Last week, over a thousand Chefs descended on the city of Austin for ChefConf 2017. The recipe for the week was two days of talks, numerous technical workshops, a heavy dose of innovation, and a dash of 70’s cover bands. Chef introduced their Chef Client 13 and showed off their newer technologies, like Chef Automate and Habitat, their application configuration and management software. The Threat Stack team (Tom McLaughlin and I) showed up to exhibit with donuts, socks, and plenty of cheesy puns — that’s right, we can help you be SOCK compliant.
It was great engaging with the DevOps community and learning more about the challenges everyone is facing as technology evolves faster than anyone can keep up. Throughout the conference, I learned about all of the technological advances that Chef and friends are making and noticed some trends across all the talks and conversations I had with attendees. Here are three of the high-level themes I took away.
The automation train is leaving the station — & you’d better be on it.
I’ve been working in software for a few years now, and we’ve always talked about how automation can help you save time, increase margins, and be more competitive. Now, I realize I was at a conference that was all about automation, so this could be biased, but there was a palpable sense of urgency around it that I hadn’t seen in past years. The feeling at the conference wasn’t “automate to be more competitive”, it was “automate or you won’t be around in a few years”.
Rob Stroud, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, said he’s seen a change in the industry this year. He gets 700 inquires per year — and overwhelmingly they’re asking: “How can we go faster?” Forrester recently conducted a survey and showed that 87% percent of organizations said that they are implementing, have implemented, or are refining their DevOps environment. “We’ve reached a position where people understand that we need to go fast, we need to automate, and we need to drive value.” He described how most organizations are starting to automate in silos, but only 29% have automated their entire pipeline. The sense at the conference was that only the ones who fully automate are going to survive.
There just aren’t enough subject matter experts.
Technical talent is in high demand and as technology evolves, it’s difficult for anyone to keep up. John Gossman, Lead Architect for Azure, described how his developers are responsible for constantly learning, while keeping up with legacy technology — always expanding their lexicon. At this point, any company that tries to hire its way out of its problems isn’t going to be successful. Companies need to look for creative ways to compensate for the shortage of talent. Carmen Krueger, SVP and General Manager of Operations at SAP, talked about how she’s expanding her idea of a “cross-functional team” outside of the walls of her organization. She considers third-parties like Amazon, her customers, her security partners, and her auditor, part of the cross-functional team she needs in order to achieve her goals. Leveraging experts outside your organization is essential if you want to be efficient in today’s tech economy.
Sharing makes us all stronger.
The whole Chef culture is about openness, acceptance, and hugs — lots of hugs. This manifests itself both in how Chef treats people and how they approach software and their community. It also shows itself in the way they promote their partners.
John Gossman gave a presentation on how open source is changing Microsoft — yes, Microsoft, the company that once called open source a cancer. They now have 15,000 developers with GitHub accounts. He believes open source and DevOps are a marriage made in heaven because they allow people to scale beyond what they ever would have been able to do otherwise. Gossman calls open source an anti-fragile system, which means that it gets stronger as a result of stress or failure. This point was also evident in the strong network of vendors who partner with Chef and who were present at the show — they’ve created an ecosystem of technology that gets its strength from leveraging one another. It’s impossible to be the best at everything, so companies need to partner with one another to provide companies with the full solutions they need.
Barry Crist, CEO of Chef, challenged attendees to question not just “What’s required to cut the timeline in half” but “What’s required to make twice the impact.” Companies can no longer just rely on their internal teams in order to keep up with the market. If they want to make twice the impact, they need to stop isolating themselves.
Final Words . . .
ChefConf 2017 was an important event, and if you have an opportunity to take in a future conference, I highly recommend it. It’s a great opportunity to see how the DevOps community is evolving to deal with the speed of technological change, and it’s also a terrific opportunity to meet and hear from global thought leaders as they share their innovative and thought provoking ideas on the DevOps workflow, infrastructure automation, and continuous application delivery.
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