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Q&A: Interview with StackStorm, Emerging from Stealth to Increase Productivity of DevOps Operators

With the latest news around StackStorm emerging from stealth mode, I was able to connect with the company's CEO and co-founder, Evan Powell, to learn more about what this company was doing to increase productivity for DevOps operators.

VMblog:  So I understand that StackStorm recently came out of stealth mode.  Can you give us some details about the news?

Evan Powell:  Absolutely! We officially launched on May 6 and are happy to finally show the world what StackStorm has to offer. Dmitri Zimine and I are experienced infrastructure software entrepreneurs. I looked at more than 50 opportunities before deciding to jump in and help found and fund StackStorm. We created StackStorm with the mission to deliver self-driving, self-learning operations automation so that the increase in productivity of 10-100x that the top DevOps operators are experiencing, the rest of us can achieve as well. We built our StackStorm software with DevOps in mind, from our user experience down to the architecture. Our goal is for StackStorm to make  system administrators as powerful as the operators of the world's top environments by increasing productivity through collaboration, transparency, and self-learning.

VMblog:  Tell us more about why you created StackStorm?

Powell:  Over the years, Dmitri and I have met with hundreds of enterprises, service providers, integrators, analysts and government agencies, studying what works and what doesn't. What we realized is that today software really is eating the world - making the world smarter. We created StackStorm so that software could be built and, crucially, operated right. In order for DevOps to be widely adopted not just as a means to build technology but also to operate it, there needs to be a company that can step up, partner with the top DevOps operators, and bring their best practices to market in the form of easy to use, scalable, collaborative software.  This approach is what we call the third wave of operations automation. Dmitri and I are building StackStorm to lead the charge. By offering transparent, trusted and scalable automation, our users significantly improve the productivity and responsiveness of their technical operations. Our vision is that data centers using advanced operations automation from StackStorm and others, will leverage machine learning and community collaboration to learn to better operate themselves.

VMblog:  What are some of the features StackStorm offers that differentiates it from other DevOps automation software?

Powell:  StackStorm develops and delivers software that enables more agile and reliable operations automation. We are complementary to existing DevOps friendly automation tools that often work within a particular island of automation, such as continuous integration or provisioning.  We tie these islands of automation together - and we add to them a view into the environment's behavior as well as the ability to make decisions and learn as you go. If you think of monitoring as the nerves within an environment and configuration management and remote execution tools as the muscles, StackStorm software is, by comparison, the brain. We are already partnering in the field with existing DevOps friendly remote execution, continuous integration, and monitoring packages. On the other hand, legacy products from the first and second wave of operations automation are destined for disruption. They are not built for DevOps, and miss the mark from their user experience down through their fundamental architecture; in the almost 100 engagements we've had, we have seen literally zero adoption of the first and second wave solutions - even those we have helped to build.

VMblog:  Explain if you will, what are some of the benefits of operations automation?

Powell:  A major benefit is that it allows operators to achieve significant improvements in the responsiveness and productivity of their technical operations. As one of our advisors, a technical executive at a multi billion dollar technology leader, told us recently - "we had to achieve DevOps levels of productivity because if we didn't and our competitors did, we wouldn't be around in a couple of years." Operations automation done right enhances cross-functional DevOps collaboration, limits the cost and risk of "hero driven" operations, and removes many of the shackles to innovate at scale.  As most students of trends in IT know, the 10-100x productivity gains of the top operators, like Google and Facebook, are driven by automation; those that study closely also learn that the skill set of the developers and operators of these automations is fairly unique. We lower the bar for the rest to be able to achieve the operations automation of the leaders without having to build it ourselves through elite teams. 

VMblog:  Why did you choose to be open source and a part of the OpenStack community?

Powell:  Life is too short to spend it building one more proprietary tool that will wither on the vine and eventually leave users locked into yesterday's favorite solution. The savvy operators get that, and they and their development teams reject proprietary software like a health body rejects germs and foreign particles. So open source is the right thing to do - and also good business.

The OpenStack community is huge, one of the largest in the history of open source, and continues to grow with a variety of contributors and participating companies. It is an honor to be a part of the OpenStack community. Almost all of our initial operators are using OpenStack; we would not be here without OpenStack and open source and we pledge to be 100% open source and supportive of OpenStack. Some of our code is within the Mistral project associated with OpenStack.

Given our approach - giving a transparent view into automations and related collaboration and automated decision making - it would not make a lot of sense for us to be closed and proprietary. Openness empowers users to trust the automation a little more since they can see exactly how it works. So we see no reason to keep our code hidden away, and by letting our users see and share code we can strengthen the community even further. 

Again, supporting open source and OpenStack is not just the right thing to do - it makes perfect sense to our users and so is good business. 

VMblog:  What else does StackStorm have planned for this year?

Powell:  We have a big year ahead of us. We are looking forward to sharing more stories that we have learned from the best at operations automation - and we will share those stories both as additional anecdotes and as code and automations that the rest of us can use. Over the years we have learned how to build enduring, important infrastructure software companies in part by serving a mission larger than ourselves; StackStorm, working with the broader community, will help lead a massive improvement in how the world builds and operates technology. Our software will help lead the third wave of operations automation. Through the rest of the year we will nurture the StackStorm community and we will make our software generally available later this year.

This month we are going to be at the OpenStack Summit Atlanta, so stop by booth E26 if you'd like to get to know us and our solutions firsthand!  And if you cannot make it to the OpenStack Summit, stop by our website or join us at DevOps meetups all over the United States through the rest of the year.


Once again, a special thanks to Evan Powell, CEO and co-founder of StackStorm, for speaking with VMblog and answering a few questions.

Published Wednesday, May 07, 2014 7:04 AM by David Marshall
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[VMblog] Q&A: Interview With StackStorm, Emerging From Stealth To Increase Productivity Of DevOps Operators | StackStorm - (Author's Link) - November 2, 2014 6:34 PM
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