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PuppetConf 2017 Day 1 keynotes: automation and product announcements

Editor's note: Arik Hesseldahl is a guest blogger covering PuppetConf.

If you haven’t yet automated a fair portion of your company’s IT infrastructure, there are over 1,200 people here in San Francisco that would like to have a word with you.

First among them is probably Puppet CEO Sanjay Mirchandani, and whose keynote address opened the two-day PuppetConf 2017 here today.

And even if you’ve bought in to the benefits that automation can bring, chances are it’s not being used to anywhere near its full potential, Mirchandani said. Unless they’re companies born in the cloud, who have run automated infrastructure from the the start, the typical organization that has embraced automation does so in a limited project.

“The big question I hear the most often lately is, ‘How do you take the success we have in pockets, and scale it throughout the entire organization?’” he said. Scaling the successes of those limited projects across an organization is another thing entirely, and rarely if ever happens.

Today, Puppet set out to change that, and did it in a big way with a series of new products, including a few that originated with Distelli, a company it acquired last month that specializes in the continuous software delivery.

The first of those new products is Puppet Discovery™. Imagine for a moment that you simply don’t know how many IT resources your company has. The thought may give CEOs and CFOs headaches. CIOs and their teams will recognize this as an all-too-common problem, mainly because they’re the ones being asked to manage it all.

Acquisitions, global expansions, changes in technology, business priorities, and the inherent human tendency to forget things, make it incredibly easy to lose track of virtual machines, containers and other resources that may be running throughout an organization’s infrastructure.

Puppet Discovery, which is available as a preview, aims to solve that problem. Existing solutions are intended for stable infrastructure. It makes it easy to find resources running in AWS, containers and on-premises environments, and then to bring whatever is found under management in Puppet with a single click.

The second big product of the day was Puppet Tasks™. For years Puppet built its business on the idea that the best way to run IT infrastructure is to create a model of how it should operate most of the time, and then enforcing that it continues to run in that desired state.

The problem is, there’s always a batch of tasks that have to be done that don’t fit neatly into that pre-planned model. Things break or require adjustment, or you just have to restart something. The aim of Puppet Tasks is to make those ad hoc tasks easier to carry out. ™

There are two versions. One is Puppet Bolt™, which runs as a command line interface (SSH and WindowsRM) and supports custom scripts written in languages like PowerShell, Bash and Perl. It’s aimed at smaller infrastructure. The other is Puppet Enterprise Task Management, which is aimed at larger infrastructure and is included in Puppet Enterprise 2017.3.

And by the way, yes that’s a new version of Puppet Enterprise I just referred to. It dropped today too. It’s built with new features that are intended to answer some of the challenges that Sanjay talked about in his keynote: Make it easy to take those successful but narrow automation projects inside an organization and scale their results more widely across it.

In addition to the new task manager, it has an updated version of the Package Inspector that first appeared in Puppet Enterprise 2017.2, which makes it easy to check up on, and update all the packages running on all your nodes.

And here’s something else: It includes additional support for Japanese. Domo arigato, Puppet.

So, yeah, when Sanjay said today constituted the biggest batch of releases in the company’s history he wasn’t kidding. And it has a lot to do with the doubling down on the original mission. I’d tell you more about that myself, but you really should hear him tell it on his own. Here’s the video from his keynote this morning, as well as Puppet CPO Omri Gazitt’s keynote and demos of what’s new. See you tomorrow (or on the live stream) for Day 2.

Arik Hesseldahl is veteran technology journalist and independent analyst. He was a founding editor at Recode, has written for The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg BusinessWeek and Forbes, and has contributed to CNBC and NPR.