Chef is Open Sourcing 100% of our product code!


Good morning! Today Chef reaffirms its commitment to Open Source - we are open sourcing all of our Product code (including Automate)! We also reaffirm our commitment to a healthy and sustainable Open Source community. For more information about exactly HOW we will be developing all of our product code in the open, check out the Chef Book of Open Source - we welcome feedback and contributions! All of Chef's Open Source code is and will remain under the Apache 2.0 license. Anyone may use, change, build, and distribute it as long as our trademarks are respected. For the full trademark guide, see What is changing is the license on distributions of that code built by Chef Software. For more information on that, check out As always, if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us!



This is a very cool thing. But I am unaware of the implications. Does that also mean that I could run the whole Chef infrastructure free of charge but also without support? I ask because I want to play around with Chef Automate but I don't have enough spare time to do this within the trial period.




If you use the chef provided packages then only if you run it for "your personal, non-commercial purposes or experimental use" apparently.

If you use it in any other circumstances then you'll need tens of thousands of dollars to hand, or you'll have to install from source, or hope that somebody stands up to provide a debranded rebuild of the code.

At least that's my reading as somebody currently running an 80 node setup for OpenStreetMap and wondering where we go from here.



I hope that doesn't include the chef server without manage gui and that is still free to use?



It covers everything including the Infra Client and basic Infra Server which are the only bits we actually use so precisely the bits that concern me.

If you look you'll see and have grown a new notice with a link to the announcement at the top.



Yeah, I read that. But tbh it is all a bit unclear to me. They write that they produce a new chef automate release for commercial purposes. But what happens to Chef (Infra) Server and Client is not stated explicitly. Tbh I have never ever ever found a company that is willing to switch from a CMS framework that is subpar to Chef if they cannot use it for free at least some time even with a reduced feature set. This was possible with the Chef Server (no Manage). And I hope it is still possible now. I also know enough companies that would don't need any support. But you will always have to buy it. So the questions I have are basically:

  • Is Chef (Infra) Server/Client still free to use? If not then I don't see any chance to ever "sell" Chef to users that know Puppet, Ansible aso are free to use in commercial environments.
  • Is there a pricing/way to use Chef Automate without the support. I know a bunch of companies that never buy any support because they just don't need it.

Can somebody from the Chef staff clarify this please?



I think it's pretty clear from the FAQ that it covers everything but yes I'd love to have definitive answer from staff.

Even the post starting this thread says that the new license applies to all "distributions of that code built by Chef Software" which pretty much covers things.



Let's hope somebody from Chef clarifies this. I made a big whoop about how great Chef is in my company since everybody is unhappy with Puppet and they are realigning their automation strategy. So I did a workshop on Chef and people like it which I can see through the continued questions about Chefs features and people gathering information themselves. Tomorrow is the strategy meeting if they want to switch or not. They won't switch if Chef Server is not free anymore. They like the idea of Chef Automate but are currently not willing to spend 75k/yr on something they don't need at the moment because they first want to gather enough experience with Chef to have an educated opinion what Automate solves for them. Which is fair imho since we are not a company that is impressed by sales people that have big words but by hard in-depth technical facts and experiences.

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Hello @mrmarbury!

I'm a Principal Software Engineer at Chef and happy to answer as many hard in-depth technical facts questions you have. Here is some clarification around yesterday's announcement.

This announcement is in relation to all of Chef’s products, including Chef Infra and all it’s components (Chef Server, Chef Client, etc.). All of the code for these products (soon to include Automate) is open sourced under the Apache 2.0 license. Anyone is free to use the code in any way they see fit as long as our trademarks are respected (for guidlines on this, see and

What is changing is the license on the distributions/builds of these products produced by Chef Software. Staring with the next major version of all of our products (i.e. Chef 15 and InSpec 4), any distributions created by Chef will require acceptance of new license terms. The license acceptance will be on use of the product, not on download (you can accept the license automatically through a command line flag, an environmental variable, or having a specific file located on the disk) - which means it is easily automatable. These new license terms will NOT apply to previous versions of our products (i.e. Chef 14 and InSpec 3) - you may continue using these versions with no changes (though Support for them will end one year after the release of the next major version).

What does this license say?

  • If you are an individual using Chef's distributions for personal use, you can use them for free
  • If you are non-profit (within limitations - terms on this are coming shortly) you can use our distributions for free
  • If you are an organization that has made a significant contribution to our Open Source products, you are eligible to apply for a license to use our distributions for free or at a discounted rate. The process and more details on this will be released soon.
  • If you are an organization that does not fall into any of these categories, you are required to have a commercial relationship with Chef in order to use our distributions.

