2011 has been an amazing year, although I always find it a bit awkward living through a prime year. In the startup world, just continuing to survive another year sometimes feels like an accomplishment, but we’ve done so much more than that. Puppet Enterprise has been the spine of 2011 for us, with a first release in February and the 2.0 release in November. We’ve managed to be both broad and deep, with PE running across the majority of server platforms and also providing a few new capabilities in 2.0 that support specific activities like compliance and reducing arbitrary infrastructure variation.
In some ways, the biggest change at Puppet Labs was the shift to being design focused. Our development process has been wrapped around a tight focus on you, our users, and we’re building our plans and stories around who we’re building products for and what problems we’re helping them with. To make sure it’s not just our designers and developers who think in design, everyone at the company was given a copy of The Design of Everyday Things.
Finally, there was the investment at the end of the year, which will be the foundation for our future in many ways. Look for interesting partnership activity with VMware, Cisco, and Google Ventures in 2012, and for our product to grow and develop with their input and customer knowledge.
As interesting and challenging as 2011 was, however, 2012 looks even better. As Greg Lemond said, it never gets easier, you just go faster. We aren’t resting on our laurels—we still wake up scared every day—but there is still far more to do than is already done. Gartner says less than 20% of companies use any kind of server automation, and someone has to help those people. This is especially the case as companies try to adopt new technologies like private clouds or bring in new culture with devops—can you imagine trying to replace traditional infrastructure with self-serve, on-demand provisioning but no server automation? Inconceivable.
Data is a major area we’ll be looking to help people in 2012. Companies have huge amounts of data trapped within their infrastructure and few ways to extract value out of it, and there is a direct relationship between the efficiency and agility of a company and its usage of this data. Companies like New Relic and Nodeable are building businesses around helping people extract meaning from their operations data, and Puppet is one of their critical data sources. It produces vast amounts of data as a natural off-shoot of the work you’re using it for anyway, and we’re working to help you get more value out of that data. We’ve got one customer whose Puppet infrastructure—that’s just Puppet, not the services maintained by Puppet — is producing 750GB of data a day. One one hand, it’s expensive to do much with that volume of data without a clear business driver, but on the other hand, it makes clear how much more you could know about what’s going on in your world.
We like to think of our efforts in this area as Big Data in the Infrastructure. Big Data projects are already a popular way for companies to start using Puppet, but here we’re talking about getting more from your Puppet data, not just managing Hadoop. Puppet already knows what you’re managing, what it’s related to, and how it’s changing, because it needs that to do its job. We’re working on giving you a clearer picture of all of this data, and some great levers and knobs on that data so you can take action based on this new-found information.
Outside of Puppet itself, I think 2012 will be an interesting year, too. We’re a bit isolated from it up here in Portland, but there’s an interesting tech/cloud bubble going on in Silicon Valley, and I’ve got a lot of friends who see a cloud winter on the way. Personally, I think we’re finally leaving the world of pure-hype clouds and 2012 is when real-world companies start figuring out how to invest practically in the cloud, and it’s also when the cloud vendors will start to separate. Hopefully we won’t see any more “Enabling the Cloud for Business!” banners, but I’m not getting my hopes up.
I think 2011 has been a critical year for devops. Almost no one I talked to had heard of it in 2010, but this year it seems to have taken over. I can think of three long-standing conferences that had a major focus on devops, and it has gained visibility up and down the organization. The only downside is there’s still a lot of disagreement on what it means and how people can take advantage of it, but great tech movements are powered by passion and vagueness, and devops looks to be the driver for innovation in operations in the next ten years or so.
Here’s looking forward to another scary, great, fast, tedious, invigorating, draining, and amazing year.