Looking past the politics of whose Cloud stack is the best for a moment, the undeniably truth remains that no matter what you use, tools to help deploy and automate said cloud are becoming increasingly critical – this is even more the case in an ecosystem that is becoming ever more heterogeneous. Given this fact, it is always interesting when providers of automation software jump into partnerships – while many see this as simply a case of “partner with everybody” there is a degree of validation that goes hand in hand with announcements like this.

So it was interesting to hear that Puppet Labs, one of the leaders in the IT automation space, has today announced an implementation for OpenStack that they’re touting as being the only “enterprise-class” production deployment. Bear in mind that until now the Dell-developed Crowbar product was all that was available in this space – and interestingly those who have used it are coming out alongside this announcement to question how ready it really is for prime time. In particular Morphlabs and eNovance Allegedly some partners have stated a dissatisfaction with Crowbar and see this Puppet integration as being an important milestone in OpenStack maturity.

It’s important to bear in mind that Crowbar is a bare metal provisioning tool whereas Puppet is configuration management and automation for the layers above Crowbar. While the current version of Crowbar hands-off to Chef, there is no reason it couldn’t hand-off to Puppet in the future. Puppet Labs notes that;

The Crowbar team did want to integrate Puppet, it’s just that they wanted Puppet Labs to do all the work and, at the time, Puppet Labs couldn’t.

Ouch… As for the differences between puppet and Chef, Puppet Labs contends that their products provides increased scalability, reliability and is the de facto standard. They point to the fact that Opscode recently said they had had 800,000 downloads since September 2010. Puppet reports that they had that many in the last 90 days.

In terms of how the integration came about, Puppet Labs, Cisco, Morphlabs, and eNovance developed the OpenStack configuration modules for Puppet Labs’ products, Puppet open source and Puppet Enterprise, which automate OpenStack’s compute, object storage, and image service capabilities. All of the Puppet OpenStack configuration modules will be available for free download from Puppet Forge, Puppet Labs’ online marketplace. The OpenStack cloud provisioning modules are available immediately, and others will be published to Puppet Forge over the next 60 days. Morphlabs CEO, Winston Damarillo explained the genesis of the product as follows;

Crowbar is the foundation for setting up and maintaining our converged OpenStack solution – the mCloud Rack Enterprise Edition. The mCloud Rack E works in tandem with the Puppet server to ensure that our configurations can be relied upon in mission critical environments

Interestingly I spoke with George Reese from enStratus who are deploying OpenStack within Dell. Reese was less negative about Crowbar than other partners saying that “Our experience of using Crowbar for deployments within Dell has been generally positive”.

These are two somewhat conflicting accounts and the fact that people have been using crowbar successfully until now indicates that this announcement is less about technical deficit, and more about positioning for marketing partnerships. That said, anything that helps automate cloud deployments is good and the Puppet news is another positive sign for OpenStack’s increasing maturity.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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