Season 2 — Episode 7

Have you hit a wall with your Open Source automation platform? Are you frustrated that your support has been limited? Well, Jesse Brennan and Claire Hernandez will calm your nerves with four words: Open Source Puppet Assist. They share how you can gain access to exclusive tools and content on Puppet, and help you make sure that you don’t take your Open Source journey alone.





00:00:09 Demetrius Malbrough Hey, everyone, thanks for joining this episode of Pulling the Strings podcast powered by Puppet. And I'm delighted to be your host today. My name is Demetrius Malbrough, and I'm on the product marketing team here at Puppet. And I'm really excited today to talk with Jesse Brennan and Claire Hernandez. Jesse Brennan is a senior professional services project manager and he has been at Puppet for almost two years and has a decade of PM experience across multiple industries, including finance and healthcare. And Claire Hernandez, senior director of Global Support and Claire has been at Puppet for almost six years and manages teams located in Portland, Oregon, Belfast, Northern Ireland, and Singapore. So she is a worldwide virtual traveler, ladies and gentlemen. Claire, welcome to Pulling the Strings. How are you?

00:01:08 Claire Hernandez Thank you, Demetrius. I am doing great, thank you. How are you?

00:01:12 Demetrius Malbrough I am fantastic. And Jesse, what about you? How are you?

00:01:15 Jesse Brennan I am doing great as well. Super pumped to be here today.

00:01:19 Demetrius Malbrough So it is fantastic to have both of you on Pulling the Strings today. So I am sure our listeners are ready to learn a little bit about Open Source Puppet Assist, or OSP Assist. So let's start off with the first question and let's take it nice and easy here with just what is OSP Assist and how did it become a thing?

00:01:41 Claire Hernandez So OSP Assist is a service that we have created for our open source users. Currently we are, well prior to this we did not have anything that we could sell or offer to that open source community that was built specifically for them. Jesse, you want to talk about what's involved in it?

00:02:03 Jesse Brennan Sure. So with Open Source Puppet Assist, it includes a one year subscription, or it is a one year subscription, that includes three scheduled sessions with the Puppet support engineer really takes you through the different components of Puppet as well as five named licenses for our organization gives you several tutorials and guides on different things around the Puppet ecosystem, as well as some guides around being able to troubleshoot. But we do have a lot of free content on the portal that can help get you started and can give you a lot of knowledge on how to work with your open source Puppet environment.

00:02:39 Demetrius Malbrough Okay, great. So I guess what are some of the examples of some of this content that our listeners could possibly have access to with OSP Assist?

00:02:50 Jesse Brennan Yeah. So really, we take you through everything, right. So we do have some intro guides on really basic things. What the heck's a control repo? How do I get started with open source Puppet? All the way to the really, really advanced stuff of, how do I graph out things to really kind of understand where some of the core issues are in my environment and how do I get to the root of some performance issues I might be having in the environment, right? So we try and really have the breadth of everything around Puppet in this guide.

00:03:25 Demetrius Malbrough Okay, great. And Claire, specifically to you. I would like to be a fly on the wall, just doing some of the historical conversations when OSP Assist was not really a thing. And you were maybe having these conversations behind the scenes. So can you take us back to some of the conversations that were being had behind the scenes that brought on the idea of building OSP Assist?

00:03:52 Claire Hernandez So it started off with a conversation about what can we what can we do to help our OSP users be successful as they use Puppet? And since I run support, the conversation ended up on my shoulders. And initially we had thought, well, maybe we you know, the break-fix model that we do for our enterprise users might work. So I did some research, just by myself, and looked at the landscape of who was offering services, what were they doing? And it appeared that there was not really that much interest in doing something specific for Puppet that wasn't already being done by somebody else. So we we had some ideas and then we went to the community and that was the fun part. I'll give you a bit of the background and then I'm sure Jesse can elaborate. But we identified some open source users. We did some marketing. We did some outreach, and we ended up talking to, oh, between 20 and 30 different groups. And it was very apparent through talking to them that our theory of the break-fix model not being interesting. And then we were talking to one of our users and they said, well, you know, there's this other vendor that we work with who has this portal. And it's a place where we can go and get content that's authored by the experts. So we know we have a great community on Slack. But they wanted something where Puppet was the author. They wanted to basically, you know, get it straight from the horse's mouth, if that's the right phrase. We then took that idea and we validated that. Does this does a set of resources and content that is authored by Puppet and other credible sources seem interesting to you? Is it something that you would pay for? Is there anything else we can do that would make it interesting? And that's how we came up with the three approaches in our model. So it's the portal that Jesse said, we have content that is both available for non subscribers. So we want to be really clear that OSP Assist has two types of users. It has a free user. Anybody can use it. And we also have this subscription piece which Jesse talked about, which is the exclusive content, the portal, the unlimited access to the portal, and the sessions with the support engineer. And part of the exclusive content includes tools as well as the documentation that you heard about earlier. So that's the, that's kind of how we ended up where we are today. And by the way, we have iterated as we have gone along. We've changed the name. We've changed the UI on the portal. We are getting great feedback from users. And yeah, it's very exciting.

