Generally attributes should be used to customize environments in chef, however for sensitive information encrypted data bags are a great tool. The built in support for encrypted data bags in chef solo is not super well documented so I figured I’d document my findings for myself and others.


First you will need to install the necessary knife plugins that will make things easier.

sudo /opt/chef/embedded/bin/gem install knife-solo
sudo /opt/chef/embedded/bin/gem install knife-solo_data_bag

Then you will need to generate a key that will be used for encryption. Make sure to keep this secret.

openssl rand -base64 512 | tr -d '\r\n' > /tmp/encrypted_data_bag_secret

Make sure you have the EDITOR environment value set to the editor of your choice. Set this in your .bash_profile or just set it for your current shell.

export EDITOR=vim

Creating and Editing Databags

Now that everything is installed you will need to tell chef where to find it by adding this info into your solo.rb file.

file_cache_path '/opt/chef-solo/cache'
cookbook_path [ '/opt/chef-solo/website/chef/cookbooks']
role_path root '/opt/chef-solo/website/chef/roles'
data_bag_path '/opt/chef-solo/website/chef/data_bags'
encrypted_data_bag_secret '/tmp/encrypted_data_bag_secret'
log_level :info

Now you can use this file to create and edit your encrypted data bags. For example to create a users data bag in the site folder use the below command. When run an editor window will launch where you can edit your json, which will be saved as an encrypted data bag on close.

knife solo data bag create site users -c /opt/chef-solo/solo.rb

Once created to edit data bags issue the edit command:

knife solo data bag edit site users -c /opt/chef-solo/solo.rb

Now you should be able to easily create and edit encrypted data bags easily.

Using Encrypted Data Bags in Chef

To use the data in the data bag from chef you can use the standard encrypted data bag apis. In the example below the user_db variable will be the decrypted json data from the data which can be looped over as standard json.

user_db = Chef::EncryptedDataBagItem.load("site", "users")
users = user_db["users"]

users.each do |u|
 username = u['username']
 Chef::Log.info("Setting up user '#{username}'")

I hope this helps.

Also thanks to the below sites which helped me track this information down: