Automation, Operations, DevOps – What We Thought Was Missing

stackstorm-brandStackstorm is a new company focused on automation, operations and DevOps. It’s co-founder and CEO Evan Powell has been keeping a running journal as the company made ready to emerge from stealth. Over the next few days we will share Powell’s thoughts and experiences as a new DevOps company comes to market.

Over the next few posts I’ll be sharing my thoughts on why StackStorm – a new company focused on DevOps based automation – was still needed. My first comment is that the users will decide how we overlap or complement existing automation solutions.  So far they are confirming our belief – that we are strongly complementary to trail blazers like Chef, Puppet and of course CF engine and more recently Salt.  Our approach is to focus on operations automation that wires together the data center and that – in the case of systems like Facebook’s FBAR and our own beta level software – learns over time. With that as some context, over the next five days I’ll unpack our key drivers for us starting StackStorm – starting with something I think all readers of should agree with:

DevOps and the shift to the cloud is much bigger than generally assumed. Over the last few years, my co-founder Dmitri and I have met with thousands of enterprises, service providers, government agencies, integrators and sundry analysts and experts. And I’ve been speaking about the inevitability of the shift to Software Defined Data Centers for many years while helping to create the software defined storage market as founding CEO of Nexenta Systems. More recently, as StackStormers, Dmitri and I have met with approximately 100 DevOps practitioners with OpenStack projects either ongoing or kicking off. The shift to DevOps – sometimes lumped in with the shift to Software Defined Data Centers and also the shift to the cloud – is the biggest shift in IT we’ve seen in our careers. The top DevOps practitioners are 10-100x more productive than your legacy siloed IT operations department. Software is “eating everything” AND the approach to building and operating software has improved radically. Nearly every company and government in the world must either leverage this step function improvement in productivity of software development and operations or face disruption. It might be worth discussing the 10-100x productivity improvement:
a. Is it real? Organizations like PayPal and eBay have published their own data showing at least a 7x improvement in development velocity. And of course the DevOps surveys by folks like Puppet Labs have shown even higher improvements in the speed and quality of development. And, again, our own experience indicates it is very real.  One operator tells us that they went from building and deploying 1 new service a year before DevOps to 54 in the 12 months after they got up to speed with a DevOps approach. Revolutionary.
b. Is 10x a lot? Software getting built and operated 10x better is changing the world. A comparison that Dmitri made in his talk at SCALE12x this past February was to the tractor. As I think any casual student of the 20th century knows, the tractor changed the world by enabling urbanization and more. According to most economic historians, the tractor was about 4x more productive as measured by crops produced vs. input in human and machine energy. IT fairly suddenly figuring out how to develop and operate software 10-100x more productively compares favorably with the most important improvements in human history.
So – GREAT. The world is changing. What do we and other DevOps solution providers have to do with this? Ask yourself – why don’t we ALL just jump on the DevOps bandwagon and start building and operating software in this new way? I’ll take on that question tomorrow as the second driver that led us to start StackStorm.
Feedback welcome.  Comment below please.

About the author  ⁄ Evan Powell

Evan Powell

Evan Powell is the CEO and Co-Founder of StackStorm, a software company leading the third wave of operations automation and delivering the increased productivity of DevOps approaches to a broader market. StackStorm software is currently available via a private, invitation-only beta. Interested users can request an invitation at: Previously, as founding CEO of Nexenta Systems, Evan led the transformation of the storage industry towards a software defined future and achieved an excess of $350 million in partner sales. Prior to Nexenta, Evan was founding CEO of performance management software company Clarus Systems, now owned by Riverbed Technologies. Evan was named “Entrepreneur of the Year” by the leading European venture fund Finaves in 2010 and was named one of the Top Ten Leaders in Storage in 2012.