extension of Chef's open-source Habitat automation technology that debuted in June 2016. With the original Habitat project, Chef provided developers with tools to help automate package code for different platforms. The new Habitat Builder effort goes a step further, providing a SaaS platform for developers to both build and deploy container applications for different cloud and container orchestration platforms.

Docker has its own approach for building container applications with Docker Compose, though what Chef is providing with Habitat Builder helps to support the broader challenge of cloud-native application operations, according to Marc Holmes, vice president of marketing at Chef.

"You can use Docker to package applications; however, this doesn't solve the challenge for mixed environments and architectures, which is the reality for every enterprise and team," Holmes said. "Habitat enables packaging for Docker, but also for any other format."

With Habitat Builder, developers can build packages that can be exported to run on Docker, rkt, Mesos, Kubernetes and Cloud Foundry. Habitat Builder can also be directly connected to the Docker Hub container application repository to directly publish applications. In addition, Holmes said the actual container application build artifact is separate from the desired deployment artifact, meaning that a developer can shift from one output format to another without adjusting the build.  

"When Habitat builds a container, it starts by calculating the dependency graph of the application and then includes the minimum set of artifacts required in the container image," he said. "If you find that Docker is not right for you, or containers won't work well with your application, you just need to change your desired export format from Habitat."

Security considerations are a core part of the Habitat Builder processes at multiple levels. Holmes explained that the container application build dependencies are explicitly defined in the build plan. As a result of the explicit dependency definitions, Holmes said Habitat Builder can provide automatic rebuilds for downstream packages based on upstream changes. For example, if an application has a dependency on OpenSSL and it is patched, the application will rebuild.

Part of the Habitat Builder platform is a component called the Habitat supervisor, which allows developers to query all running application instances to determine what versions of a library are being used.

"This allows you to build operational controls to determine if a vulnerable package is being used by an application," Holmes said.

The Habitat supervisor component also provides automatic configuration for applications including clustering to help support container operations. The Habitat supervisor includes a Rest API for checking application health and providing visibility, he said.

The market for DevOps container operations platforms is an increasingly competitive one, with multiple options from different vendors. Holmes said Habitat Builder differentiates from others in the market with its focus on providing a consistent, simple packaging of any app for any environment. He added that Habitat Builder is designed to be integrated with existing continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) tools like Jenkins and makes use of toolchains such as Docker. 

Currently, Habitat Builder is a SaaS offering, though Chef has plans to provide other options in the future, including an on-premises or private cloud version of the service.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.