Constructing an Ordered Dependency Graph for Chef Cookbooks, using Berkshelf

As I've mentioned recently, I'm working on rebuilding our Chef pipelines at work.

As we're running a Chef Server, we need some way to sync from our public Supermarket to our Chef Server, so we can take advantage of the wonderful work that the community has done with their Free and Open Source cookbooks.

However, one thing that makes this difficult is when cookbooks have dependencies, as an upload of a cookbook to Server that doesn't have its dependency present will fail:

$ knife cookbook upload chef_server -d
Uploading chef_server    [...]
ERROR: Cookbook chef_server depends on cookbooks which are not currently
ERROR: being uploaded and cannot be found on the server.
ERROR: The missing cookbook(s) are: 'chef-ingredient' version '>= 0.0.0', 'ssh_keygen' version '>= 0.0.0'

This means we need to get the dependencies uploaded, in the right order, so our dependencies are always present.

To make this easier, I've been looking at how to script the retrieval of dependencies for a given cookbook to return an ordered list of dependencies.

Note that, at this time, this will show whatever the latest version of a cookbook that satisfies the dependency. However, I'll be looking in a future blog post at how to marry up the dependencies requested, and what's currently on the Chef Server to make sure we don't add any unnecessary cookbook version bumps.

(As an aside, this may not be required, as noted by a Chef Friend in the Community Slack, as we can use berks upload instead - however, this is still an interesting problem, and I'd written the solution by the point I heard this!)

For the below code, I've used Ferry Boender's Dependency Resolving Algorithm to remind me how graph traversal works, because if I'm honest, I couldn't remember much from my degree's Algorithms and Data Structures module 😅.

Fortunately, we can take advantage of Berkshelf's initial dependency resolution, but then need to do a bit more work to create this as an ordered graph, so we know what needs to be retrieved first.

require 'berkshelf'

class Node
  attr_accessor :name, :version, :edges

  def initialize(name, version)
    @name = name
    @version = version
    @edges = []

  def ==(other)
    name == &&
      version == other.version

  def to_s
    "#{@name} #{@version}"

def to_graph(dependencies, versions, cookbook)
  node =, versions[cookbook])

  node.edges = dependencies[cookbook].map do |v|
    to_graph(dependencies, versions, v)


def resolve(node, resolved)
  node.edges.each do |edge|
    resolve(edge, resolved) unless resolved.include? edge
  resolved << node

cookbook_name = ARGV[0]
version = ARGV[1]

File.delete('Berksfile.lock') if File.exist?('Berksfile.lock')'Berksfile', 'w') do |f|
  cookbook_string = "cookbook '#{cookbook_name}'"
  cookbook_string += ", '#{version}'" unless version.nil?
  contents = <<-BERKSFILE
  source ''



berksfile = Berkshelf::Berksfile.from_options
berksfile.install # trigger the download of dependencies

versions = {}
dependencies = {}

berksfile.lockfile.graph.each do |g|
  versions[] = g.version
  dependencies[] =

graph = to_graph(dependencies, versions, cookbook_name)

resolved = []
resolve(graph, resolved)
jj resolved

For example, we can run this script to resolve the consul cookbook's dependencies like so:

chef exec ruby resolve.rb consul       # for latest version
chef exec ruby resolve.rb consul 4.5.0 # or for a specific version

This results in a JSON array with the versions which provides the list of cookbooks, in order of how they need to be installed so the final entry, in this case consul, can be correctly uploaded to Chef Server:

Resolving cookbook dependencies...
Using ark (5.1.0)
Using build-essential (8.2.1)
Using consul (4.5.0)
Using golang (4.1.1)
Using mingw (2.1.1)
Using nssm (4.0.1)
Using poise (2.8.2)
Using poise-archive (1.5.0)
Using poise-service (1.5.2)
Using seven_zip (3.2.0)
Using windows (7.0.2)

Which we can compare to the output of berks viz which shows the same dependency graph:

A directed graph which visualises a similar dependency graph, but showing each cookbook's other dependencies, with annotations showing the dependency constraints

Written by Jamie Tanna's profile image Jamie Tanna on , and last updated on .

Content for this article is shared under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International, and code is shared under the Apache License 2.0.

#blogumentation #chef #berkshelf #ruby.

This post was filed under articles.

Related Posts

Other posts you may be interested in:

Interactions with this post

Interactions with this post

Below you can find the interactions that this page has had using WebMention.

Have you written a response to this post? Let me know the URL:

Do you not have a website set up with WebMention capabilities? You can use Comment Parade.