Puppet Labs offers bare-metal provisioning to enterprises via EMC

Puppet Labs surprises some IT pros with a new EMC partnership that open-sources automated bare-metal provisioning for servers.

Puppet Labs has teamed up with EMC to open-source software dubbed Razor, a tool which allows IT to automatically provision servers from the bare-metal up.

Automated bare-metal provisioning tools are not new; BMC’s BladeLogic, for example, has offered automated bare-metal provisioning and reprovisioning for years, as well as server configuration management according to policy.

But now the focus is on newer open-source server configuration and automation utilities from Puppet and Opscode’s Chef, which users say come at a lower cost and can be deployed more quickly at scale than proprietary counterparts.

Razor’s ability to automatically discover server hardware and provision OS images based on user-set rules is now the icing on the cake, according to Puppet loyalists.

“I think it’s a big step [for Puppet] because they’ve been primarily focused on applications, things on top of the OS, [and] now they can do all the steps along the way,” said Mark Schena, manager of systems automation for Constant Contact Inc., an email marketing firm based in Waltham, Mass.

Constant Contact uses Puppet to manage server configuration and automation on 1,000 physical servers and 500 to 600 Xen-based virtual servers, but uses a homegrown tool to automate OS provisioning. Schena doesn’t know yet whether Razor will replace that tool.

Still, “a lot of operations shops are looking for something like this, I know that,” he said. “It’s great for the small companies that don’t want to have to worry about provisioning infrastructure and things like that. They just want to develop code.”

After the initial OS image is provisioned, Razor can maintain the OS image while Puppet changes the server configuration higher up the software stack in response to physical hardware changes like additional RAM or CPU. OS inventory data can also be passed to Puppet when Puppet decides which services to place on a particular machine.

Razor is open-sourced under an Apache license, and a preview release is immediately available on GitHub, Puppet Forge and Puppet Open Source. New commercial applications will be built on top of Razor in forthcoming editions of Puppet Enterprise, according to Puppet Labs CEO Luke Kanies.

Puppet and investors push DevOps toward the mainstream
The partnership between the open-source newcomer Puppet and the enterprise IT bellwether EMC Corp. surprised some IT pros but is a sign to some experts that DevOps is headed for more mainstream IT shops.

It’s a bit strange to see the two working together on the Razor project, Schena said. “You might think that Puppet is kind of glomming on to EMC, but I’m not sure that it’s not the other way around,” he mused.

EMC might seem not like the type of company to get involved with an open-source project like Puppet, but it “reflects the maturity and credibility of open-source software and its prominence in cloud computing, as well as in these trends around the cloud, like DevOps,” said Jay Lyman, senior analyst with 451 Research, an IT research firm based in New York.

EMC’s support for Razor indicates “there’s a lot of attention, teams and dollars being allocated to implementing some real change inside enterprise data centers,” Lyman added.

Other enterprise vendors such as Cisco Systems Inc. and VMware Inc. invested in Puppet during a round of funding last fall.

Puppet faces competition from Chef, which rolled out integration with Active Directory in an appeal to enterprise users last week.

Beth Pariseau is a senior news writer for SearchServerVirtualization.com and SearchDataCenter.com. Write to her at bpariseau@techtarget.com.

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