Following my previous Forbes articles about the resurgence of PaaS and the adoption of Kubernetes, I ran into Abby Kearns, executive director of Cloud Foundry Foundation, who was kind enough to read them. We exchanged some ideas about PaaS, Kubernetes, and the recent wave of acquisitions in the Cloud space. [Note: as a Forbes contributor, I do not have any commercial relationship with the Foundation or its staff.]
For those of you who don’t know, Cloud Foundry encompasses multiple open source projects, the primary one being an open source cloud application platform built with container-based architecture and housed within the Cloud Foundry Foundation, which is backed by the likes of Cisco, Dell DELL +NaN% EMC EMC +0%, Google GOOGL +0.07% and others. It has commercial distributions which are offered by Pivotal, IBM and others (Ben Kepes has a great post on the tension between open-source CF and the distributions, on his blog). Cloud Foundry runs on BOSH, a technology that was originally (and almost presciently, you could say) designed to manage large distributed systems, and as such was container-ready back in 2010.
Abby Kearns, Executive Director of the Cloud Foundry FoundationCLOUD FOUNDRY FOUNDATION
Cloud Foundry announced support for Kubernetes in its Container Runtime project in late 2017, alongside its original non-Kubernetes-based Application Runtime. In October of this year it doubled down with Eirini, a project that combines Kubernetes as the container scheduler with Application Runtime; and CF Containerization, which packages BOSH releases into containers for deployment into Kubernetes.
Broadly, Abby and I talked through three themes, as detailed below:
Everyone is already running a PaaS
I’ve written in my post about PaaS how the advent of ‘unstructured-PaaS’ offerings such as Kubernetes has contributed to the resurgence of this category, but implied in my article was the assumption that PaaS is still a choice. Abby presented a different view: it’s not so much about the runtime as it is about the ops, and, by and large, the total stack is the same as what is offered in a proper PaaS .
An operations team will have logging, monitoring, autoscaling, security, network management and a host of other capabilities around the deployment of an application; the relevant question is how much of that they’re putting together themselves (whether these bits are homegrown, open source, or commercial software), and conversely how much is being supplied from one coherent solution (again, homegrown, open source, or commercial). Whether you’re giving the keys to Pivotal, Google, or Red HatRHT +0.02%; internalizing engineering and operations costs but using CF and BOSH to manage your RBAC, security and other ops tasks; or putting together a mosaic of focused solutions—the end result is operationally the same as a PaaS. In the end, we agreed, digital transformation is about coming to terms with the complexity of your required IT stack, and optimizing the ownership and cost model—all of which are tough architecture and business choices .
Cloud mega-deals: this is not the empire striking back
Redpoint venture capitalist and tech-blogger extraordinaire Tomas Tunguz recently showed how open source acquisitions took up three of the top five slots for 2018 tech acquisitions (the SAP- Qualtrics deal has since nudged the Mulesoft deal down a bit). Since then, we’ve also had VMwareVMW +0.57% buying Kubernetes services firm Heptio, founded by luminaries Joe Beda and Craig McLuckie. As a Christmas-dinner summary for your less-techie friends and family, you could say that Microsoft bought its way back into the developer limelight, IBM armed itself with (arguably) the most robust commercial Kubernetes-based platform, and VMware went for the most-skilled Kubernetes services company.
Abby commented that in her view, what we are witnessing is large technology companies looking to M&A around open source technology to solve a common problem: how to quickly obtain the innovation and agility that their enterprise customers are demanding, while not being disrupted by new, cloud-native technologies. The open source angle is just a testimony to its huge importance in this cloudy world, and the Cloud Foundry Foundation expects that these recent deals will mark the start, not the end, of the Kubernetes consolidation wave.
Cloud Foundry will follow a different trajectory than OpenStack
If you’ve been around the cloud industry for several years, you might be tempted to think that the above consolidation will cause the likes of Cloud Foundry Foundation and the CNCF to diminish in importance or outright deflate, like OpenStack has over the past few years. As I mentioned in another article, in my opinion this has been (in the end) a good process for OpenStack, which is leaner and meaner (in a nice way) as a result. Not the same for Cloud Foundry Foundation, says Abby. This period may mirror a similar phase in 2014 when big vendors started buying up OpenStack companies as EMC did with Cloudscaling, Cisco with Metacloud, and many, many more—but Cloud Foundry has adapted to the Kubernetes wave in time, and its main partners are more closely aligned around its values and objectives.
Additional reasons, as I see it:
- Cloud Foundry Foundation has been smarter about avoiding inflation in its ecosystem—both in terms of number of vendors with influence, and of actual dollars being invested through M&A activity.
- BOSH being adaptable to pretty much all clouds-deployment models-platforms is a strategic technical asset.
- The Foundation’s relentless focus on developer experience (rather than infrastructure), increases its options and avoids playing squarely in the public clouds’ game.
So, should we expect a Cloud Foundry serverless initiative next year? No choice but to wait and see.
(Originally posted on Forbes.com)