PuppetConf 2017

Posted by Mark Finlay on 16 November 2017

This year, as we did in 2016, OSS sent staff to PuppetConf. This year’s conference was held at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square. The logo and banners for this year’s conference had the single word “Shift” on them and it was not immediately clear what the shift was to, or from, or about.

The opening keynote speech from Puppet President & CEO, Sanjay Mirchandani, gave me some idea of what was shifting. Technology and business is moving at an incredible clip. Every company, whether they like it or not, is being forced into becoming a software company. Automation is the key to helping businesses transform but the roadmap to automation is unclear. Businesses have pockets of success here and there, but the challenge is to scale these pockets of success across the enterprise and drive standardisation. Puppet’s mission is to help companies to scale their success in a predictive, subscriptive and repeatable way, ushering in a new era in automation!

A new era in automation: One where software makes it apparent what to do. One where software provides the insight around all of your critical resources. One where software can not only tell you what you have, but take deep action around it. We were encouraged to take a step back on how we have been doing automation and our thinking around it and SHIFT our thinking to what we need to do next to accelerate our success, to recalibrate and rethink how we embark upon this journey.

Puppet have done a lot of research about the journey to pervasive automation and what it looks like to be a highly automated company. They have researched the inhibitors to getting started with automation and they have come up with a roadmap for the journey to deep pervasive automation – all of which would fill many pages and probably a whole series of blog articles.

Of note, there were some major new features announced that will help us take the automation journey with Puppet and enable us to automate broadly and deeply across infrastructure and applications. Omri Gazit, Puppet’s Chief Product Officer, announced the single biggest feature release in Puppet history:

  • Puppet Discovery – allows frictionless discovery across all of your infrastructure (from traditional to cloud native and containers), providing deep insights which allows you to take action to bring it all under management.

  • Puppet Tasks – allow you to easily automate ad hoc tasks and eliminate manual work across your infrastructure and applications.

  • Puppet Pipelines – help you to accelerate software delivery with unified development and operations workflows.

There were several demonstrations of these new features which certainly got all the technical guys clapping and cheering! As well as all of these new features there was also the release of the latest version of Puppet Enterprise, PE version 2017.3.

After the keynotes I followed the IT Leader track which mostly focused on DevOps; how an organisation got ‘it’ working, or not as the case may be. Some of the presentations on DevOps considered that DevOps works, but not at scale, and that being agile does not mean you are doing DevOps. Common to all of the presentations were the themes of breaking down silos, building culture and teams, common toolchains and language, automation (of course), and the need for speed. A lot of the sessions repeated the same messages/themes and were sparsely attended, I found myself spinning the complimentary fidget spinners and counting the number of times the speakers said the words ‘like’ and ‘right’ – like, that’s not how you do DevOps, right?

Robert Stroud, a Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, stated that DevOps has reached critical velocity and it is not the fad it was 3 years ago. The pressure from Fintech companies (e.g. Amazon, Xero, PayPal) is forcing traditional businesses in the financial, insurance and retail industries, to transform their businesses to be able to deliver faster and remain competitive. The world is fundamentally changing, and businesses have to get quicker to deliver new products and services in order to compete and to survive! The job of I.T. in all of this is to ensure a curated, automated, end to end pipeline with testing built in, to deliver a secure, compliant environment so that the business can do what they want to do, at speed.

The term BizDevOps was also touted as being the next evolution of the practice – a.k.a. DevOps 2.0. DevOps is not about the technologies that development and operations use, it is about the way to deliver on the promise of business transformation. BizDevOps is business people, and development and operations people using a common language to integrate and push forward business goals and requirements. The development of new business functions and capabilities can be done directly within the business and deployed and leveraged on your technology stack. Software is no longer part of the business, it is the business.

There was a very good talk by Mike Wittig, VP of Infrastructure Engineering at Nike. He spoke to the digital transformation of Nike from a clothing and footwear manufacturer to a consumer experience company. The retail market in the USA softened, people weren’t going to the malls as much. Nike had to move to where the customers are now, i.e. online with computers and smart devices. Legacy business applications, the nike.com website, distribution and supply chains, everything had to change. Development teams were moved in house to be closer to the business and Nike became a software/technology company.

Overall, I’d say PuppetConf is more for the technical consultants. The first 3 days are dedicated to training and exams, Puppet Certified consultants and Puppet Contributors. The keynotes and presentation tracks do not start until days 4 and 5. I was somewhat surprised at the size of the conference in that it was much smaller than other IT conferences that I have attended in the USA. The number of attendees and the number of vendors in the hall/marketplace looked about the same size as the TechEd conference in Auckland. But, like, size isn’t everything, right?

Mark Finlay is the Delivery Team Manager for OSS in Auckland. He has worked in the IT industry for over 30 years, from mainframes to the cloud, in NZ, Australia, UK and Europe.