Opscode gets Chef cooking for the enterprise

Chef is part of a new generation of IT.

Opscode, the configuration management company that has rethought the way to deploy and monitor hardware and software for cloud environments, has emerged from beta and launched a product specifically for the enterprise. The first was an expected move, but the second was because of popular (and surprising) demand, said Opscode co-founder and CEO Jesse Robbins in an interview.

The company, which makes the Chef configuration management software, launched last year with about 80 so-called “cookbooks” that are code-already-written to describe how the underlying infrastructure should operate. Now Robbins says there are more than 240 cookbooks, and most are contributed by the community. Chef also got a boost as the underlying configuration tool for Dell’s (s dell) software to automatically deploy OpenStack-based clouds. Robbins hopes Chef becomes the default for OpenStack deployments in general, with those deciding to offer specialty distributions adding features at the layer above Opscode’s Chef.

And the OpenStack deployment and acceptance by Dell is part of a bigger strategy shift for Opscode. When Robbins launched the company, he envisioned developers playing with it and building out their startups using Chef. Some have. However, enterprises were also eager to kick the tires and try Chef out, leading Opscode to launch an enterprise edition today with a 99.9 percent availability guarantee and some support features.

Robbins said that most enterprise users aren’t deploying Chef for specific applications or workloads, but they are generally working on a project where they “have a license to rip s*** up.” It may be a new deployment of an internal or external app or a rewrite of an existing application, but those turning to Chef and the cloud generally have implicit or explicit permission to go around the old rules. And once people inside the enterprise see how fast and agile a specific department becomes, it’s hard for others to justify not following suit.

Thus Opscode gussied itself up for the enterprise with the service level agreements, as well as a more secure offering called Opscode Private Chef that can run behind the corporate firewall. Robbins also said he had to learn how to talk “enterprisey” in order to sell to this audience and has hired folks who know how to do it better.

Opscode competes against other configuration management tools, of which there are plenty, notably Puppet, which is shepherded by Puppet Labs (see disclosure). But so far, Robbins is optimistic and hopes that as time passes he finds fewer and not more clients willing to share testimonials for the company.

“Once they start using our automation, a really amazing thing happens: They stop talking about it,” Robbins says. “The way you can tell you are a good infrastructure company is when you disappear and just become part of the stack.”

Disclosure: Puppet Labs is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, the founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.