Spotlight on: CloudBees – going beyond PaaS
We talk to Steve Harris, Senior VP of Products about being voted onto the JCP Executive Committee, the success of Jenkins and more.
one of the stalwarts of the PaaS market, Boston company CloudBees have enjoyed a successful
2012, seeing their early gamble on cloud platforms pay off.
Opening its doors in 2010 with former JBossian
Sacha Labourey at the helm, CloudBees were one of the first
companies to go GA with their JVM-focused Platform-as-a-Service,
whilst the competition continued to tinker.
Java’s foray into cloud technologies has been a tentative one thus
far. Standardisation for Java EE 7 may well be too soon, but
there’s a general consensus that cloud is pivotal in maintaining
The recent election of CloudBees to the Java Community Process
Executive Committee perhaps signifies this growing desire. Having
fallen short in recent elections,
CloudBees were elected alongside the London Java Community in
Whilst Steve Harris, CloudBees’ Senior Vice President, sees cloud
as big part of Java’s future, he thinks the JCP has bigger fish to
“For me there’s a impedance mismatch between a formal body that
approves things and drives things through and the way people
actually work today, which is primarily in open source
communities,” he says.
is a sizable reform effort to make the JCP relevant again to the
wider community. Harris explains there’s been some good work
towards “transparency and agility” in the early stages. Now however
comes the acid test – wading through the mountain of legalese and
resolving the issues surrounding areas like intellectual property
and licensing. Not exactly an easy task with so many parties
present on the JCP.
Harris adds: “If they can agree to improve some of those things, I
think it will help the Java developers use and interact with the
JCP proper – that formal process. If they can’t improve it, the JCP
I’m afraid will continue to become less relevant to actual Java
developers. It takes a lot of desire from people and companies to
lower these barriers to participation and make the JCP a way that
helps embrace the way Java developers work as opposed to being this
Harris praised the work of fellow electees, the “fantastic” London
Java Community, in “trying to glue together the JCP”, adding that
he hopes that CloudBees’s arrival to the Java steering group would
bring “a sense of urgency” to the reform.
The former Oracle employee believes that the long documentation
process coupled with JSRs is the biggest turnoff for developers.
“It would be nice if what we could do is make the licensing
requirements very uniform across technical efforts,” he told
“They have a standard license, they just use it and it’s something
that’s familiar to them. That’s what I’d like to see happen,” he
said, before reiterating that the biggest hurdle is making the JCP
speak to developers, and that takes paramount importance.
“There’s actually more energy in the Java community today than
there has been for two years, it’s going up. I don’t think the JCP
changes are going to negate, it’s just going to happen. It’s more
the trick of embracing that.”
On the recent Java EE Standardisation discussion, Harris admitted
he was disappointed to see the Expert Group delay certain cloud
features, but that it was “a reflection of reality.”
“[It] was supposed to be to fix the underpinning of things that
were preventing cloud usage of EE,” he explains before adding that
“some of the investment in EE 7 will pay off,” down the line.
One of the biggest challenges CloudBees have faced in the past two
years is clarifying what a PaaS actually is. There’s still many
unaware of what a cloud platform entails, what it can be, what it
can do and what it’s not.
It’s especially difficult to get across when cloud platforms
continue to be redefined – and CloudBees are no exception to that,
lauding their one-click services.
Companies new to the benefits of cloud platforms often worry that
adding a PaaS into an development environment just bloats an
already clunky infrastructure. CloudBees insist it doesn’t have to
be this way, saying their “vision is to free developers from
infrastructure maintenance duties so they can focus 100% on
developing great applications.”
Fundamental to this core belief is Jenkins, the hugely successful
continuous integration server created by Kohsuke Kawaguchi (who
also works at the company as an Architect). Since taking the open
source tool under its wing, installations of Jenkins have risen to
40,000, Harris informs us.
“It’s totally integral to what we’re doing. It’s become more and
more obvious to more people the role that continuous integration
plays in today’s development, like in mobile for example,” he
“It really becomes the best tool in your toolbox. People are
delivering software as a service and this is the tool they want to
use to be able to deliver things continuously, as opposed to big
long 18-month release cycles.”
Community call to arms
Whilst Jenkins might be the jewel in the crown for DEV@Cloud, it’s not just
about CI. Like many of the PaaS players have realised, the key to
success is through engaging larger developer communities of
different ilks. To do this, you have to tailor your cloud platform
towards that community. Amongst the projects that CloudBees target
are web frameworks Play! and Grails, offering them “a native
experience” according to Harris.
Recent moves such as making a CloudBees deployment option on Google
App Engine opens up continuous integration in a platform where
before it wasn’t possible. From a marketing perspective, it does
“It’s kind of nice because if you’re a Google App Engine developer
doing Java or Python, how do you do continuous integration and
deployment? How do you setup a Dev Test Staging environment that
continually drives new deployments as you push code along?” asks
“There’s nothing built into Google to do that, so we did this
integration that it’s very easy to use with DevCloud service. It
just pushes to App Engine, that’s another way to reach a set of
developer and introduce them.”
When pressed on the company’s plans moving into the New Year,
Harris was understandably coy, but felt it would be more of the
same – “broadening visibility” and creating further community
appeal. Harris believes developers within communities hold the key,
marking out JBoss as a success story in driving through a product
to the enterprise.
With Red Hat’s OpenShift and VMware’s Cloud Foundry still in beta,
could 2013 prove to be the year that the PaaS market is validated?
The CloudBees SVP believes so, expecting the big guns to emerge
with major versions, meaning “broader uptake” for cloud platforms
Some smaller vendors might fall by the wayside in the coming year
(or be gobbled up by bigger fish) but the meticulous strategic
planning from CloudBees mean they certainly won’t be one of them,
with their fingers in so many pies.