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Skytap Complements Puppet and Chef | @DevOpsSummit [#DevOps]

How Skytap Complements, not Competes, with Puppet and Chef

Skytap is occasionally asked how our service overlaps with provisioning and deployment tools like Puppet and Chef. While those tools do have some conceptual overlap both with each other and with Skytap, their roles are fairly distinct in practice.

Skytap's service provides environments on demand for complex enterprise applications. We give our customers the ability to easily create, clone, share, and collaborate with these environments while maintaining tight IT visibility and control for security, compliance, and budgetary purposes. What is a "complex application"? Usually it is some type of N-tier client/server app designed to run on traditional infrastructure-perhaps a line-of-business or customer facing application. They're not often designed to run in an IaaS or PaaS cloud platform. Check out the video below to get a better sense.

The problems that Skytap solves for teams developing these complex applications are different from those solved by Chef, Puppet, Ansible, HOT, etc. The key point to remember is that Skytap is not a provisioning tool. Skytap is a service that provides environments in which to run provisioning tools, along with the rest of a complex application stack.

In many cases, our customers are already using provisioning tools like Chef or HOT before signing up with Skytap. When these customers adopt Skytap, they simply continue using those same tools within their new Skytap environments. Customers new to this space occasionally ask us about "best practices" for deployment technologies. Our recommendation is to use the same provisioning tools to create Skytap environments that they plan to use in production.

Early integration of dev and ops systems is one of the keys to DevOps success (we'll have more about this idea soon). Once customers have canonical Skytap environments, we suggest they give everyone on their teams instant self-service access to dev/test environments through Skytap's cloning and collaboration features-all while maintaining strong IT/OPS visibility & control.

There are a variety of fundamental reasons to operate this way. Most importantly, you want your dev/test teams to have immediate access to functioning prod-like environments-to the point that the environments are throw aways. Provisioning tools alone are too slow and error prone to provide immediate working environments, particularly for complex apps.

This is exactly how Skytap's own SDLC works internally (we are a Puppet shop). A Puppet run for even a portion of Skytap's stack takes an hour to complete, and few members of our dev/test teams are truly familiar with or interested in fix-problems. So we create new Skytap environments using Puppet and other tools that typically remain valid for several releases. Then all of our developers and testers share and clone those ready-to-go environments without the need to mess with provisioning tools.

An even better example of a typical Skytap customer is one of our large retailer customers. They have a large toolset for environment provisioning, which is mostly automated, but it still takes days to complete due to the complexity of their stack. If you include the time required to obtain the on-prem infrastructure on which to run their provisioning tools, it takes them weeks to stand up new environments. That's fine if they only wanted to create a few new environments per year. But this customer wanted to create many working environments per day for individual developers and testers to run automated unit and system tests in parallel, and to do continuous load testing.

Waiting days or weeks for a new environment was a fundamental blocker. With Skytap, it still takes them days to stand up the first instances of each new environment, but once each environment is defined and shared it takes them only seconds to make as many copies as they want.

Want to learn more about the how Skytap can help your dev/test teams build complex applications that take advantage of the latest cloud technologies while still retaining on-premise legacy systems? We invite you to view our webinar, "The Concept of Hybrid Applications"-now available on demand!

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Author: Noel Wurst is the managing content editor at Skytap. Skytap provides SaaS-based dev/test environments to the enterprise. Skytap solution removes the inefficiencies and constraints that companies have within their software development lifecycle. As a result, customers release better software faster. In this blog, we publish engaging, thought provoking stories that revolve around agile enterprise applications and cloud-based development and testing.