With a conference, event or meetup happening nearly every week these days, it’s often difficult to determine how successful a given company or technology is doing. It’s even more difficult when dealing with companies (eg. private &/or VC funded) and technologies (eg. open source) that don’t report revenues like traditional public vendors. Should we measure attendees, lines of contributed code, number of sponsors, or some other metric? One benchmark to consider is the breadth of the ecosystem in attendance. What percentage is advancing the core technology or platform (vendors, ISVs, Sis), and what percentage are paying customers that are willing to talk about how the technology is impacting their business in positive ways?
Based on information freely discussed at the Cloud Foundry Summit 2015 – 60% “vendors” and 40% “customers” – it would not be difficult to begin with the premise that the Cloud Foundry ecosystem is finding a healthy balance between creating technology achievements and solving market problems.
NOTE: At the 2014 Cloud Foundry Summit, that ratio was noted at 90% vendors, 10% customers.
Cloud Foundry Summit Videos: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLhuMOCWn4P9g-UMN5nzDiw78zgf5rJ4gR (see our Rags Srinivas (@ragss) with Matt Cowger (@mcowger) in “CF + 12-Factor Apps for Operations)
Cloud Foundry Summit Presentations: https://cfsummit.com/program/slides
Collaborators, Co-opetition and Community
In early 2015, the Cloud Foundry Foundation (“Cloud Foundry dot org”, or “CF.org”) was created to be the legal entity tasked with fostering the forward-looking charter of the Cloud Foundry projects. Aligned with the Linux Foundation, the CF Foundation elected Sam Ramji (@sramji) to be Chief Executive Officer. Ramji’s charter is not only to execute on the Foundation’s goal to become the “The Best Platform for building and deploying Cloud Native applications”, but to manage the inherent tension between major project contributors that are also competitive vendors (eg. Pivotal, IBM, HP, VMware, EMC, Cisco, SAP, Huiwei, etc.).
Central to this tension is that in order for Cloud Foundry to thrive, the contributors must create a core set of technologies that are identical and interoperable. This will allow Cloud Native applications written for Cloud Foundry to run equally well on ANY vendor or cloud provider implementation of Cloud Foundry. This Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) interoperability is hoping to achieve the application-level promise that Java once had, “write once, run anywhere”. The challenge comes when the vendors or cloud providers attempt to “add value” to Cloud Foundry by creating unique differentiations which extend the platform in unique ways. This is where CF.org must create an environment that encourage on-going collaboration, but also understand architecturally and politically how to allow extensions that enable the vendors and providers to best meet their market demands.
Based on our observations at Cloud Foundry Summit 2015, the Foundation is doing an excellent job of highlighting the vision and early success of the community projects, while giving the vendors and cloud providers room to discuss differentiation. As the market for Platform-as-a-Service grows, interoperability and consistency of message will be critical factors to watch for companies looking to benefit from the application-level portability and agility that Cloud Foundry promises.
Is PaaS Ready for the Enterprise?
While parts of the technology echo-chamber are screaming “Docker, Docker, Docker”, the key theme at Cloud Foundry Summit 2015 was “Enterprise, Enterprise, Enterprise”. Enterprise vendors. Enterprise customers. Enterprise transformation. Large Enterprise customers spoke in many of the keynote or breakout sessions, including GE, Humana, Allstate, Kroger, Garmin, Comcast, and several others. Two critical aspects are important to understand about these Enterprise customers speaking:  they aren’t in the Bay Area, where start-ups and technical talent is abundant, and  they spoke as much about their cultural transformations as their technology transformations. These companies talked about the DevOps culture they are evolving within their IT organizations, and the impact this has on engaging and responding to business opportunities.
Another theme for the week was “Structure” and the need for Platforms. While containers and DIY “platforms” are generating quite a bit of buzz, the Cloud Foundry ecosystem made a strong case that containers are only part of the story for companies that need to balance developer agility with other factors such as Availability, Security, Compliance, Governance and Multi-Tenant scalability. Cloud Foundry was consistently positioned as a more robust offering, which could be understood and operated by both developers and operations; a Structured Platform for the Enterprise and Cloud Native Applications.
As a Foundation, it’s clear that the Cloud Foundry members and contributors have consistency in their focus on Enterprise customers and Enterprise application portfolio transition. This is important point, as we’ve seen other open source foundations struggle when their focus was bi-furcated based on member’s individual goals and objectives.
The Next Steps for Cloud Foundry
Major vendors and a robust community are involved. A structured and visible governance model is in place. Early-adopter customers are willing to speak about success with the technology. Open source and commercial implementations exist, both on-premises and from cloud providers. So what’s next for Cloud Foundry?
As a next set of hurdles, we expect the Cloud Foundry contributors to focus on several areas:
- Microsoft (Windows and .NET) Applications – While Linux is growing in popularity; Windows is still a critical platform for Enterprise and Government organizations. Many implementations (Microsoft, HP, IBM, CenturyLink) have been submitted, and now the process of creating an unified model to integrate Windows into Cloud Foundry is needed.
- Stateful Apps and Data – Cloud Native applications tend to be stateful, following the 12-Factor App model. But Data is stateful and needed to be better integrated into the Cloud Foundry platform. Research projects were discussed at the Summit. This is a critical area to watch for companies looking to use Cloud Foundry for a broad set of Enterprise applications.
- Interoperability – To grow the next wave of Enterprise customers, they must be sure that interoperability and portability will exist between Cloud Foundry clouds. A certification model will be important to determine what aspects are “core” and what are “differentiated” between implementations.
As a community, Cloud Foundry is making strong progress towards becoming the de-facto Enterprise Platform-as-a-Service project. Gaining mass adoption will continue to take time, as companies manage both technical and cultural transformations. This is a critical space for both CIOs and Business Leaders to follow as they look to leverage Cloud Native applications to differentiate their business vs. Cloud Native start-ups moving into their core markets.