While Docker is not meant to be a “faster VirtualBox” I think it can be useful for improving the speed of test Chef cookbooks. It is a good compliment to unit testing with Chefspec. Perhaps a work-flow I’ll use is

  1. Develop cookbook changes
  2. Rubocop and Foodcritic checks
  3. Chefspec tests
  4. Docker and Test Kitchen tests
  5. Deploy to actual machines

I will record some of my experiences here; both for my own reminders and also to help others in their Googling. Where config snippets are shown they are just that, snippets. The full config is at the end of this post.


I am running OS X so used the ever useful boot2docker method of launching containers. Boot2docker is also applicable for Windows.

If you are on Linux, with a recent enough Kernel, then you can just launch containers directly on your host machine

Use Caching

While this is worthy of a whole blog post unto itself I recommend installing a simple HTTP caching proxy on work workstation such as Polipo and configuration test kitchen to use it. While modifying your Docker images is probably the best long term fix for quick bootstrapping, having cached copies of commonly fetched files can greatly speed things up.

You can tell test kitchen to use your proxy by adding the following to your “driver_config” section (replacing the IPs with your own)


NOTE: This does not yet seem to work for Chef “remote_file” resources. More testing required.

Use an init system

While I would normally recommend, with Docker, to just run your app in the container unadorned by an init system (such as Runit or Upstart), for testing a Cookbook it makes sense to use an init system. I suspect that normally you’d manage docker container lifecycle operations with Chef externally to the container itself but in this case Docker is not the item under management; it is merely a means to an end.

Thus, to activate an init system, to ensure things start somewhat normally and your service resources work as expected, set the “run_command” in the “driver_config” section to /sbin/init. For example:

    run_command: /sbin/init

Set up an SSH Key

For this you can probably modify the Docker image but I decided to use a provisioning command just to make this always happen regardless of image type. What I did was serve up a script (only accessible from my workstation) with my public SSH key contained within to be placed in ~kitchen/.ssh/authorized_keys.

if [[ ! -d "$dot_ssh" ]]; then
    mkdir "$dot_ssh"
echo "$key" >> "$dot_ssh/authorized_keys"
chown -R kitchen:kitchen "$dot_ssh"
chmod 700 "$dot_ssh"
chmod 600 "$dot_ssh/authorized_keys"

Then modify your Kitchen configuration to reference this by using the “provision_command” statement within the “driver_config” section. For Example

    provision_command: curl -sSL | bash -s

This allows “kitchen login” to work without a password.

Example Configuration

driver_plugin: docker
  socket: tcp://
  provision_command: curl -sSL | bash -s
  run_command: /sbin/init

  chef_omnibus_url: http://www.getchef.com/chef/install.sh
  name: chef_zero

    - name: centos-6.4

  - name: default
      - recipe[ntp]

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