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Opscode touts Facebook’s help in scaling up Chef configuration automation tool

If you want to claim that your configuration automation tool can scale up for the biggest possible scenarios, it helps to be able to claim Facebook(s fb) as a customer. And that’s what Opscode is doing with the release of the latest version of Chef. Very few companies — Google(s goog), Amazon(s amzn) and a few others — can claim the kind of data center scale that Facebook harnesses.

New Opscode Private Chef dashboard.
New Opscode Private Chef dashboard.

Opscode says it beat rivals CFEngine and Puppet Labs (see disclosure) in a bake-off to become Facebook’s configuration tool of choice and that Facebook, which was a CFEngine shop, actually helped it test out  the new version of Private Chef over the last few months.

Playing up the Facebook angle

In a Chef press release, Facebook production engineer Phil Dibowitz is quoted saying: “Opscode Private Chef provided an automation solution flexible enough to bend to our scale dynamics without requiring us to change our workflow.”

Opscode execs would not comment on the actual size of the Facebook test bed — but called it “Carl Sagan-sized big.”

Having Facebook as its big, cool customer/friend also helps Opscode counter the fact that Puppet Labs’ big cool customer/friend is Google.  (Google Ventures also invested in Puppet).

“The biggest thing for this release [of Chef] was to get to scale..and a lot of what we did in this release for Facebook was stuff we were planning to do ourselves anyway, Facebook just gave us a huge test bed,” Opscode CTO Christopher Brown said in an interview. For this project, Opscode rebuilt much of its basic stack in a new language and moved its core database from CouchDB for PostgreSQL.

“We realized the way we built our original server with Ruby and our older stack wasn’t giving us the concurrency and scale we wanted so we rewrote it in Erlang and went from NoSQL to, believe it or not, a relational database,” said Jay Wampold, VP of marketing for Opscode. Opscode’s rather symmetrical workload is actually better suited to what relational databases do. Because Chef typically does as  many writes and its schema are not all that deep and complex, a relational database is well suited to the job, he said.

CFEngine, Puppet and Chef are all used by  developers and systems admins to automate provisioning and change management for massive scale-out cloud computing environments. Their use is critical to the DevOps movement in which software developers and operations people work together to make sure software projects meet business goals.

One code base, three routes to market

Old Opscode Command-line interface.
Old Opscode Command-line interface.

The three flavors of Chef all build off the same foundation:  Private Chef runs in-house behind the firewall; Hosted Chef is a hosted managed service offering; and open-source Chef is a free download. But with the new Chef 11 code base, Opscode is changing up its sales and support models. First, Private Chef, which used to be offered as a perpetual license, will now be available by subscription and cost $6 per node per month — the same pricing as Hosted Chef. Second, the company now will offer two paid support options for the open-source version of Chef for customers updating to the new Chef 11-based version. Price for a standard support subscription will be $3 per node per month; premium is $3.75 per node per month.

Opscode also announced a slew of new channel partners including CDW(s cdwc), Ingram Micro, SoftChoice and ISVs Autodesk(s adsk) and Collabnet, with an eye of pushing Chef more broadly to market.

Last March, when the company announced a Series C round of  $19.5 million, Opscode launched what it called a broad push to entrench its tools in enterprise accounts. In that attempt, its new Facebook-endorsed scale could be a help with the largest of potential customers.

Disclosure: Puppet Labs is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.

2 Responses to “Opscode touts Facebook’s help in scaling up Chef configuration automation tool”

  1. Small grammatical fix: “Very few companies — *with the exception of* Google, Amazon and a few others — can claim the kind of data center scale that Facebook harnesses.”