Chef's Recipe for Bringing Enterprise Software to Life

November 2, 2015 • Blog Post • By Tim Beyers, HPE Matter Staff Writer

Ken Cheney, Chef VP of business development, on the rise of DevOps

Facebook pushes hundreds of software releases into its infrastructure daily. So do Amazon and Google, and customer expectations have changed as a result. It is no longer enough to have a winning idea - getting that idea to market fast is what matters. A growing number of organizations have responded to the rise of the "Idea Economy" by embracing DevOps.

A portmanteau that combines the words "development" and "operations", DevOps describes how developers and operations teams work in tandem to deliver software as quickly and reliably as Facebook, Amazon and Google. Gartner estimates that by next year, 25 percent of Global 2000 Organizations will adopt DevOps as a standard practice.

Private investors are also on board. In September, Hewlett Packard Ventures joined a group of elite backers supplying $40 million in Series E financing to Chef, a pioneer of the DevOps movement.

HPE Matter spoke with Ken Cheney, Chef VP of business development, about the importance of DevOps in the Idea Economy.

Chef is a DevOps company, but what does that mean specifically? What do you do?

Ken Cheney: In simple terms, Chef is software. It is an open source platform that describes the elements of infrastructure so that they can be manipulated as code.

Developers use pre-built recipes to automate the provisioning of gear needed to bring software to life in an enterprise. More than half of the Fortune 50 use Chef and 80 percent of Chefs revenue comes from enterprise businesses.

At Chef, you like to talk about DevOps kung fu. What do you mean by that?

DevOps is a cultural commitment. A company has to really want to unite development and operations for a broader purpose. And, of course, there are a lot of ways to do that. There are lots of styles, just like there are many variations of martial arts practices. Karate is different from jujitsu, which is different from tae kwon do. DevOps works the same way; every organization adopting it has to figure out what it means to them.

At Chef, we believe you adopt DevOps to go fast like Facebook does. Then, once you make that cultural and professional commitment, you document the details of how software is built and operated over time. You create repeatability and automate as much as possible because automation creates velocity.

So DevOps is about automating the process of readying software to go live in a data center infrastructure?

Not necessarily. This is because DevOps is a practice that takes many forms, although manual processes will impact your ability to move quickly.

Look at the average enterprise today. Deploying into production hundreds of application releases a day that span thousands of developers would be impossible without the sort of automation that Chef provides. With it, developers and IT managers can work hand in hand to drive behaviors and ensure the safety, reliability, security and compliance of infrastructure. Think of it as a recipe for operating at high velocity.

Is automating the app development process - what you call infrastructure as code - a requirement to compete in today's landscape?

It's getting that way, but you wouldn't know it to look at some large organizations. These are the dinosaurs who say they are doing DevOps while using onerous change management to de-risk manual processes. They'd do better moving to a fully automated environment, which can cut the number of development errors and incidents by close to 90 percent from what we've seen.

Those that are getting DevOps religion tend to operate in bare-knuckles markets. At Amazon's most recent re:Invent conference, our CEO put up a quote from Alaska Airlines that stated that they're no longer just an airline company, they're actually a software company with wings.

That's a mindset that comes from moving fast to take an idea, test it and fail as quickly as possible. And then try again, and again and again until it's successful enough that you can grow and change it. Responsiveness is key. As an IT organization, your bias must be toward moving quickly.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise is both a partner of and an investor in Chef. Why are you teaming up? What do you hope to accomplish together?

We complement each other. HPE's expertise is in building and delivering converged hardware systems that combine compute, storage and networking as well as comprehensive management in HPE OneView. Chef is integrated into OneView from the start, which allows for end-to-end management of the apps and infrastructure enterprise workloads demand.

We also jointly offer customers expertise and advisory services. We give them a lifeline, which can be invaluable when you're aiming to deliver apps and infrastructure at high velocity. It's a good fit where HPE can help accelerate customers' journey down the path to automation and acceleration with DevOps. In the new Idea Economy, that's a must.