What if you don't want to pay? You have three options:

  1. You can freeze on the previous version of the product (which will be supported for one year after the release of the next major version)
  2. You can fork the code, remove trademarks, and build your own distribution (guidelines for this are here
  3. You can use a build from a community fork (which may or may not exist and may or may not be maintained)

So why would you consider paying for a Chef distribution when you can create your own? The main value you get is:

  • Tested, hardened, and enterprise grade distributions
  • The best way to continue to receive software, content and other updates
  • Assurances and support including warranties and idemnification.

You can see the full terms of the license here

Again, Chef's product code is free for use for any purpose (within the bounds of Apache 2.0 and our trademark policy). Chef’s product distributions are free to use for experimental, personal and non-commercial use which aligns to some of the use cases described in the post (learning, etc.). When you want to use Chef product distributions for commercial purposes, you do need to have a commercial relationship with Chef.

I hope this helps and please feel free to post more questions!



As an FYI - I'm on PTO the next two days, but trust other Chef staff to answer whatever questions you have (or, if they don't have the answer, to escalate the question to the appropriate person). See you all on Mon!



Thanks @Nell_Shamrell for clarifying this. So, all the bad nightmares have come true then if not even the basic Chef Server (without Manage) and the Client is free to use anymore without spending weeks to modify the code. Do you guys have a price list for Chef Server/Client only installations without support - The parts that were free to use before?



Pricing is at and the starting point appears to be $16500 per year.

The real killer is when you spin up your 101st server though and find that has gone up by nearly five times overnight to $75000 per year...



Yeah, that is Chef Automate. But I only need the basic Chef Server/Client without all the bells and whistles of a delivery pipeline or even support. And there is no official price tag for that. I will write to chef sales to maybe get a number here.



Hi @mrmarbury,

We have simple per-node pricing for Chef Infra stand-alone which is inclusive of Chef Server/Client. That being said just know we want to work with all our customers through this transition. Your best bet is to talk with one of our awesome sales representatives who can understand your use-case and work with you to find a path forward that makes sense for you and your company. If you'd be willing to email me at I'd be happy to have someone setup a meeting.


CMO, Chef Software



So there's a cheaper option that isn't on the published price list? That's... novel...

My normal assumption when people won't publish a price and insist I contact a salesperson is that the price will be way beyond anything I'm able or prepared to pay, especially when there are some published prices as I will assume anything unpublished is higher.

I'm guessing the game here is to avoid cannibalising profits from the more expensive solutions by not making it too obvious that the cheaper options exist but really, please, just be honest and upfront. Many if not most of your customers are engineers and won't appreciate those kinds of games.




I'm sorry if you think the approach is novel. We published pricing on our preferred purchasing model which is via our suites. We fundamentally believe that our products are best when used together. For instance, there is a new emerging pattern for Chef Infra deployments that leverages capabilities of Chef InSpec and Chef Habitat to mainta deplyment, updates, etc. This pattern resolves many issues customers have told us they have around long term maintenance. The Effortless Infrastructure suite is designed for that pattern - it includes the Chef Infra and Chef InSpec licenses, plus carries a specific license to use Chef Habitat for the purpose of managing Chef Infra and Chef InSpec (we'll have more on this at ChefConf). We also throw in Chef Automate for analytics and dashboarding. It's a very fair price.

But with all things, the more you buy the better price you can get. The per node pricing of 500 nodes is very different than 5000 nodes or 50,000 nodes but. But most use cases are different and require a conversation with a rep to determine the best approach.

I appreciate the skepticism from everyone but I think it's misguided. We have the right intentions. There are no games. Hopefully this is helpful. But get on the phone with us, talk it through, and I bet you will be surprised at what's possible at volume. And if not, 100 nodes of Chef Infra, Chef InSpec, Chef Automate @ $16,500 is a fair price. But as I said, if the preference is just to have Chef Infra (regardless of whether that aligns to best practice for usage and deployment of our software) we can work it out.

Hope this helps.




Apologies if I went off a bit before... It just tends to rub me up the wrong way a bit when people tell me I need to talk to a salesperson and I was already somewhat paniced by the published prices which would amount to a substantial line item in our budget.

I'm sure you're right that using the whole suite would be good but as a volunteer organisation we've never had the engineering resource to retool everything every year or two when you announce the latest and greatest "correct way" to do things and the basic Chef Infra tooling we've been using for nearly ten years has proved it's worth even without any of the other bits. I will freely admit that the way was use Chef is somewhere idiosyncratic compared the way it is intended to be used these days.

We've got a while until we need to panic anyway so we can wait and see what non-profit options you feel able to make available and what community solutions emerge and then talk to you about a commercial solution then if necessary.