I have this setup to standup a baremetal machine:

Terraform-> Matchbox
         \-> Chef-> Docker

My colleague has a setup to standup VMs in AWS:

Terraform-> Packer-> Chef-> Docker

Is Packer to AWS as Matchbox is to Baremetal, in terms of image provisioning? I know there not 1:1 in features since packer can provision chef and stuff (it seems, and so can terraform) but for the general purpose of standing up a machine can this be considered.

If not what is the difference between the two. I am having trouble understanding exactly what packer is for (compared to matchbox), if it doesn't fit that relation.

  • 1
    Do you have a link to info on Matchbox? Commented Jan 18, 2018 at 23:50

1 Answer 1


You may use matchbox on a VM as you do on a baremetal machine, you won't be able to use packer on a baremetal machine ont he other hand as it doesn't handle any PXE boot option.

That said, leveraging vSphere/AWS/ API/cli to create a new machine from a template is usually quicker and more effective than using the API/cli to create the VM and then make it boot in PXE.

Packer will create machines, matchbox won't, it will allow you to match a profile with a machine but it won't rack your machine nor plug the networks and power cables, it won't do the machine creation neither for a VM, that not its goal.

So the main difference is the "before provisioning (chef)" step, as the machine creation, Packer will handle the machine creation whereas matchbox won't, matchbox will handle booting a blank machine and push the OS where packer usually won't.

  • This is exactly what I wanted thanks for the concise answer!
    – scott
    Commented Jan 22, 2018 at 19:45

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