Chef is revamping its development, platforms, and go-to-market strategy that will see the DevOps player more tightly embrace the open source ecosystem. While not unique, the move comes on the heels of what the vendor said was its most successful quarter in history.
Starting today, Chef will be developing and releasing all of its software under the Apache 2.0 open source license model. It will also build all of its different platforms from the same source code that is distributed to the open source community and will be distributed with commercial license terms.
Corey Scobie, senior vice president of products and engineering, said the move will allow Chef to tap into the open source developer ecosystem instead of building proprietary systems on top of those open source platforms.
“This radically simplifies how we go to market,” Scobie said. “All of our stack can now be a commercial relationship or a customer can take what they want. We are going to focus on providing a top-tier enterprise-class distro on top.”
Scobie added that Chef also felt that the best way to bolster the usefulness of its software was to collaborate. “This just felt right to us and gives us the freedom to openly collaborate with the community,” he said.
Prior to this move, Scobie said that Chef had a “loose open core model” where some of its platforms were open source and some were proprietary. He noted that its Automate platform was the primary proprietary offering.
Chef will maintain sole rights to the “Chef” and associated trademarks, which include “InSpec,” “Habitat,” and “Automate” as they relate to the company’s products. This move seems likely targeted at past moves by large cloud providers to use an open source product’s name as part of their own managed platform.
“Trademark law is not simple but we are trying to make it as simple as possible,” Scobie said. “If you want to take our open source code, we are totally fine with that. But you can’t use our trademark to offer a managed service.”
Scobie did admit that it would be possible for a vendor to fork one of Chef’s platforms into a hosted service but noted that the company had great working relationships with many of the larger cloud providers.
“If someone wants to fork the project and innovate on top of that, we would of course welcome them,” Scobie said. “We would want to work with them and provide some feedback into the community, but we are leaving that open.”
Chef will be looking to make its money from a subscription service that includes deep support for the different Chef platforms. Scobie said the company was focused on big enterprise companies and hyperscalers that were using Chef’s portfolio and backing for automation in their organizations.
Scobie said he expects the vast majority of Chef customers will buy the stack of products. “They will get our distro and can use it at scale with our support for innovation, bug fixes, and lifecycle management,” he said. “We really think that the level of expertise we bring to this is unparalleled because we have so much history with these products.”
Existing commercial customers will not see a change in their service until their next renewal when they will get licensed onto the new products representing the same core products. That is expected to be completed by mid-year.
The operational makeover comes after Chef posted its most successful quarter in terms of bookings during the final three months of 2018, and celebrated its tenth consecutive quarter of revenue growth. Chef remains a private company, so exact details remain scarce.
“The decision to change had nothing to do with the trajectory of our business,” Scobie said. “This was just a move to help solve the marketing and go-to-market challenges around describing the long-term value of our relationship with our customers.”
However, the move does come on the heels of its co-founder and CTO Adam Jacob leaving the company. Jacob stepped down officially earlier this year, but remains on the company’s board.
Chef has raised $105 million in five funding rounds since being formed in 2009. However, its last round was nearly 4 years ago. Since then, a number of other players in the DevOps place have scored lucrative funding rounds that have pushed valuations into the billions.
JFrog, for instance, closed a $165 million Series D funding round last October that pushed its valuation to in excess of $1 billion. HashiCorp scored $100 million in its own Series D, which valued the company at $1.9 billion.
Others have closed on less lucrative funding rounds, but which have shown the continued financial interest in the space. This included CloudBees scoring $37 million last June, and Puppet attracting $42 million that same month.
A Grand View Research report released last year noted that the broader DevOps market was worth nearly $2.8 billion in 2016. The firm predicts the market will grow at an 18.6 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through 2025.