Chef, A DevOps Pioneer, Introduces First-Ever Partner Program

After open sourcing its entire portfolio to better align with partners, the company looks to bolster the work of a channel delivering comprehensive DevOps services to “the coded enterprise.”

On the heels of a change to its business model meant to better align the company with its partners, Chef is introducing its first-ever channel program.

The pioneering DevOps startup has formalized through a tiered program what were previously opportunistic relationships with resellers and services providers who specialize in automating enterprise IT operations, Vikram Ghosh, Chef’s vice president of business development, told CRN.

The program launch follows Chef transitioning in April from an open core model to a true open source one by eliminating the final proprietary pieces that often placed the company at odds with its partners, Ghosh said.

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“What that opened up is an area where a partner delivering services based on our software would be able to better coordinate their efforts with Chef the company,” Ghosh told CRN.

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Chef first made a name for itself in the DevOps world more than a decade ago with a game-changing infrastructure configuration management solution.

In recent years, Chef has expanded on its infrastructure-as-code origins to focus on the broader “coded enterprise”—a term which encompasses infrastructure, security and compliance, and application lifecycle automation.

Chef’s original configuration management product ultimately became Chef Infra. The company later introduced InSpec and Habitat, also released under open source licensing, to automate security and application deployment respectively.

That DevOps portfolio was tied together by Chef Automate, an observability and management platform that was proprietary, and almost exclusively brought to market through direct sellers. Partners were often irked by the conflict between their Chef open source practices and the company’s parallel efforts to sell software licenses, Ghosh told CRN.

After open sourcing Automate to shift away from that open core model, the company introduced Chef Enterprise Automation Stack, which is a proprietary product in name only—essentially a commercial wrapper Chef offers around its entirely open stack. That model maintains accord with partners bringing those components to market independently.

The Chef Partner Program is precisely designed so that partners that don’t want to resell Chef, but only focus on delivering services through its open source technologies, are still positioned to benefit through their alliance with the vendor.

“The partner program will help differentiate partners, help them to tell their story with our megaphone,” Ghosh said.

Partners land in Principal, Senior or Junior tiers based on the number of successful customer deployments they’re driving, what they’re doing to differentiate their practices, and the number of technical staff trained or badged on Chef.

Damith Karunaratne, vice president of DevOps at Indellient, a solution provider based outside of Toronto that first partnered with Chef four years ago, sees a huge opportunity automating enterprise IT with Chef’s comprehensive portfolio.

Indellient started working with Chef Infra for configuration management, then evolved into those other components, he said.

Having configuration management, application automation, and continuous security and compliance in a single stack, with visibility into all those components from a single pane of glass, solves headaches faced by DevOps practitioners, Karunaratne told CRN.

“We’ve used the Chef Enterprise Automation Stack to be able to automate the whole application lifecycle from soup to nuts,” Karunaratne said.

A formal channel program is welcome, he said, to continue to advance the relationship.

“What a lot of partner programs do is focus on benefits based on resale,” he said. “What Chef has done with this change in program is they’ve highlighted the benefits to be a partner but not always have to transact.”

The co-marketing and joint go-to-market opportunities are especially attractive for Indellient, which already does periodic webinars with Chef, as well as workshops and guest blogs.

“The benefit for us, we get to stand on the shoulders of Chef and shout out what we’re able to do in this space with their technology,” Karunaratne said.