Puppet 8 for DevOps Engineers - Automate your infrastructure at an enterprise scale

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I am an enthusiast for Configuration Management or CM (I’m on the committee of the BCS Service Management and IT Asset Management specialist group and I think that as far as possible this should be implemented in software and in context with a DevOps process (see the Puppet-run State of DevOps Report). This means that I am interested in Puppet, a CM tool that is part of a general infrastructure automation platform (covering orchestration, compliance, third party integration and more). Puppet has its own declarative language describing what state you want your system to be in (as opposed to a scripting language describing how to configure the environment).

Puppet was the brainchild of Luke Kaines around 2005, when he couldn’t find the CM tools he wanted elsewhere and a commercial offering, Puppet Enterprise, followed in February 2011. Luke stepped back, saying that “the challenges of growing Puppet to enterprise-scale were far from what I love to do most, and far from my core skills. We need to scale, and we need to execute”. The new management had to negotiate the delicate balance between its open source community and the demands of its enterprise customers, needing professional services and clear directions. Puppet was acquired by Perforce Software in 2022, although it still has an active open source community as well.

I have neither the time, nor the space nor the Puppet expertise needed to give you all a course in Puppet. Luckily, I don’t have to, as there is a new book by David Sandilands, a principal solutions architect at Puppet (where he focused on the product management of Puppet’s development ecosystem and integrations), which does this for me.

This book describes the “big picture” around puppet, as far as I can see, highlighting the changes associated with its change in direction following the release of Puppet v5. It focuses particularly on DevOps engineering for large companies and it recognises that there is no longer only one approach to software engineering: “10 years ago, you might have bought this book assuming it was relevant regardless of whether you were going to work with Puppet”, it says in Chapter 1, but, “today, you have a Puppet solution to implement or understand”.

Puppet code snippets/examples are provided throughout the book as appropriate and it documents “approaches that have been developed through years of customer engagements for Puppet and the communities’ own implementations to allow users to reduce their effort in finding the right approach, focus on their solutions, and deliver immediate benefit and return to their customer”

Well, I’ll go along with that. I liked this Puppet book but it is still essentially a book about Puppet. Nothing wrong about that, but there is a bigger DevOps picture – ITIL, for instance, isn’t mentioned in Sandilands’ book, although it still impacts a lot of developers. This book is recommended, if you are, or are thinking of, using Puppet. If not, other books are available but, if you want the really big picture, why not try the BCS SM-ITAM group (which has an embarrassingly large CM remit these days) and its Conference on 17th Oct 2023 on “the AI-pocalypse: surviving and thriving in the age of intelligent ITSM & ITAM” [see here].

The software engineering environment is changing “Automation at scale is a social activity as much as a technical one… driving real value and improvement means treating your Puppet installation as a platform for collaboration, not just a collection of technical capabilities” – Nigel Kersten, VP of product and engineering at Synadia, says. Nigel also worked at Puppet for a dozen years, including a spell as CTO. Luke Kaines also has a take on the changes taking place in the industry: “DevOps teams are different now. Companies are looking for a complete solution, rather than wanting to integrate individual best-of-breed vendors”. So, the emphasis is on corporate maturity and you need to access all sources of education these days, books and conferences and vendor-training, as well as YouTube videos and what the developer next door tells you.