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Puppet pops out on hiring managers' lists for top developer jobs

Which developer skills should you master next? Puppet pops out on hiring lists

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Paul Korzeniowski, Blogger, Independent

Looking for job security? Gaining Puppet expertise is a good place to start. Tech careers website Dice found that job listings for Puppet specialists are up 91 percent this year. "In the last two years, we have seen a threefold increase in demand for Puppet professionals," says Shravan Goli, president at Dice. Not only is demand up, but salaries are also twice as high as those for system administrators. In sum, the Puppet job market is scorching hot.

What's driving the interest? Puppet, like Chef and SaltStack, is one in a new genre of system management tools that ease administration. "Companies want to manage their data-center system infrastructure in a modular fashion, like working with software code," explains Tim Zonca, director of product marketing at Puppet Labs.

Configuration enablers like Puppet help businesses automate data center resources. Previously, software to configure each machine was written on an individual basis, which meant setup and deployment took hours or even days, depending on the numbers of devices coming online. "Puppet automates the deployment process, so the time frame is reduced, and some changes occur in minutes," says Zonca. The tool is flexible and works with physical and virtual machines running on premise, in the cloud, or in a hybrid environment.

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Responding to change

The need for more sophisticated system-deployment automation tools is clear. "Companies want to respond to market factors ASAP, and that desire puts pressure on IT to deploy system infrastructure services more rapidly," states Mary Johnston Turner, research vice president of enterprise-system management software at International Data Corporation (IDC), a market research firm.

Application development and delivery have changed in a number of ways. First, rising interest in DevOps is impacting development cycles. The focus is on short, iterative application design and testing. Businesses want to spend more time running and testing systems and less time configuring their infrastructure.

Second, with the cloud at their disposal, enterprises are building larger data centers. Firms deploy hundreds and even thousands of servers to support new applications. Traditionally, businesses like Amazon, Google, and Facebook developed custom tools to bring new machines online or quickly change configurations with existing systems. But the work was tedious and time consuming, and the vendors didn't readily share their tools.

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Why larger businesses are embracing Puppet

Puppet is an open source configuration-management solution designed to ease system setup and tear down. While the tool is open to any business, customers have mainly been larger companies. "Sixty-two of the Fortune 100 use our software," says Puppet Labs' Zonca.

"Theoretically, companies can manage larger data centers with less staff or reallocate techies to developing differentiating services, rather than spending their time on mundane configuration management," notes IDC 's Turner. Through these benefits, the product has helped tens of thousands of the world's leading companies manage millions of devices, according to Puppet Labs. Corporations like Bank of America, Cisco Systems, New York Stock Exchange, and Salesforce.com rely on the software for their infrastructure configurations.

However, the movement is relatively new. Puppet Labs, based in Portland, Oregon, was formed in 2005. The business, which now has more than 360 employees, raised $86 million from investors, including Cisco, Google Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Radar Partners, Triangle Peak Partners, True Ventures, and VMware.

A new market emerges

The company began shipping its first commercial system, Puppet Enterprise, in 2011. Because the solution is in a nascent stage of development, enterprises are having trouble finding the required experts. Organizations like Harvard University, Northrop Grumman, and Zynga have filled job websites with ads for talented Puppeteers.

Currently, demand is well ahead of supply, which is bad for business but good for IT professionals. One ripple effect is high salaries. Dice found that salaries are in the $150,000 to $175,000 range. In comparison, system administrators make about $85,000 and network administrators command $75,000.

Certification is available

How can developers take advantage of the upswing in interest? Well, they need Puppet expertise, and certification is a good place to start. "With the advent of online job applications, human resources departments find themselves overwhelmed with potential candidates," says Dice's Goli. Gaining a sense of a person's skill set via phone or face-to-face interviews is time consuming. Certification ensures that the candidate has a basic understanding of the technology.

Puppet Labs only recently began putting such programs in place. The Puppet Professional certification validates system administrator competencies and a certificant's ability to manage system infrastructure. The former Puppet Developer certification has been discontinued.

The training courses and the certification program are priced at a few hundred dollars. Currently, about 5,000 individuals have been trained. Puppet Labs has been building up its training department and partner programs with the goal of increasing the number of Puppet pros.

Over time, a growing supply of Puppet pros is expected to close the current skills gap. In the short term, demand is expected to remain high, so individuals with Puppet skills can pick from many lucrative, intriguing positions.

Image source: Flickr

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