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The Second Wave of DevOps: Our Investment in System Initiative


    Today, we are pleased to announce leading the $15M Series A investment of System Initiative (SI). This investment is a decade in the making,  not only because SI’s approach takes inspiration from the last decade of DevOps developments, but because it has been exactly 10 years since our investment in Chef, when we first partnered with Adam Jacob, then Chef co-founder and now SI co-founder, to bring about the first wave of DevOps and we both felt our work was unfinished.

    The birth of DevOps was as much, if not more, a change of culture, people, and process as it was about software and automation. We went from siloed dev and ops teams shipping infrequent bulky updates to integrated teams continuously deploying code. However, the goal of frequently shipping high-quality code to customers wasn’t tenable with our old manual techniques; automation was a necessary component and new tools were required. I was fortunate enough to be a part of such a transition myself at Netflix, moving from a monolithic on-premises application to a cloud-native distributed microservices-based one as part of the company’s transformation into a streaming service. Chef was one of a handful of early innovators that pioneered the first wave of DevOps centered around the idea of infrastructure-as-code and we at Scale were excited about backing an innovative leader in a category we had high conviction in.

    Today, many years later, only a few companies have managed to achieve the intended goal of DevOps, while most others are not quite there. For those that did, the goal came at a high initial cost and ongoing maintenance tax. As movements often do, DevOps found some limits, both culturally and from a tooling perspective, long before it reached its highest aspirations. All the infrastructure of application development and deployment is still hard.

    Even companies who ship daily struggle with “DevOps papercuts.” A litany of decisions and edge cases fill operators time and confuse their developers: Kubernetes? Terraform? Do I need GitOps or service mesh? Most have a dozen or so tools at various levels of maturity strung together with operator toil filling in the gaps.

    And it isn’t obvious where we go from here. Is this it? Is this terminal velocity? Maybe this is as good as it gets and operators just need to stick to it and keep patching. Or maybe this is a local maximum and we are just one breakthrough away from leveling up. To reach that level of rethink we might go back to where it all began: Ghent.

    What if Infrastructure as Code Never Existed?

    In 2014, the inaugural Config Management Camp welcomed early DevOps leaders to a small conference in Belgium. Adam Jacob of Chef and Luke Kanies of Puppet were the keynote speakers and the first talk was an early intro to Docker (which gives a sense for what was happening). Now, almost a decade later, CMC is back and so is Adam, giving yet another Keynote. His talk, What if Infrastructure as Code Never Existed? asks for just such a rethink. It introduced System Initiative and in so doing invites operators to the second wave of DevOps.

    We were sold on that vision of the future, just as, judging by the room’s reactions, were the others who heard Adam’s talk in Ghent. We know that if there’s anyone that can bring together and nurture a passionate open source community, it’s Adam. We’re thrilled to partner with Adam again on his next journey to usher in the Second Wave of DevOps.

    Eric Anderson contributed to our investment in System Initiative.

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