DevOps can be easy for a startup. Many of the concepts and principles of DevOps come quite naturally to a fresh company just getting started. It’s a different story, however, for large, established enterprises trying to wrap their arms around this DevOps thing. For IT admins working in Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform, though, things just got a lot easier thanks to the integration of Chef and Puppet Labs.
Many organizations are heavily invested in the Microsoft ecosystem. IT teams and administrators are familiar with Windows domains, Active Directory, Hyper-V, and Azure. They know how to write scripts and leverage PowerShell to get things done, but they’re much less familiar with the core principles of DevOps, or common DevOps automation tools like Chef and Puppet Labs.
One of the driving forces of DevOps is the ability—or perhaps necessity—to automate those tasks that can be automated so IT resources are freed up to focus on more important tasks. Deploying and configuring virtual servers and applications is necessary, but it can also be tedious, and it is a task that can be easily automated using DevOps tools.
The arrangement also works the other way. Smaller companies that are already familiar with, and invested in DevOps may need to scale to a platform like Azure. They should be able to build on what they’ve started, and continue to use the tools they’re familiar with as the company migrates to Microsoft’s Azure.
One of the main attractions of Microsoft Azure is the degree of flexibility, choice and control it gives customers. Microsoft Azure’s partnership with Puppet and Chef allows customers to choose from an array of existing technologies and communities to easily deploy, configure, automate and manage their VMs.
According to a Microsoft spokesperson Puppet Labs and Chef complement and extend Microsoft technologies such as Resource Groups and PowerShell Desired State Configuration (DSC) to offer more options for customers to migrate existing or deploy new applications to the cloud. The partnership offers Microsoft the ability to support Linux and UNIX environments, and also alleviates the concerns that organizations already using Puppet or Chef will have about abandoning their investment. Now, they can continue to use their Puppet modules or Chef recipes in Azure.
Luke Kanies, CEO of Puppet Labs believes the integration of Puppet Labs and Azure will help Microsoft IT admins by making it easier to deploy applications across any platform or cloud environment. Kanies explained in a press release, “Our goal is to help you automate the configuration and ongoing management of your machines and the software running on them, so you spend less of your time firefighting and running simple scripts across a thousand machines, and more time getting great software in front of your users.”
I spoke with Kanies about the difference in dynamics between a small company and a large enterprise. He told me that in a small company it’s much easier to communicate and coordinate resources, and the cost of failure of any particular project is much lower. For a large, established enterprise, however, there is assumedly a large base of existing customers, and there is more fear and worry about possibly disrupting normal operations.
I also had a chat with Ken Cheney, VP of business development for Chef. His philosophy mirrors a lot of what Kanies described. Cheney told me that emerging companies have the luxury of starting from ground zero with a clean slate. There aren’t yet any established processes to navigate. The challenge is trying to transform an organization with established processes, and a team of existing developers over to a DevOps mentality. Integrating DevOps into Azure helps organizations to meet that challenge.
DevOps adds an element of speed and simplicity that makes it easier for larger enterprises to be more agile. Using tools like Puppet Labs and Chef enables IT admins to add speed as a core requirement for infrastructure projects without disrupting or conflicting with other requirements—like security and stability.
Ultimately, the new alliance illustrates Microsoft’s commitment to empower Azure customers with the best-in-class configuration and automation tools by embracing the technologies, communities and ecosystems that developers know and love. Combining Azure with powerful and popular platforms like Chef and Puppet Labs bridges the gap between traditional IT and DevOps—enabling old school IT admins to embrace DevOps, and DevOps startups to mature and evolve into larger enterprises.