Puppet Goes After Enterprise System Management

Open source IT systems management platform addresses technical and legal questions with new enterprise release.

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Feb 2, 2011
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Puppet, the open source system management and configuration project, is moving upstream. This week Puppet Labs, the lead commercial sponsor behind Puppet, announced the Puppet Enterprise release. The new release builds on the open source base and provides commercial users with improved usability as well as some commercial components. Though Puppet Enterprise is a commercial product, it's not "open core."

The open core model is one where a vendor adds commercial technology to an open source base, providing additional functionality. The move toward "open core" products has accelerated in recent years, with at least 30 percent of open source vendors adopting the model, according to a 2010 report from the 451 Group. The fear among some in the open source community is that open core projects tend to build critical functionality into the commercial portions of the product, instead of putting the additional functionality back into the open source version.

"It's not 'open core,' because Puppet is a fantastic product even without those components," Puppet Labs CEO Luke Kanies told InternetNews.com. "Puppet Enterprise is really about enhancing usability, simplicity, and supportability. Over time we'll add more commercial software to Puppet Enterprise, but even as we do, they'll never cut into Puppet's core value and its ability to thrive as a stand-alone product."

Kanies explained that the differences between Puppet and Puppet Enterprise fall into two main categories: technical and legal. On the technical side, Puppet Enterprise is delivering a full Puppet stack that has already been built, configured and tested to work together.

"It's also just dramatically easier to install and get up and running than Puppet by itself," Kanies said. "Legally, because we have more control here and are able to do more end-to-end testing than we can of our stand-alone versions, we can make [more] promises and guarantees about Puppet Enterprise than we can about Puppet."

Those promises include legal indemnity. Kanies noted that Puppet Labs could not realistically provide indemnity, unless they controlled the code that an enterprise is running.

"This doesn't matter to everyone, but it matters to a lot of people," Kanies said.

From a competitive perspective, Kanies noted that Puppet is definitely targeting big IT systems management vendors including, HP, IBM and BMC.

"We'll also be continuing to seek new opportunities, where we're replacing hand-rolled, one-off solutions that customers have built themselves, and we do see a reasonable amount of conversion from other open source projects," Kanies said. "I think our level of support, our maturity in the space, and our success across the enterprise makes us a fit for a wide range of customer with a wide range of problems."

Open Source Base

Kanies noted that Puppet Enterprise contains the stable Puppet 2.6.4 release, and the plan is to have Puppet Enterprise continue to track published releases.

"There will not be a fork of Puppet in Puppet Enterprise," Kanies said.

The Puppet 2.6 release debuted in July of 2010. Kanies noted that development is ongoing, and that there is a 2.6.5 maintenance release coming soon as well as work on a new feature release.

"We try not to attach version numbers to products until they're released, but you should be seeing deeper integration between Puppet and mCollective and a general move to a message-bus architecture, compliance tools, CMDB functionality, and much more," Kanies said. "We're also beginning to move functionality out of the core of Puppet into our module Forge, so look for many new modules from us with great tooling for managing and publishing them."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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