Big Interview

CloudBees founder Sacha Labourey talks about the state of PaaS and AnyCloud

Sacha Labourey

Sacha Labourey

After launching their second Java PaaS solution in the hybrid AnyCloud, CloudBees have been riding high amongst the clouds. We caught up with founder and CEO Sacha Labourey to tell how important AnyCloud is to the PaaS industry and crucially his opinion on the JVM...

So AnyCloud’s your second product. Tell us more about it.

In the last 2 years, our focus has been to deliver the best Java Platform as a Service (PaaS), encompassing the entire application lifecycle. From development to production, this answered the “What do you want to do?” question. AnyCloud extends this platform by enabling customers to choose where they want their applications to be deployed (at a hosting provider or even on-premises) while keeping a unique point of control. This answers the “Where do you want to do it?” question. This is all about choice and flexibility.

What was the rationale behind it? To truly make the platform a service?

A growing number of companies realise how much they can gain by using a PaaS. This is not just about money, actually, for most of them, it is mostly about time to market, agility and focus. Yet, a number of those companies simply couldn’t use a PaaS for some of their applications: in some cases, they had to deploy their applications in a specific region (either for legal reasons or to be close to their users), or wanted to deploy them next to some of their existing systems (database, ERP, CRM, etc.) to benefit from a high-bandwidth/low-latency network.

While, at first, this might seem “just” a matter of location, this actually has some profound implications. Customers actually faced the “choice” between either a public-cloud PaaS, fully-integrated and provided as a service (where no maintenance/upgrades/patching was required). Or, if they couldn’t use such a public PaaS for one of the reasons outlined above, they had to use a traditional hosted middleware solution, provided as a software (that had to be setup, configured and maintained by the customer itself. What a big gap!

The rationale behind AnyCloud was to bring the power and agility of a service-based approach, where you have nothing to maintain or setup, and marry it with the ability to perform such deployments anywhere: on your own machines inside your network, as a remotely managed vSphere appliance for example, or on some servers running at a traditional hosting provider where some of your existing systems already reside. This is truly unique.

How important was it to create a single point of control? 

This is very important. Developers care about applications, that’s what the PaaS should really show as the top level abstraction: applications, applications, applications. Then, whether you want this app to run on Amazon, OVH or on your own servers is a detail: it is up to the PaaS to abstract that deployment attribute properly. You’ll find solutions that I’d call “Multi-clouds”, where each specific cloud instance gets its own copy of the environment, and they hardly make sense as they don’t empower developers, they just fragment their view of the world. A bit like if you had to have a separate laptop for your browser, one for your e-mail, one for your Office suite, etc. You want a unified view, a single point of control.

Do you see the bridge between private and public clouds finally being closed? Are enterprises finally willing to merge the two through one PaaS solution?

Right now, time private and public environments are being mixed as part of a service offering. And the service is exactly what makes the cloud so valuable. So-called “private cloud” solutions, under what actually looked just as an innocent word added,  have actually sacrificed the notion of service. A private PaaS is not a PaaS, it is a Platform-as-a-software: your company become in charge of the service. This radically changes the value proposal. With such solutions, you don’t refocus on what you do the best, you still stay in charge of what shouldn’t be your job.

What’s innovative about AnyCloud, what separates it from the pack?

AnyCloud is the only service-based architecture that bridges public cloud, traditional hosting providers and on-premises deployments. Other so-called hybrid approaches are always software-based approaches, not service-based, having their controller hosted on-premises. AnyCloud is exactly the opposite.

How do you see the future for Java going? Can it compete?

Not only will it compete, but it will grow! To be precise, I am speaking about the JVM. I don’t care if you prefer Java, Scala or JRuby – the JVM is what matters. World-class engineers have built a superb JVM in the last 20 years, how can it make sense to try to compete with a Formula 1 if what you’re trying to achieve is “just” to implement a new language? Just use it!

Granted, some features had to be added to the JVM, but we are getting there and the reasons not to use the JVM are getting very weak. It only makes sense for VM models that are significantly different, such as Erlang for example.

Any other exciting products up your sleeve?

Oh yes, stay tuned. We have something big coming up soon, just before the summer. That way you won’t get bored on the beach!

How do you see the future for cloud platforms? 

A lot of cloud platforms are still too much trying to mimic what happens on-premises, we shouldn’t be afraid to change the current way of doing things, defocus from infrastructure, this will take time but I truly think we are entering a new era of how software is going to be built.

Chris Mayer

What do you think?

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