Tech tables turned! Now it's the Puppet pulling Geppetto's strings

When you wish upon a star ... you buy it for a load of VC cash


System administration and IT automation tool maker Puppet Labs is making its second acquisition ever - and has snapped up partner Cloudsmith.

The gobbled biz makes tools that ride atop the Eclipse integrated development environment and help admins create Puppet modules.

The financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. All seven Cloudsmith employees will join the 169 who work at Puppet Labs these days.

Puppet is, along with Opscode, one of the upstarts of the system administration racket that is being transformed into DevOps, a kind of merger between application development and deployment and system administration that is required in a world of continuous code updating.

Puppet Labs, based in Portland, Oregon, was founded in 2005 by Luke Kanies and shipped its first enterprise-grade product in February 2011. The company got its first infusion of $2m from True Ventures, Glenn Winokur, and Radar Partners four years ago. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers appeared with $5m of second round funding in July 2010 that eventually led to the acquisition of the intellectual property around the MCollective orchestration engine.

In November 2011, a few months after Puppet Enterprise 2.0 was shipping, Google, VMware and Cisco Systems kicked in another $8.5m in Series C funding, and in January of this year Puppet trousered a whopping $30m cash infusion from VMware.

All that cash help pay for the development of a major revamp of the Puppet tools. Puppet Enterprise 3.0 launched three weeks ago, and that release includes the MCollective orchestration engine working on both Linux and Windows systems for the first time.

Flush with cash and eager to build its tool stack, Puppet Labs picked up Cloudsmith, which had carved out a very good niche for itself peddling tools that interface with Puppet, GitHub, Jenkins, and other development tools.

Cloudsmith, which went live in August 2007, is a software deployment management tool to help coders more easily get their applications in the hands of users.

The company currently has two tools. The first is Geppetto, an add-on for the Eclipse IDE to create Puppet modules, which has more than 10,000 users according to Puppet Labs. The second tool created by Cloudsmith is called Stack Hammer, and it is a service for juggling applications on GitHub and testing and deploying them on Amazon Web Services; it also relies on Puppet to package up the applications.

Kanies told El Reg that both Geppetto (yes, named after the Pinocchio puppet crafter) and Stack Hammer will eventually be integrated with Puppet Enterprise, and that the two companies have already had a close working relationship. For instance, they have informally collaborated on the parser for Puppet. Kanies wrote the original one way back when in Ruby, which is the language that Puppet is coded in. Cloudsmith builds its tools in Java and came up with a more clever parser that had extensions for code checking above and beyond the one in Puppet. And with Puppet Enterprise, the ideas embodied in the Cloudsmith parser were used by Puppet Labs and recoded in the parser in the recent open source Puppet 3.2 release.

In time, Geppetto and Stack Hammer will be integrated with Puppet Enterprise, and presumably Stack Hammer will be extended to work with public clouds other than Amazon Web Services. Puppet Labs will discuss the integration next month at its PuppetConf 2013 partner and customer event in San Francisco.

Puppet is on the prowl for more acquisitions, but they will not be big-bang deals to boost the business, warned Kanies.

"In terms of future acquisitions, I would assume we will do some, but they will take the form of teams and technology, not revenue streams," he said.

"I don't want to look up five years from now and have 150 different products. Stapling a lot of products together is usually not a very good experience for customers."

The main thing that Kanies is focused on is selling the idea of stack automation, of having tools like Puppet create workflows that treat infrastructure as code. "It is an interesting time because there is a lot of interest in infrastructure right now," says Kanies. "People are spending a lot of money and energy trying to get faster, trying to reduce the cycle time from application development to production. Time to market is big now, and companies want to move with confidence."

Moving quickly and confidently when it comes to system and application deployment is not something that can be done manually with any speed. And hence the need for automation tools like Puppet. ®

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