Sort of. Especially if they’ve done it before.
Like Opalis, StackStorm is about automation of the data center: the codifying of steps for particular operational tasks. The idea is to automate routine tasks as well as some reactive ones, such as disaster recovery, and to create a repository for network configurations, so that a particular configuration can be rebuilt if necessary.
What’s different now, and the reason why Zimine and Powell thought a new startup was called for, is the pace of data-center life. Operational activity used to happen on a per-hour kind of pace. “Now you’ve got incredibly dynamic environments, and you’re making changes minute by minute,” Powell says.
Another new factor is the rise of open-source software. Powell believes any new company in DevOps has to be based on open-source code.
The operational automation provided by StackStorm is like the brains of the data center. It might be just a “lizard brain,” Powell says jokingly, although that comparison is apt: StackStorm issues commands that get executed reflexively as tasks by configuration software such as Chef or Puppet.
Opalis showed that a market for this stuff exists. That company was acquired by Microsoft in 2009 and now powers System Center Orchestrator. The data center has since moved forward a few steps technologically, so the time for a revised Opalis is here, so the theory goes. Zimine started the thought process behind StackStorm about a year ago, and Powell — then an entrepreneur-in-residence at xSeed Capital and previously the founding CEO of software-defined storage startup Nexenta — joined him to get the new company started.
The Nexenta connection helped, because former customers of Powell’s were quite generous with their time.
“We would follow some of those data-center operators around for a day,” Powell says. “Seeing how they’re operating at scale was incredibly eye-opening.”
“At scale” has taken on a new dimension, with Facebook saying each staffer manages more than 20,000 servers. “It’s like 100X in terms of ratio” compared with how other data centers operate, Powell says. “I’m blown away by the productivity of a Facebook or someone of that ilk, versus the investment banks or some of the top operators.”
The Facebook types of data-center owners write their own automation code. StackStorm is founded on the assumption that most of the world won’t want to do that.
Powell wouldn’t say how much money StackStorm has raised but claimed it’s enough to take the company to at least the fourth quarter of 2015.
You can virtually meet Powell and Zimine in this video, posted by the company today: