January 28, 2013
News recently that VMware, fresh from spinning out most of its developer focused non-virtualization assets in the Pivotal Initiative, has put a huge $30M finding into Puppet Labs. As part of the deal, VMware and Puppet will team up to produce a new IT management solution for VMware customers to use that leverages the automation functionality of Puppet products. This isn’t the first time VMware has jumped into bed with Puppet, in fact a good proportion of Puppet’s total $45M funding comes from VMware.
Given the spin out of the developer focused assets, and the fact that VMware is well known for pushing a very proprietary message, one would be forgiven for assuming that this deal is an indication that Puppet is set to lessen its heterogeneous focus and instead focus 100% on increasing the market share for its parent company’s core products. However Puppet Labs EO Luke Kanies quickly came out with a statement to deny this, in an interview with GigaOm, he reaffirmed the company’s commitment to a level playing field saying that:
At the same time, Kanies stated that the spin out of the developer tools sees VMware refocus around its traditional core customers, system administrators.
For Puppet Labs this is a great deal – they get significant exposure through VMware’s existing customer base and should be able to convert the attention to revenue relatively quickly – after all the Puppet proposition is both simple and logical, automating provisioning and change management of infrastructure is a great way to reduce costs for IT departments. So it’s certainly a short term win for Puppet, but also for VMware that gets to leverage the credibility that Puppet has within the cloud cognoscenti.
But is it a long term play for the industry? On this point I’m dubious. The rise of DevOps, the burgeoning attention given to PaaS and a focus on moving abstraction as far up the stack as possible would seem to indicate that, over time, provisioning automation will be a little irrelevant – after all, if an enterprise is heavily adopting PaaS which bundles provisioning alongside even higher level operations, how relevant is an automation product by itself?
Of course this isn’t a criticism of Puppet or its product at all – where the industry is today, Puppet provides a valuable and important service, but those amongst us who spend our time trying to peer into a crystal ball to intuit the future of the industry would suggest that as infrastructure becomes more and more commoditized, and customers look for solutions that abstract more and more of the lower level functions away from their responsibility, tools like Puppet and, by extension, companies like VMware with little developer centricity, will more and more become dinosaurs of a recent past.
(Cross-posted @ The Diversity Blog – SaaS, Cloud & Business Strategy)