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Last pushed: 6 months ago
Short Description
Docker Chef Server
Full Description

Docker Chef Server

This project provides a single server implementation of Chef Server as a Docker image, and is accessible via Docker Hub:

$ docker pull trueability/chef-server

Available tags are:

  • latest
  • X.Y.z
  • X.Y.z-manage
  • etc.

See Docker Hub for all current tags.


This project is intended for development/testing purposes where the latest Chef Server is required. The version will follow upstream stable where possible, and there will be little attempt to maintain any sort of backward compatibility.

Please do not rely on this image for production!


$ docker run -it \
    --name chef-server \
    -v /path/to/data:/var/opt \
    -p \
    -p \
    --privileged \
    -e EXTERNAL_URL="" \

$ docker exec -it chef-server chef-server-ctl ...

Privileged Access

Running with --privileged is not strictly required, however without it you will see several errors related to Chef Server attempting to set sysctl parameters. These can safely be ignore, though you will need to
ensure that the host system has sufficient kernel.shmmax and kernel.shmall values.

Exposed Ports

Both http/80 and https/443 are exposed. Note that if using the Chef Manage interface, HTTPS is strictly enforced.


The volume /var/opt is strictly required, and is where all Chef Server data is stored for persistence.

Environment Variables

  • EXTERNAL_URL (hostname): Tells Chef Server what the publicly accessible URL is. Default: https://localhost.

Startup Wait Lock

On startup reconfigure is always run, unless the container id hasn't change (determined by /var/opt/.run/container_id). During startup, a lock file is created at /var/opt/.run/startup.lock, and removed once the startup/reconfigure/etc is complete.

For scripting, it is important to ensure that startup and reconfiguration is complete before attempting to access the server. This can be handled easily with the included wait script:

$ docker exec -it [CONTAINER_ID] chef-server-wait-lock

Note that on the first boot, the startup wait lock also does a second wait to ensure that the pivotal user has been created properly before resuming. Ultimately, the first boot will take several minutes to complete because of all the reconfigurations that need to happen.

Working With Chef Server

The server can be accessed via docker exec in order to administer Chef Server, the same as you would anywhere else.

$ docker exec -it [CONTAINER_ID] chef-server-ctl ...

Alternatively, you can drop into a BASH shell:

$ docker exec -it [CONTAINER_ID] /bin/bash

XXXXXXXX $ chef-server-ctl ...

Chef Server Customizations

A sane default chef-server.rb is setup read/only in the image under /etc/opscode/chef-server.rb, but local customizations can be made in the file [DATA]/opscode/etc/chef-server-local.rb.

See the Chef Documentation for all configurations that can be made in chef-server.rb.


  • Chef Server does not like running on alternative ports, and is difficult
    (or impossible?) to run on anything but :80 and :443. In environments
    where consuming these ports is a no-go, you may wish to put Nginx on the
    frontend to handle proxying to alternative backend ports.


server {
  listen 443 ssl;
  server_name localhost;
  ssl_certificate /etc/nginx/ssl/localhost.crt;
  ssl_certificate_key /etc/nginx/ssl/localhost.key;
  client_max_body_size 4G;
  location / {
      proxy_pass http://chef-server/;
      proxy_set_header Host $host;
      proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-Proto https;
  • Chef Server does not like running on an alternative URL path such as

Any suggestions on how to better handle this in chef-server.rb, please help.

Alternative Builds

Separate builds can be performed using Docker Builds Args to enable additional functionality (like chef-manage, etc):

$ docker build --build-args WITH_MANAGE=1 ...


This project is largely based off the initial work of Maciej Pasternacki and his 3ofcoins/chef-server docker image.

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