QA: Puppet CEO sees devops going mainstream

Sanjay Mirchandani also talks about product directions, containers, microservices

Puppet has become synonymous with devops, and Sanjay Mirchandani, CEO of Puppet since late September, says the Puppet Enterprise platform for automating software delivery is now being used in more than 70 percent of the Fortune 100. InfoWorld Editor at Large Paul Krill recently spoke with Mirchandani about where the company is headed and devops' progress these days.

InfoWorld: Does the company still find a need to define devops and its importance to prospective clients?

Mirchandani: We publish the Devops Report which is, I think, pretty much the authoritative guide on the state of devops. Clients in different industries are in different stages of their adoption and understanding of devops, so it's a continuous cycle. Every Devops Report gets downloaded more, and there's a lot more interest in what we're sharing with our customers, following it up with salary reports, things that allow them to embrace the extent of the movement that is devops. It's a work in progress but in the last 12 months, we've come a long way where customers have really embraced what it means.

InfoWorld: When a prospective client asks, "what is devops?" what exactly do you tell them?

Mirchandani: For us it's a combination of culture, process, and technology that really enables our customers to do really short loops in delivery of value around their business. It doesn't matter what industry you're with. When you embrace devops, you go straight from concept to product in very short cycles. It's the bringing together of all the pieces that make that happen, but mostly, it's around the process and the mindset that you have to evolve inside of traditional IT and businesses.

InfoWorld: Is there still any cynicism you're encountering about the need for devops?

Mirchandani: No. People come at it in different garb. Some say digital transformation. Some talk about just overall transformation of the business. It doesn't matter how they think about it. It's about how soon can we move whole hog into devops because the one thing I learned as CIO is it's hard to live in two worlds for too long. If you're embracing devops, it's got to be across the board, and I think that's where customers really come and ask us, "How do I make this mainstream?"

There's a bank I was talking to in the U.K. a few weeks ago and it was all about, "We don't want to do it for a project or five. We want to do this pervasively across this organization." This was a large institution. [There are] lots of those kinds of conversations, which I can completely relate to given I was in their shoes not more than a few years ago.

InfoWorld: What has container technology like Docker meant for devops?

Mirchandani: When we're talking with customers about the value that Puppet brings to them, invariably we talk about the future, and the future in their mind in some ways includes containers. There's a lot experimentation going on. There's a lot of Docker work being done and container work being done, Kubernetes work being done on their laptops. The conversations we have with them is how does Puppet help you bring it into production, into mission-critical production? How do you keep it secure? How do you operate it? All of those things that we know how to do and have done with various kinds of infrastructure, whether it was OpenStack, whether it was virtual machines, whether it's just server configuration. For us, we take the same approach to containers and are evolving our road maps to make sure that customers have the same benefits they've have had over the years now with containers or other technology.

InfoWorld: What has microservices meant for devops?

Mirchandani: The potential from a development point of view is tremendous. The ability to break things down to the way that microservices allows you to is great. But the fundamentals don't change. You still need to bring the pieces together. You still have to manage them. You still have to collaborate. You still have to know what's running in them. There are still governance and compliance issues. If you're running this stuff in production in a large enterprise, it may look a little different. The wrapper may be a lot different, but fundamental issues of what a CIO or their teams need to worry about haven't changed. Microservices in and of themselves I think are great from a development paradigm but we've still got to manage it. That's where we focus.

InfoWorld: You're also integrating with Jenkins. Can you talk about the importance of that in the devops realm?

Mirchandani: Whether it's Jenkins or any other tool, I'd say it's the overall devops tool chain. Whether it's a CI/CD tool or it's an automation piece or it's a dev tool, the fact is that we work with the whole continuous motion of that and so automating those pieces is key again. We integrate with all of them. Jenkins is just one of those.

InfoWorld: Wasn't high availability just added to Puppet Enterprise?

Mirchandani: It was.

InfoWorld: What is the significance of that?

Mirchandani: Making sure that as our customers roll out tens of thousands of nodes using Puppet technology, that we bring high availability out of the box for them for our own services. We've got customers that are rolling out tens of thousands, moving into hundreds of thousands of nodes with the technology and they expect it to work, to have the same enterprise-class capabilities as any other tool does. This is a big step forward in giving them that out of the box.

InfoWorld: Can you talk about the road map for Puppet technology?

Mirchandani: With Puppet Enterprise, we are focused on feedback. We have very tight feedback loops with our customers, and they are very, very explicit about what they want us to build. High availability is an example. Every quarter you will see fairly significant updates from us. You will see a ton coming out of containers, a ton coming out in cloud, a lot more stuff working with developers. And then classic enterprise features that our customers want, security and things like that. It's everything that you think and then a lot more containers and cloud.

InfoWorld: Can you talk security enhancements you might be looking to add soon?

Mirchandani: Not what we're going to add soon. We just released a ton around situational awareness, being able to really give our customers a state awareness across their environments, being able at the push of a button to be able to figure out and make changes. If you look at the latest releases, you'll see a ton of that. Whether you categorize it as security or compliance doesn't matter. It's really just situational awareness about infrastructure, which is where the focus is.

InfoWorld: Did you have any other comments on Puppet?

Mirchandani: I'd say the piece that our customers give us feedback on is that they count on us as being mission-critical. The scale at which we're now being used and what's in the data center today and what's going to be in there tomorrow is how they're having these conversations with us.

InfoWorld: Are there any plans to take Puppet public?

Mirchandani: If it happens, it happens. If an IPO makes sense, we'll look at it.

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