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Distelli relaunch raises questions about Puppet vs. Jenkins

Customers reacted to new Puppet Pipelines tools with confusion about how the new software compares with Jenkins for CI/CD and concerns that Puppet will spread itself too thin.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Puppet vs. Jenkins was the first question that came to mind for IT pros as the company introduced newly rebranded software from its September 2017 acquisition of Seattle startup Distelli Inc.

Puppet Pipelines for Applications and Puppet Pipelines for Containers -- formerly known as Distelli VM Dashboard and Distelli Kubernetes Dashboard, respectively -- were reintroduced just over three weeks after Puppet bought the continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) software company. Puppet has integrated the tools with its open source and Puppet Enterprise tools, which can lay down Distelli software agents on hosts and confirm their installation. Further integration will follow, such as Puppet-executed jobs that take place between application deployments, company executives said.

Puppet and Distelli reps touted Distelli's support for application deployments on multiple public clouds and on premises, as well as integrations with other DevOps tools IT pros already have in their shops, such as Jenkins. Under Distelli, as well as Puppet, the software can add role-based access control (RBAC), audit trails and approvals to open source Jenkins. For this reason, the companies' reps tried to steer the conversation away from Puppet vs. Jenkins at PuppetConf here this week.

But as Distelli product manager Brian McGehee demonstrated the CI/CD tool in an introductory session, he was hit with the question, "How is this better than Jenkins?"

"It's not better than Jenkins; they have a symbiosis together," McGehee responded. But, citing Pipelines' support for audits and an integrated dashboard that provides all members of a DevOps team a centralized view into the application build and release process, he added that "visibility makes us stand out."

Puppet Pipelines also integrates with CI/CD tools such as JetBrains' TeamCity, McGehee added. Open source Jenkins doesn't offer RBAC support for groups by default, but users can integrate it with OpenLDAP, Active Directory or a Role Strategy Plugin. Jenkins Enterprise vendor CloudBees also offers an RBAC plug-in.

Puppet vs. Jenkins questions persist despite messaging

Others also were quick to emphasize that Puppet Pipelines offers compatibility, rather than competition, with Jenkins. The product can also wrap an easy-to-use interface around Jenkins, for example, Puppet CEO Sanjay Mirchandani said in an interview at PuppetConf.

However, the customer who questioned McGehee said later in an interview that he still wasn't sure there was enough differentiation between Puppet Pipelines and Jenkins to justify paying for Pipelines. Pipelines has a free version, but it's limited to one user and one server agent. Pricing plans that support larger groups of agents and users are listed starting at $39 per month when billed annually on the Puppet Pipelines website.

That customer -- Greg Kulosa, director of technical operations at GreatSchools, an education nonprofit in Oakland, Calif. -- was unimpressed with an aspect of McGehee's demo, where he entered app deployment instructions into a text box. Kulosa said the method of issuing instructions in the CI/CD pipeline can't be version-controlled the same way coded instructions can.

Later, McGehee clarified that users also can create coded instructions in a manifest, but whether or not Kulosa will investigate is unclear.

"They lost me right there," Kulosa said.

Some Puppet Enterprise customers, such as Fannie Mae, said they will consider Pipelines to potentially replace a homegrown application deployment tool. The Washington, D.C.-based mortgage lender hasn't yet looked deeply into Pipelines, but plans to set it up and play with it, said Trent TeSelle, an infrastructure architect at Fannie Mae.

Another Puppet Enterprise customer said his company will investigate Pipelines, but Puppet vs. Jenkins confusion lingered for him, as well.

"The integrated dashboard [in Pipelines] seemed pretty cool," said the senior application engineer for a large financial company, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "But it does seem like there's a lot of overlap with Jenkins, and I'm not sure when we'll get the time to fully explore it."

The senior application engineer said he was most interested to learn how he can customize Puppet Pipelines to accommodate complex application deployments.

Companies with developers often automate things already with tools like Jenkins, and few ops teams are looking at that as something to accomplish with Puppet.
Enrico Bartzsystem engineer, SVA System

A Puppet reseller and consultant that works with clients in Europe said he doubted whether Puppet customers that already use Jenkins will be convinced to add Puppet Pipelines.

"Companies with developers often automate things already with tools like Jenkins, and few ops teams are looking at that as something to accomplish with Puppet," said Enrico Bartz, system engineer for SVA in Hamburg, Germany.

On the other hand, there are still plenty of enterprises that haven't yet settled on a DevOps tool stack, and Puppet still has a window of opportunity to sell Pipelines there, Bartz added.

Still, some Puppet Enterprise customers see the company as a specialist that's best at providing one component in the CI/CD process, rather than overall application release orchestration. They worry the company will spread itself too thin as it develops Distelli.

"Their core strength is [infrastructure] automation, and branching out into self-service portals or orchestration software could shift their focus away from that," said Steve Rousseau, vice president and director of IT infrastructure at Federal Home Loan Bank in Atlanta.

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for TechTarget's Data Center and Virtualization Media Group. Write to her at bpariseau@techtarget.com or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

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