The founder, former CEO, and current board member of Puppet Labs, an ascendant purveyor of IT automation software, believes the traditionally rigid lines of computing are becoming noticeably blurred. The carefully constructed domains of systems and expertise are colliding.
“Servers used to be the center of everything,” Kanies explains.
“They changed the most, received the most attention, and were heavily virtualized while other infrastructure systems remained largely static.”
This server-centric model is no longer viable, he claims. In today’s fast-changing and hyper-connected world, networks, storage systems, firewalls, and load balancers all matter. And they must be as dynamic as modern servers.
“Applications are increasingly complex and distributed, and you can’t just consider one node,” says Kanies. “What’s needed is a single abstraction and view of the entire data center infrastructure.”
This isn’t just a technology issue, but a cultural one. IT groups must move from vertical silos of expertise and operation to a “horizontal abstraction” that gives full visibility and access to everyone. Application specialists need the ability to make network changes, while systems specialists need the ability to make storage changes.
“Giving up a measure of control can be scary, but it’s necessary,” Kanies insists. “Instead of distinct systems, network, storage, and security experts, businesses increasingly need application experts who know how to work with every piece of the infrastructure. It’s not a matter of turning specialists into generalists, but making them a different type of specialist.”
The secret sauce
In the simplest of terms, abstraction:
- Helps translate general concepts and commands to specific pieces of hardware and software
- Allows different IT elements to be viewed and handled uniformly, reducing the need for systems-specific specialization and administration
But how is it realized? According to Kanies, automation is the key.
“Humans can only deal with so much complexity,” he explains. “Automation lets IT groups do more because it handles much of the complexity for them. And abstraction allows automation to be applied broadly. You can have one without the other, but the combination of the two is the secret sauce.”
Kanies points to another duo—Puppet Labs’ Puppet Enterprise software and Cisco® Application Centric Infrastructure (Cisco ACI™)—that can turn these concepts into reality.
“We are laser focused on software operations, and Cisco ACI extends those capabilities to the network hardware layer,” says Kanies. “Our solutions are directly integrated and utilize a shared language and common tools.”
And just like abstraction and automation, Puppet Enterprise and Cisco ACI are better together.