00:07:02 Jesse Brennan Yeah and just to mirror what Claire is saying, really engaging the open source community. That's not typically something that's part of my day job. It's not really something that's typically part of Claire's day job. And this was one of the most fun bits about this project, really kind of working with the open source community and really seeing what they wanted in a tool. So really, the open source community and everybody that we sat down with really kind of go over what they wanted to see from Puppet. They really guided us on the service that we're we're offering. And I think that's just really, really cool, right? I've been involved in a lot of different companies, and we've never really had an approach that customer-focused and that the customer almost dictated.

00:07:45 Demetrius Malbrough OK. So it sounds like there was a lot of community engagement on the open Slack channel, right? And as far as engaging the community, how did it start off? Was it just like a Slack message filled it out there to say, hey, we're thinking about doing this thing? And can we send you like a survey to answer these questions? Or like, how did you engage?

00:08:09 Claire Hernandez So we did that. We also around the time we were doing our research, we had PuppetizePDX, where we had a community or actually it was a an event for both open source and enterprise users. And I was bribing people, quite frankly. So because I heard that people do things for free stuff, which I actually know because I am one of those people. And we had this community, we had a group of people in the Puppet office, in the Overlook. And I basically just stood on a table and I said, if anybody's willing to give me information, I'll give you swag and free stuff. And I had surprisingly few takers for that. But then eventually I got a few and I already had meetings set up and talked to a lot of people during those three days at PuppetizePDX, as well as phone calls. We did a lot of calls and Jesse can talk about that.

00:09:07 Demetrius Malbrough A lot of calls?

00:09:08 Jesse Brennan Yeah. No, we also approached everybody on the community Slack and put it out there, as well as throwing an internal message around Puppet of, hey, if you know anybody or any open source Puppet shops or practitioners that you want to get involved, we're all ears, right? So we developed a small list of people that we did want to reach out to and that would be receptive to us reaching out to them to really just kind of arrange a phone call. And I believe Claire and I spent about an hour for about 30 or 40 different open source Puppet users and shops and practitioners to really kind of go over what they're looking for in a service from Puppet. So it's really just that that time spent one-on-one. And that's what was really helpful about this, just spending so much time to really delve deep and understand what their requirements were. Because it really wasn't what we thought it was. So really kind of doing that validation and taking a step back and going, oh, oh, it should be something else, and revamping the service. It definitely was a really cool experience and really kind of makes OSP Assist what it is today.

00:10:23 Demetrius Malbrough It's amazing that I have both of you on the show. So it is, so you're on the professional services side Jesse? And Claire, you are on the global support side, So professional services meets global support. So how fantastic and amazing it is to have both of you on. So I'm actually going to throw sort of a curveball question here at you, which I'm sure you'll have a fantastic time answering this question. So it's a toss up between either one of you. And that's fine, right? So the question is, what is one of the most interesting things that you could possibly share that you've dealt with? Either one of you. So from a professional services side, or maybe even a global support side, maybe not a horror story, but, you know, kind of a lessons learned or maybe one of the weirdest things that you've heard or one of the fantastic ways you able to help someone. Any stories like that that you could possibly share that maybe interesting for the Pulling the Strings listeners?

00:11:24 Claire Hernandez I want to just make a disclaimer here that I have, or not even a disclaimer, but a source of pride. I have a very, very strong and capable team. And I get more feedback on how great the support team is in this job than I've ever had before. And so that's, it's a constant source of pride. And everybody will tell you, I am the number one PR person for the support organization. And if there was one story, I don't know what it would be, because truly, we have a lot of stories where customers have gotten themselves into trouble or maybe we've helped get them into trouble. And then we, you know, have done just fantastic work to get them out, including really going deep, deep into the logs, into the code, working closely with engineering. And yeah, there are too many stories. But I will just say generally that the team is very committed and it's just what they do, and it's fantastic. I will say, if we're talking about tips and tricks. Just a shout out to anybody who is doing an upgrade or anything that could result in some kind of maybe a little mistake or something, or an off track, do a backup before you start. That's all I have to say.

00:12:55 Demetrius Malbrough Now you're talking. Let's see. What about you?

00:12:58 Jesse Brennan Yeah, so on the PM side, so my typical day job is that of a professional services project manager. Typically, I'm involved with more of the internal initiatives. Just kind of as a secondary duty. And really just being paired with our professional services engineers. I'm constantly in awe of the amount that they just know, right, about Puppet. And so definitely near Claire's organization. You know, during our normal day jobs, we work pretty closely together beyond crafting the service. So I'm constantly in awe of her team as well. I can't say enough good things about the support organization Puppet. And yeah, really, just in terms of I don't think I have one story, but what I constantly, constantly see all the time is when we do find ourselves in a situation where our very capable engineers do need a little bit of help, I can't tell you how many times we've we've had our products or organization and our developers just kind of step right in without really, really, really focused subject matter expertise on certain things. And for some of our different customers, I have the docks, the crew, really, really low technical level details of something that we ran into in a customer environment that we have to get the developer that wrote that thing to actually kind of troubleshoot for a custom, very custom could have never guessed in a thousand years this would have been the case. And that's all stuff that goes back to our developers as well. And now they are thinking about that and eventually running into other issues and other organizations and those sorts of things.

