As companies embrace software as a core foundation of their business, there is a growing need for development and operations teams to collaborate and to act quickly. Hence, the rise of DevOps, with the goal of tearing down silos, opening up communication lines and overall improving collaboration between app developers and systems operations teams. DevOps targets various stages of the app development and deployment cycles to improve deployment frequency, lower failure rate of new releases and shorten lead time between fixes – ultimately decreasing time to market and improving the reliability and security of operational processes.
Enter Chef. Chef’s goal is to help the world’s most innovative companies (think: Facebook and GE) make great software, using the Chef platform as the automation engine. Built on an open source foundation, Chef’s IT automation platform enables the continuous and unified delivery of applications and infrastructure. Chef enables businesses of all industries and sizes begin their DevOps journey, partnering with them over the long haul to ensure their success.
The company recently announced a $40 million funding round, including an investment from Hewlett Packard Ventures, to expand its operations globally and accelerate product development to keep up with surging customer demand. Here, Chef CEO Barry Crist enlightens us on the world of DevOps, how Chef fits into the market and what he sees for the company’s future.
Tell us about your background in the tech industry.
It turns out my entire career has had a DevOps theme even though I didn’t completely realize it at the time. I started my career in IT at Apple where I spent nine years. Some of my earliest tech industry experiences at Apple – when I was just a summer intern from UCSD – had to do with friction between Ops and Application teams. Later on, my time at Mercury Interactive (eventually acquired by HP) during the initial web build-out turned out to be an amazing foundation for DevOps. Mercury sold testing and performance software to both sides of IT, development and operations, with the vision of linking these two worlds together. Prior to Chef, I ran Likewise, a software company that provided a great learning environment for creating community around open source projects.
What trends in the industry are driving demand for Chef’s solutions?
Customer, employee and partner expectations have been forever changed by our experiences with the Amazons, Googles and Apples of the world. We want to experience great software with every company that we work with in any manner. Our tolerance for crummy software is near zero. So every company is embracing software as the primary means to deliver goods and services – and they want to rapidly and continually improve that software going forward. When you hear the phrase “IT Transformation,” this shift is what it’s all about and automation platforms like Chef, alongside the DevOps movement, play a major role.
What distinguishes Chef from other players in the DevOps space?
We have clear advantages in our technology platform – incredible scale, our ability to work across very diverse compute environments whether on-premise or in the cloud, and unmatched flexibility. However, just as important as our technology is our own team and culture. Again and again, customers tell me the real magic is how we partner with them in transforming their business. Chef’s credibility in DevOps, our ability to distill the success patterns of the web innovators into a platform that reinforces those patterns – this is what truly differentiates Chef from our competition. I don’t think there is anyone better in the industry at driving change in IT in service of velocity.
Tell us about your experience working with HP, first as a partner and now as an investor.
We couldn’t be more excited to be working with HP. There are two reasons HP is really interesting from my perspective. The first is the pending split of HP into Hewlett Packard Enterprise and HP Inc. As part of this, Meg and the HP leadership team have a unique opportunity to rebuild HP’s own technology foundation around modern and innovative practices.
As the practices of New IT push into the more traditional IT processes of the enterprise, HP serves as an invaluable partner and entry point to empowering these organizations to deliver better software, faster. We bring our expertise in DevOps and the world’s leading automation platform to the partnership, so HP’s enterprise user base can take the first step on the DevOps journey successfully.
What do you expect to do with this funding?
Chef is growing very quickly – in the past three years, revenue increased more than 1800%. With such tremendous growth, a key focus for us is scaling our business to best acquire, support and serve our customer base. As such, the bulk of this new round of funding will be used to build out our worldwide customer presence with more solution architects, customer success engineers and DevOps practices engineers. We’ll also use a portion of the financing to expand our product development efforts.