Chef wants to de-risk the DevOps workflow

A seemingly minor release from Chef, but one which should increase the velocity of innovation.

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Credit: Victorgrigas, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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Chef is riding an important wave in enterprise IT. A wave that sees organizations move away from thinking about physical servers as items to be primped and preened and rather toward a Google-like model where servers are simply a unit of measure, to be used, abused and discarded once no longer needed. This theme of "infrastructure as code" is an important part of enabling a far more agile model of IT.

Chef isn't alone in this space. Archrival Puppet is a company with a similar vintage, a similar story and a similar target audience. Ansible, a younger company in the same space, was acquired by Red Hat last year, and while Docker and Kubernetes may have stolen some thunder in terms of early-adopter excitement and attention, it's fair to say that moving to automation on a server level is still a key concern for many CIOs and CTOs.

Chef is today releasing some new features as part of its Chef Delivery product. The features aim to provide even more automation, this time at the level of testing for infrastructure compliance.

Chef is introducing Dependency Management, a new feature of Chef Delivery that enables automatic testing between projects managed in the shared pipeline. This should give more conservative members of IT teams a degree of confidence in moving to an automated model, since the tool ensures the tests are automatically run at the appropriate stage of the development process, safely promoting only the releases that pass to eliminate break-risk in production.

On top of this release, Chef also today announced some extra capabilities for Chef Compliance that will enable management and remediation of compliance policies based on the broadly used Center for Internet Security (CIS) benchmarks. Users can implement CIS, Windows Systems Center and other compliance policies as "rule sets" of code through Delivery, enabling teams to iterate and deliver compliance policies in parallel to infrastructure and application changes. Again, this is part of a broader thrust to reconcile the seemingly counter worlds of rapid automation and strong policy compliance.

"Enterprises need comprehensive solutions to safely implement a DevOps workflow in the push toward ever-greater development velocity. Unlike other frameworks and tools, Chef Delivery doesn't just help you build a development pipeline, it is the pipeline," said Alex Ethier, vice president of product, Chef. "We're committed to advancing our product in a way that enables developers, operations and IT to collectively manage the rapid scale of enterprise IT."

Finally, Chef is following a trend that has become more apparent as the venture funding market becomes tighter and is releasing some key metrics as to its financial performance. According to the company, today more than 80% of revenue comes from enterprise organizations, and more than half of the Fortune 50 use Chef. Annual recurring revenue isn't actually enumerated but the company advises that it grew 94% year-over-year in 2015. Chef has "close to" 1,000 customers including Alaska Airlines, Nordstrom and Hearst, and is growing its business regionally as well, with the EMEA region an important engine for growth.

Finally, and key to this company that is built on top of an open source community, nearly 70,000 members are part of the developer community actively contributing code to Chef.

Some good metrics and some small, but important, product changes from Chef this week.

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