00:14:42 Demetrius Malbrough Okay. Yeah. I appreciate you both sharing some of your stories and enthusiasm about, you know, just what your day job is, right, because I have two day jobs. One is, you know, podcasting and another one is trying to be an awesome tech marketing product manager. So a little shout out for myself there.

00:15:02 Claire Hernandez You deserve that.

00:15:03 Demetrius Malbrough I guess I shouldn't do that. But anyway, so we've already talked about, I guess, some of the challenges that made you create OSP Assist. And one thing I don't think we touched on was, you know, kind of the practitioner pain points. And you know, what a, I guess someone that's really deep with Puppet that's using OSP, and they really want to, you know, try to get access to some of these pieces of content or maybe even, you know, some help. And it'll save them some time from actually trying to go out and research this themselves. You know, what do you think is, I guess, the number one reason someone would actually even want to bother signing up for OSP Assist?

00:15:52 Claire Hernandez That's a great question. So one of the things we're trying to do is make this a one-stop shop. We want to use the portal as a place to go, as a destination spot for all things open source Puppet. And we're not quite there yet because it's still pretty new. But we are evolving our content to start including things that have information about some of the tools that we use with OSP, such as Foreman or Jenkins. We're going to start kind of adding some more content that way. I think there are two things from my perspective that have been the most well received. We have a whole section on best practices. I am so very grateful for this -- one of our professional services engineers was a practitioner, an OSP practitioner for a long time, and I said to her, if there was a ton of things that you wish you'd known when you started, can you remember what they are and just document them for me? I said very casually, as if this was very easy. And she and one of the other professional services engineers got together. And I'm looking at that section now. And there's one, two, three, there's about a dozen different articles on how to do something without having to learn to do it the hard way and making mistakes along the way, prevent issues with Puppet environment, scaling open source Puppet, test process for module code, and the first one is just Puppet tips and tricks. And that article is available for everybody to see. And that alone is massively helpful. And the other pieces on performance, there are a lot of tools and guides to measure scale and really handle performance, Puppet performance, in a way that lets you scale with the knowledge that you're doing in the most optimal way.

00:17:51 Demetrius Malbrough OK. How long does it take to sign up? Is this something that they can do very quickly, just like hit a website and type in their information and boom, they're on the portal? Or how does that work?

00:18:02 Jesse Brennan Yeah. So all users really need to do is go to and they're there. There really is no sign-up process. We want to make sure this content was as open and as successful as possible. We do have some of the exclusive articles that are behind a log-in screen. That is something that we could definitely work with you to get signed up for. But for the most part, you go right to the page and all that information is right at your fingertips.

00:18:30 Demetrius Malbrough OK. Jesse, did you record any of the videos? Can I like maybe go watch a video that has you delivering some type of deep, deep code integration or something?

00:18:40 Jesse Brennan Not me. However, we have one of our excellent support engineers that did do a video that is on the main page. We wanted to make sure that we put that in a pretty prominent location because there is some really good information on there.

00:18:54 Claire Hernandez And the other thing that we have videos of, which is not available anywhere else and wasn't available before the portal is, as you know, Demetrius, every week we have demos from our engineers and they give us a sneak preview on what's coming up. We do both PE and open source projects on the air while the videos, the recordings of the open source project demos are put on this site as well. So that's another thing that you can access here that you cannot get anywhere else. And that's kind of a fun thing to do and just see where we're going and get an idea of what we're thinking.

00:19:32 Demetrius Malbrough All right. Well, that was fantastic. You make me want to sign up for OSP Assist so I can watch some of those videos and maybe figure out what some of those best practices are as well. Is there any way that I guess for the listeners, any way that you would like them to maybe reach out to you on social media like LinkedIn or Twitter or anything like that you want to share with the listeners?

00:19:56 Claire Hernandez I think the best way to get hold of us, the most consistent way, is just to send us an email at And I do office hours, by the way, every Friday at 2:00 p.m. Pacific Time, I host OSP Assist Office Hour on the community Slack. So we do have an office hour channel, and I'm there every Friday and I've started posting articles that are available for everybody to see so that it's just an easy way to access the content.

00:20:31 Jesse Brennan And also, you can reach out to us on the community Slack. I am @JBrennan and then Claire, you are, I believe, @serviceguru.

00:20:40 Claire Hernandez @serviceguru. Yes.

00:20:41 Jesse Brennan Awesome.

00:20:42 Demetrius Malbrough Look at that. So I really, really appreciate you both taking time out of your day to come on Pulling the Strings and would just like to thank you for sharing and have a fantastic week, everyone.

00:20:54 Jesse Brennan Thank you.

00:20:55 Claire Hernandez Thank you. Thanks for having us, and we're always happy to come back again.

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