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Puppet, Chef Ease Transition to Cloud Computing

Two odd-sounding programs are easing the transition to the cloud

Organizations as diverse as Northrop Grumman, Harvard University, Zynga, and the New York Stock Exchange have filled job websites with requests for talented puppeteers and master chefs. A quick dig into the job listings reveals that these positions have nothing to do with office entertainment or gourmet meals. Instead, the companies want people who have mastered Puppet or Chef, competing software tools that sit at the heart of the cloud computing revolution.

In essence, Puppet and Chef are levers used to control data center computers in a more automated fashion. The software has helped companies tap vast stores of computing power in new ways, accelerating research in fields such as financial modeling and genetics. “This really changes the way science gets done,” says Jason Stowe, the chief executive officer of Cycle Computing, a startup that uses Chef to configure thousands of computers at a time so that clients can perform calculations at supercomputer speeds. Before adopting Chef, doing such configurations took hours or even days. “We’re down to single-digit minutes now,” Stowe says.