Merging chef-sugar platform and platform_family helpers, along with higher level helpers.


As a Cookbook Author,
I want the Chef Sugar helpers added to Core,
So that everyone can use them.

As a Chef Developer,
The platform_family abstraction is limiting,
A set of helper functions provides better abstractions.

As a Cookbook Author,
Helper methods produce cleaner case statement,
Which produces more readable and maintainable code.

As a Chef Developer,
Helper methods can provide cleaner abstractions,
Which should produce less need to break APIs.


There's considerable argument over what a platform_family should be, as evidenced by the discussion over the amazon platform_family issue. At the root of the problem seems to be that every distro must belong to precisely one platform_family while the classification of different distros forms more of an inheritance hierarchy. The argument seems to be over at which level of the hierarchy the platform_family should apply.

Helper methods solve this problem by allowing a given distro to respond as true to different helper methods.

The chef-sugar helper methods have also found widespread adoption in the community and its time to pull them into core.


This RFC covers only the platform and platform_family helpers in chef-sugar along with some other badly needed helpers. The platform_version style of helpers (debian_before_squeeze) are out of scope. The limiting of scope has no implications as to if we eventually want more of chef-sugar into core or not (we certainly do want more of it in core), and is solely to limit the scope of this work and the discussion. There do exist pieces of chef-sugar (like the method_missing style of attribute syntax) that we explicitly do not want, and each piece of chef-sugar needs to be assessed on its own merits.


We will pull in most of the Architecture, Platform and Platform Family helpers from chef-sugar unmodified, along with the systemd?, docker? and kitchen? helpers. Since they have been in widespread use, it is important to not modify their meaning.

Architecture Helpers

Platform Helpers

The complete list of platform helpers is long, examples:

Note that this list deviates from the platform definitions in core chef, to eliminate ambiguity we will also add helpers which precisely match the field in core chef:

Additional helpers will also be added to fill out the complete list of platforms, which will match the fields used by core chef (matching the code in ohai).

Where there is a collision between platform and platform_family being named the same thing, and the platform_family contains multiple distros, the platform version will be renamed:

This is driven mostly by the widespread adoption of the debian? helper to mean "debian platform family".

For distros like "freebsd" where the platform, platform_family and os all match and there are no other derived classes we shall use freebsd? to refer to the platform.

Platform Family Helpers

Similarly we include the existing chef-sugar helpers:

Where the chef-sugar helper is different from the name of the platform_family the name from ohai will also be added and the full list from ohai data will be filled out.

Additional Helpers From Chef-Sugar

These three helper will also be included:

The docker? helper has already been merged as of Chef 12.11.18

Higher Level Helpers

In addition to the chef-sugar helpers, higher level helpers will be added:

Generally these helpers are designed to fit actual needs, not theoretical needs. As an example, there exist families of gentoo-based and arch-based systems but ohai does not support any of those other than the parent distro, so we do not define those helpers.

While mac_os_x historically derives from BSD systems, including it in the bsd_based? helper has no utility to anyone, so it is not included. In general, these APIs are not derived from solely historical arguments (and explicitly do not match their wikipedia definitions).

The fedora_derived? helper might be more usefully defined as RPM-based-distros-that-aren't-SuSE which is a useful category for systems management, but not application management. For the actual historical overarching set of distros there is rpm_based? and for the more specific family of systems which are compatible with only RedHat-as-a-company there exists redhat_based?. SuSE itself is significantly different (redhat has never used YaST or zypper and never will).

The redhat_based? helper is defined around the distro standards of the RedHat company itself. Recompiled RHEL platforms (OEL, Scientific) are included along with straight forwards derivatives of fedora like pidora. Amazon is not included due to deviations amazon has made in application support (different php, perl, etc versions and packaging, etc).

The rpm_based? distro does not include AIX because while RPM has been ported to AIX, that O/S is not based around rpm, and again that is a substantially less useful construct. Use rpm_based? with aix? to solve that case.

Removal from chef-sugar

Once Chef 12.x has dropped off of the chef-sugar support matrix and all supported versions of chef-client have these helper methods in them, then the code for these helpers will be removed from chef-sugar. This should be a transparent change to users.


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