In this post we’ll briefly explore the history of the Opsware automation portfolio and talk about modern equivalents and replacements you should be considering.
A Brief History of Opsware
Let’s start with defining what we are talking about in today’s blog. I’m focusing specifically on the IT datacenter automation software, namely: Cloud Service Automation (CSA), Server Automation (SA), Network Automation (NA), and Operations Orchestration (OO) – a product which once had the acronym HPOO… you can’t make it up!
If we allow ourselves to hop in the way back machine, the story starts with a Bay Area startup called Loudcloud which was founded by Ben Horowitz and Marc Andreesen in 1999. Loudcloud was an infrastructure and application hosting company and developed really cool management software to manage its clients’ IT infrastructure. The company went public in 2001. In 2002 Loudcloud sold its managed services business to EDS. (Ed. note: EDS briefly became HP ES in an acquisition on its ultimate voyage into the sun and to a merger with CSC, the joint company becoming known as DXC Technology in 2017.) Loudcloud rebranded as an enterprise software company called Opsware that focused on developing and selling its IT datacenter lifecycle management software. In 2007 Opsware was acquired by HP Software. In 2017 HP sold the software business to Micro Focus. This software that Loudcloud / Opsware built back in the late 1990 / early 2000s is the aforementioned suite of automation software, specifically: Server Automation (System), Network Automation (System), and Process Automation (System) – all of which were rebranded slightly after the 2007 acquisition by HP Software.
So other than exercising some knowledge on the history of the software, why mention all of this? It’s because it is truly old tech. It’s been upgraded and expanded and rewritten since the early days, but it is still that kind of old school top-down management interface for IT environments with more modern amenities like the ability to write automation in YAML stapled to the side of it. At their peak these software solutions were used to manage tens of thousands of operating systems, network devices, and to automate endpoints leveraging an agent-based architecture. And it wasn’t cheap! Solutions like Server Automation, Operations Orchestration and other similar market offerings (anyone remember BMC Bladelogic, now TrueSight?) were closed-source and partially responsible for the explosion of enterprise open source software. Sales teams had a number back then, if your device count was smaller than that number they knew there was no business case for you to evaluate that type of software – you just couldn’t get there. A good chunk of mid-market and large, but not large-enough, IT enterprises were left with no good enterprise automation solutions.
What Else Is Out There?
So what happens? People start looking for (and building) their own solutions in the mid-2000s. Open source solutions start getting community adoption and IT staff are able to go way beyond things like CFEngine and are starting to adopt solutions like Chef and Puppet and learn more modern languages like Ruby. Chef and Puppet provide an early example of how to build a userbase on open source software but quickly realize no one wants to suddenly pay for things they’d been previously given for free. Licensing models change, some products go open core and paywall subsequently developed features. Far more recently, that is, in the last 10 years (geez, I am getting old)open source software supporting modern software development and hybrid cloud architectures has become the standard. And if you find yourself in a traditional IT environment or at least one with some tech debt you’re looking to retire, you really owe it to yourself to look at Ansible & Terraform.
Red Hat Ansible & HashiCorp Terraform
Ansible began life as an open source project in 2012. Automation is written in YAML, a simple scripting language that anyone can learn and it is an agentless architecture. Ansible was acquired by Red Hat in 2015, and to their great credit, Red Hat not only left Ansible core as open source, they went and open-sourced the enterprise version Ansible Tower (the community version of which is AWX)! Awesome move for the community. Due to the commitment to open source, Red Hat’s market reach, and the extraordinarily simple-to-use scripting language YAML, usage of Ansible in enterprises of all sizes has skyrocketed. If you’re not using it today, you’re in luck, you’re a simple web search and download from having an enterprise grade solution that really acts as a jack-of-all-trades for endpoint configuration regardless of operating system running on the target. It’s been used quite successfully for years at very large scale in organizations of every size.
HashiCorp Terraform launched in the community in 2014. It has since seen massive growth as an open source project and as both SaaS-based and on-premise enterprise software solutions. Terraform is an extremely powerful tool which enables infrastructure-as-code use cases. Terraform manages external resources using what it calls providers and gives the end-user the ability to declare the end-state configuration leveraging those external providers. This declarative architecture allows for highly modular, scalable, and reusable code to configure highly complex end points, platform-as-a-service, etc.
In practice, we see Ansible + Terraform being used in concert with code release processes as well as being front-ended by service catalogs like ServiceNow to enable a limitless variety of push button IT capabilities. Please contact us If you’d like to learn more about using Ansible or Terraform .
Jesse is the Director of Sales at Keyva, a consulting and solutions company dedicated to helping our clients achieve business and technical success through emerging technologies. Jesse has spent over 15 years in automation and cloud technologies most recently with Red Hat and prior to that as the head of sales for a cloud consulting organization.
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