After 10 years at the Seattle company he co-founded and helped steer through a rapidly changing market for enterprise technology, Chef CTO Adam Jacob is ready for a break.
Jacob told employees Monday ahead of Chef’s company kickoff meeting this week that he will no longer have an active role inside the company, but he will remain involved as a member of Chef’s board of directors and as an advisor to the company. Jacob wrote two of the open-source projects at the heart of Chef’s original product strategy, and has helped the company shift its focus from infrastructure management to application management.
“Right this second, I’m not going to do anything,” Jacob said in an interview with GeekWire Monday. “I really do want to walk my kid to school and do a lot of those things, and I’m now in a position that because of Chef’s success that I don’t need to work for a while.”
Jacob co-founded Opscode, which was later renamed after the Chef open-source project, in 2008. The original company built tools that helped companies manage their data centers with software, which improved productivity and reliability of those systems. Since then, Jacob has played a variety of roles at the company from high-level strategy planning to personally writing some of the code found within Chef, InSpec, and Habitat, the three projects that form the basis of its product strategy.
“If there was a list of five or ten people that literally have changed the way IT works and set the foundation of the modern industry, Adam is one of them,” said Barry Crist, Chef’s CEO, in an interview.
The notion of “infrastructure as code” definitely made an impact on how companies managed their computing infrastructure, but one of the reasons companies adopt cloud services is to let providers like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure manage that infrastructure for them. The speed at which this transition has unfolded has changed the trajectory for companies like Chef that rose to prominence selling software to companies with their own data centers.
Chef has spent the last couple of years reorganizing the company a little higher up the stack, building tools that help companies manage applications spread across multiple operating environments, including cloud computing. It brought on Corey Scobie to lead product and engineering last year as part of that transition, and with Jacob’s departure the company does not plan to hire another CTO, Crist said.
Last month Jacob, a prominent voice in open-source circles, introduced a new organization called Sustainable Free and Open Source Communities devoted to finding ways to discuss recent changes in open-source licensing strategies brought on by cloud computing.
“It’s hard to build a software company, it’s hard to build a business, and I’m most proud that we’ve done both those things while building a community that actually does care about each other,” Jacob said.
Chef is coming off “record revenue” with the fourth quarter in the books, Crist said. The company has raised $105 million and while Crist has demurred when asked about the company’s strategic options in the past there’s a fair amount of sentiment that Chef could be the next open-source enterprise tech startup on a big company’s shopping list.
“I’m super proud to have built Chef into such a sustainable company,” Jacob said.