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Q&A: AHEAD’s Dan Wittenberg Talks All Things Puppet

Recently, AHEAD was honored by Puppet with not one, but two 2017 Channel Partner of the Year Awards. Selected as the Puppet “Partner MVP, Americas,” AHEAD Senior Technical Architect Dan Wittenberg also received the “Engineer of the Year, Americas” award for the second year in a row. The awards honor Puppet’s channel ecosystem for the contributions they’ve made in helping customers accelerate their journey to pervasive automation.

Now that champagne corks have been popped and the dust has settled, AHEAD Content Marketing Manager Jenny Allen sat down with Dan to get his thoughts on all things Puppet: From recent product releases to adoption best practices, check out the interview below for the 4-1-1 on the ever-growing software giant.   

Q: “Since 2013, AHEAD has been both a channel partner and service delivery partner of Puppet. Tell me a bit more about your relationship with the platform, both as an integrator and a brand evangelist.”

A: “Well, to start, it was an honor to be recognized again for helping clients achieve success through Puppet technology. It’s easy to be an advocate when you believe in the product, especially one that’s matured so rapidly over the last few years. That’s why I enjoy working with them so much—they’re such a quickly-evolving company that actually drives toward customer solutions, not just providing software updates. They’re creating a broader portfolio of tools that enterprise customers need and want, which makes them unique in that regard.”

Q: “Where do you see Puppet going in 2018? What’s next on the horizon for them?”

A: “There are two big things that will be huge for Puppet in 2018, the first one being their Puppet Discovery product. It’s going to give a lot of visibility into customer environments of what assets they have and what’s really out there. They’re also going to be promoting and integrating their Puppet Pipelines product, which automates the build and deployment of your apps and gives incredible visibility, as well as audit trails for your entire software delivery lifecycle. Puppet’s really expanding beyond config management and I think both of these products will be their spotlight. Discovery and Pipelines have already been well-received and sitting on the Puppet Partner Advisory Board, it’s interesting to give direct feedback on their technology, as well as the direction they’re taking.”

Q: “What are some benefits of Puppet or ideal use case scenarios?”

A: “Well, a lot of our customer engagements are an entire implementation of automation and orchestration—it’s not just config management. Config management by itself is rarely enough to make a change in an organization—the automation of their entire platform is really what becomes the game-changer. And that’s where I think AHEAD really shines: We help customers get on the right path and complete their journey. It’s really the whole nine yards.”

Q: “What advice would you give an organization looking to adopt Puppet?”

A: “A lot of times, we tell them to start with the basics—and to just get started. Don’t spend a lot of time planning out every detail since it’s an ongoing, iterative process that you’re always going to be refining. It’s also important to have that upper management buy-in and a culture shift. We’ve seen customers who don’t have the culture, so when they try to implement Puppet, they don’t end up seeing the benefits. You need to have buy-in from the entire organization—not bottom-up or top-down. To be successful, it needs to be across the board.”

Q: “Throughout this conversation, you’ve mentioned AHEAD’s customers and your experience implementing Puppet projects. Could you elaborate on your work with them and what a typical customer engagement looks like?”

A: “Our AHEADStart framework teaches customers to use Puppet’s tools in an effective manner, so they don’t have to go it alone and spend months gathering all of this information themselves. It’s all about tool selection—the tool ‘action’ and the tool ‘why.’ Essentially, it’s less about what Puppet is, but the best method and the right tools for the job. The goal of the two-week engagement are two-fold: One, give the customer a fully-working production environment and two, equip those customers with enough knowledge to build out and run their own automation framework.

In the AHEADStart program, the tool we use most frequently with customers is the vRealize Orchestrator. Between the VRO tool and the automation plugins that Puppet has released in the last year, it’s made the process much more simple for automating the entire build process. Another cool integration is GitHub Enterprise. This is where all of the code that Puppet deploys is stored and it allows them to very easily manage config versions of all of their software.”

Looking to implement Puppet in your environment? Learn more about the AHEAD Lab and Briefing Center, and contact us to get started on your road to automation and orchestration.

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