A Peek Behind the Curtain at Puppet Labs


In this interview, Luke Kanies, CEO and founder of Puppet Labs, explains why the Puppet configuration management tool is a huge hit with sys admins, and tells us what to expect next from the popular open source project.

Linux.com: Puppet was picked by Linux Questions members as the 2011 Configuration Management Tool of the Year. What do you think it is about Puppet that helped make it the winner?

Luke Kanies: Primarily, it’s that people who use Puppet love Puppet. The 4,000 people on our mailing list, 500 IRC members, and hundreds of customers don’t just use the software to make their lives better; they actually like using it. I’ve been consistently surprised by how many people seem to be emotionally fond of Puppet, and I get thanked all the time by people for just helping them by having created Puppet.

Linux.com: What makes Puppet different than other configuration management tools?

Luke Kanies: The biggest difference between Puppet and other tools is our focus on great design and user experience. It’s obviously not perfect, and there’s still a lot of work to do before it’s got as good a design as we want, but relative to other configuration management tools, it’s easy to set up, easy to use, and easy to train other people on.

Other tools are happy to sacrifice usability for more power, more configurability, or easy access to global unstructured data. These all help make the tools more powerful, but they also make them harder to understand, harder to learn, and harder to spread through your whole organization.

Note, though, that Puppet has not by any means been dumbed down – we just resist adding features until we are confident that the features will actually make the product more useful, not just more powerful.

Linux.com: Are there any new features or improvements in the works for Puppet right now?

Luke Kanies: Yes, quite a lot is being worked on. We’re always working on making our open source projects faster, more capable, and easier to use, so you’ll see a lot of work from us on that in the near future. For instance, our central databases will be heavily upgraded, supporting far better scalability and really exposing all of the great data Puppet has about your infrastructure. Puppet has seen orders of magnitude increases in performance in the last few years to support the dramatic scaling needs of our customers, like Zynga, who are using the public cloud, and that trend will continue. We’re also building more of our infrastructure around MCollective, which provides real-time access to your infrastructure and is becoming our infrastructure middleware for orchestration and communication.

We’re also working on a lot of great partnerships with our new investors – VMware, Cisco, and Google Ventures – along with some other interesting projects, like OpenStack.

In our commercial product, Puppet Enterprise is going to take great advantage of that new central database with enhanced reporting, and we’re building workflows around it that make the lives of our users a lot easier.

Linux.com: There are several Puppet Camps scheduled for this year. What are those like? Who should attend, sponsor, or host these camps?

Luke Kanies: Puppet Camps are by our community, for our community. We only run them where there is enough of a presence on the ground to really have a great conference, and our regional Puppet Camps are seeing larger attendance than our competitors’ worldwide conferences.

You should attend Puppet Camp if you want to learn about configuration management in general or Puppet in particular, work with other Puppet users, and meet other great sys admins in your region. We always provide training at the camps, in addition to all the great talks and open sessions, and opportunities to just hang out with Puppet people. They’re also great events if you’re a company looking to reach the best sys admins and the most advanced devops practitioners out there.

Anyone interested in sponsoring or attending a Puppet Camp you can find more information on our Community page.

Linux.com: PuppetConf 2011 was held in September. Has planning started for PuppetConf 2012?

Luke Kanies: Yes, PuppetConf 2012 is set for September 27th and 28th in San Francisco, California. A call for participation, location information, and ticket sales will start around the end of March. 2011 had over 1,200 participants in person and streaming. We’re aiming to triple that number this year. In the works are the first administered Puppet Certification tests, The Puppet Labs, which are large-scale demo environments for attendees to play with. You’ll also see a new product release, a great speaker and attendee list, and much, much more.

Linux.com: Anything else we should know about Puppet or Puppet Labs?

Luke Kanies: Puppet Labs is fundamentally about enhancing sys admin productivity, as a means of enhancing organizational agility, increasing adoption of technology, and converting operations from a cost center to a competitive advantage. Our software is by sys admins, for sys admins.

Linux.com: Thanks to Luke Kanies for taking the time to update us on Puppet.