LAUNCH DAY: StackStorm Was Built From The Ground Up For DevOps Operators, To Automate Those Operators

May 6, 2014

by Evan Powell

Today StackStorm exits stealth mode.

For those that have been following developments in our corner of OpenStack, we were never really in stealth mode since the StackStorm team is helping our friends at Mirantis and elsewhere in a couple of projects including Mistral, or Workflow as a Service.

However, until today we’ve never told our story. We’ve never put our contributions into context. And we’ve never even admitted we all work here or that we are funded or that we have a snazzy logo.

Here goes. Hello world.” This is the beginning of our introduction of StackStorm to the world. Thus, I’d like to share five drivers that led me to help found StackStorm. I’ll cover one observation for each of the next five days.

Before I get to that – some context. StackStorm’s vision is to deliver self-driving, self-learning operations automation so that all of us can enjoy the kind of massive productivity lift that the top handful of operators already enjoy when they develop and operate software.

On a personal note, I feel absolutely blessed to be living in this time in Silicon Valley. At the risk of sounding a little hyperbolic – humanity really is leaping ahead with innovation disrupting (and massively improving) everything from healthcare to thermostats to how we communicate to how we answer surveys to how we entertain ourselves to how we care for each other to how we store and share digital information and much, much more. And software done right – built and operated right – is powering it all. What a blast!

This leads to driver #1:

DevOps and the shift to the cloud is much bigger than generally assumed.

Over the last few years, my co-founder Dmitri and I have met with thousands of enterprises, service providers, government agencies, integrators and sundry analysts and experts. And I’ve been speaking about the inevitability of the shift to Software Defined Data Centers for many years while helping to create the software defined storage market.

More recently, as StackStormers, Dmitri and I have met with approximately 100 DevOps practitioners with OpenStack projects either ongoing or kicking off. The shift to DevOps – sometimes lumped in with the shift to Software Defined Data Centers and also the shift to the cloud – is the biggest shift in IT we’ve seen in our careers. The top DevOps practitioners are 10-100x more productive than your legacy siloed IT operations department. Software is “eating everything” AND the approach to building and operating software has improved radically. Nearly every company and government in the world must either leverage this step function improvement in productivity of software development and operations or face disruption.

It might be worth discussing the 10-100x productivity improvement:   

a. Is it real? Organizations like PayPal and eBay have published their own data showing at least a 7x improvement in development velocity. And of course the DevOps surveys by folks like Puppet Labs have shown even higher improvements in the speed and quality of development. And, again, our own experience indicates it is very real.  One operator tells us that they went from building and deploying 1 new service a year before DevOps to 54 in the 12 months after they got up to speed with a DevOps approach. Revolutionary.

b. Is 10x a lot? Software getting built and operated 10x better is changing the world. A comparison that Dmitri made in his talk at SCALE12x this past February was to the tractor. As I think any casual student of the 20th century knows, the tractor changed the world by enabling urbanization and more. According to most economic historians, the tractor was about 4x more productive as measured by crops produced vs. input in human and machine energy. IT fairly suddenly figuring out how to develop and operate software 10-100x more productively compares favorably with the most important improvements in human history.


So – GREAT. The world is changing. What do we and other DevOps solution providers have to do with this? Ask yourself – why don’t we ALL just jump on the DevOps bandwagon and start building and operating software in this new way? I’ll take on that question tomorrow as the second driver that led us to start StackStorm.