Special report In an episode of Seinfeld from 1996, George is shocked when he discovers his former boss, Mr Wilhelm, has joined a cult, the Sunshine Carpet Cleaners.
“Most of the world is carpeted,” Wilhelm intones, vacuum in hand. “And one day, we will do the cleaning.”
In sunny San Diego, California, on Thursday, executives from Puppet, which provides tools for automating enterprise IT infrastructure, said more or less the same thing about software.
“At some point, all software is going to be installed, configured, monitored, and managed by other software,” declared newly minted CEO Sanjay Mirchandani while on stage at PuppetConf 2016. “It’s inevitable.”
Mirchandani was repeating a mantra uttered only a few minutes earlier by Luke Kanies, founder of the company. “We at Puppet are convinced that all software at some point will be installed, configured, and managed by other software,” Kanies said.
Kanies brought Mirchandani on back in May, to grow the company based on this belief, and Mirchandani took over as CEO in September.
Growth, in terms of customers and revenue, appears to be significant. About 34,000 companies use Puppet's software to automate data center operations, with 6,000 added last year, Kanies said. The company is approaching $100 million in annual sales and is expanding its headquarters in Portland, Ore. In January, it secured $22 million in financing from Silicon Valley Bank to fuel further expansion.
Mirchandani, a veteran of VMware, EMC, and Microsoft, sees opportunity in helping companies automate more aspects of their IT operations. "Automation is something everyone talks about but is really an area that is untapped in many ways, whether it's in the data center or the cloud," he said in an interview with The Register. "Everyone understands it and wants to do it, but it isn't done as pervasively as virtualization."
Automation is everywhere in the technology industry, because as Marc Andreessen put it in 2011, software is eating the world. And once something can be programmed – whether it's a data center, a car, or an internet-connected coffee pot, it has the potential to be controlled by other software.
Puppet's value proposition is automating IT systems that haven't necessarily been designed to play well with each other and doing so in a way that meets the often very particular requirements of large organizations. People try to automate things with "point solutions," Mirchandani said. "What we're done well is having a common language that addresses all infrastructure."
Puppet has a common language for automating infrastructure and for automating corporate communications. Its leaders and followers utter the same cultish catechism about automation. “We give people a standard way of delivering and then operating the software that runs in their data center,” Tim Zonca, VP of product marketing, explained in a phone briefing in advance of the conference. “We give you this one common language for managing all of it.”
One language to rule them all? Such monocultural aspirations are common at technology companies. Microsoft and Apple have managed something of the sort with their respective operating systems. Google has done it with search while Facebook has done it with social networking.
Puppet believes companies need its software to enable IT operations to deploy corporate applications at a pace to match the accelerating world of business. "The bottleneck right now in the typical enterprise is on the ops side," said Nathan Rawlins, SVP of marketing. "Most enterprises can develop software faster than they can get it out."
Conveniently enough, companies of all sorts believe they need something to make their IT operations function more efficiently, ideally at a lower cost. During his keynote speech, Mirchandani mentioned the term "digital transformation," a bit of Silicon Valley jargon so trite that he disclaimed it without prompting. Some of you are rolling your eyes at the term, he said, but it doesn't matter what the term is. "Everyone is going through it … and it’s gut wrenching," he said.