Why CloudBees’ Java focus sealed the deal on Verizon Cloud partnership
CloudBees CEO Sacha Labourey explains more this new venture, and tells JAX how the cloud is amping up Javas cool factor.
Sacha Labourey is founder and CEO of CloudBees, a Java as a Platform provider funded by Matrix Partners. He was longtime CTO of JBoss, both before and after the company’s acquisition by Red Hat (NYSE: RHT). Sacha played a crucial role in integrating and productizing JBoss software with Red Hat offerings, and later on served as co-GM of Red Hat’s JBoss Middleware division, with joint responsibility for the performance, go-to-market and delivery of JBoss solutions. While at JBoss, he oversaw technical direction of JBoss’ enterprise middleware. Prior to stepping up as CTO, he was JBoss’ first employee in Europe and, as General Manager, led the strategy and the partnerships that helped fuel the company’s growth in the region. He left Red Hat in April 2009, forming CloudBees in April 2010, lead the shift in thinking about public cloud infrastructure with middleware playing a key role in that shift.
Today, CloudBees and Verizon announced the formation of a new venture which will extend CloudBees PaaS to the new Verizon Cloud – part of an ongoing effort to add enterprise-class services to the technology. JAXenter spoke to CloudBees CEO Sacha Labourey to find out more about the motivation behind this project, why Verizon doesn’t want to create its own PaaS offering, and what cloud means for the Java community:
JAX: Can you tell us more about this venture?
Labourey: On our side, we’re offering a platform as a service [PaaS], as you know, but also, we’re offering more than that – we cover the complete application life cycle. The reason that there is an interest in CloudBees providing this PaaS to Verizon customers – the idea that if you are a Verizon customer, you can leverage the Verizon Cloud (currently in Beta) into the infrastructure as a service [IaaS]. That ups your server storage, network topology and so on, and if you want, you can also create a PaaS within the Verizon cloud environment, and be able to quickly develop and deploy applications on top of the Verizon infrastructure.
The offering is being worked on as we speak, and the release should happen shortly after Verizon goes GA.
What do you think were the biggest attractions for either side? Do you think your Java focus was a key factor?
In our discussions with different cloud providers, we’ve seen how diverse companies work, with different focus on cloud. Verizon’s a huge company – they just closed the acquisition of Vodafone – so you know, it’s big. And, I have to say that I’m impressed by the technical leadership and business leadership I’ve seen within the Verizon cloud team. I can see that this is not just a temporary illusion – they understand the strategic importance and value of cloud to Verizon, and they’re putting a lot of weight behind it. Their partnership with Oracle demonstrates not just how much of a reach Verizon has, but also how much drive there is behind that cloud effort.
I think that some of the criteria that’s made Verizon want to work with CloudBees is that first, we’re Java experts. This is something they understand is important to their audience. We’re truly a service – we’re not a software, we’re a service – and I don’t think Verizon necessarily wants to change focus and start being a PaaS builder on their own. They do see value in benefiting from an already built service that they can extenuate within their environment.
And last but not least, I think our DNA is interesting. I think we understand what developers want, so we hear them, but at the same time, we also understand how enterprises operate. I think both of those were important to Verizon.
They understand that today they are mostly talking to IT operations sides, CIO, not necessarily having a strong relationship with developers, just because they haven’t ever sold to that audience. We can bring that to the table, but at the same time, we’re not just bringing some crazy developer platform with no care for what enterprises care about, and we understand that as well. So that was, I think, reassuring for Verizon.
What sort of business will you be targeting together with Verizon?
As we know, a number of number of enterprises all over the world understand the value proposal of the cloud, yet still have trouble dealing with new types of company like Amazon. I think there is really a big opportunity for Verizon to go after that enterprise market, and it’s maybe the market that we have more difficulty in monetizing at CloudBees, being a relatively small company compared to Verizon. Those companies are looking for vendors that are of bigger size – so for us, it’s really a great opportunity.
Verizon Cloud already has several cloud partnerships in place – what will differentiate the agreement with CloudBees between the ones it has with, for example, Oracle?
I haven’t worked on those partnerships, so I don’t know the details. What I can say is that Verizon is very interested in building a very serious ecosystem for cloud, and they’ve proved through those relationships that they are able to make a business relationship with those highly credible vendors…I think it’s really their strategy to build up this ecosystem.
Very few vendors have this relationship with Oracle and SAP and so on in the cloud, and so it’s a really great relationship in itself. It’s a great achievement in itself – I don’t see these other partnerships as being competitive to us, I think they’re very complimentary.
Today, our customers are using databases, they are using Oracle, some of our customers are using applications that hook into SAP. There is clearly a high level of complimentary potential in these systems.
What will be the biggest benefits to CloudBees business from working with Verizon?
I really think it’s going to help two things. First, some of our existing customers would be interested in looking at ways to leverage Verizon. Verizon is making some strong commitments in terms of security and so on – so that interests a number of our existing customers.
And then there are just a number of companies that don’t feel comfortable yet going to market with CloudBees that would definitely be more open to move forward with a company like Verizon on board. So we definitely think this is going to expand our market.
Also, we’re at a very young age for cloud, so I’m not too worried about competitive dynamics and such. The market as it is today, you know, if anything could have more vendors. This market is going to expand, and so it’s not surprising to see those different efforts going on right now.
Is this part of an overarching strategy to expand the CloudBees ecosystem too?
Yes, it’s definitely something we’re looking at. We have already our direct go-to-market that’s running today on top of AWS, and we think that Verizon is a great way for us to access different types of customers in different regions. And so we’re having discussions with other vendors that can be complementary to this partnership.
But our goal is not to go and partner with 2000 companies around the world. It has to bring something new to the market, and it has to provide some differentiation. We see it with Verizon – and with others, we see less than that. To pick a handful of high quality partners is definitely something we are interested in.
Will the CloudBees cloud offerings be part of the Verizon cloud?
I think initially we’re really talking about RUN@cloud. This is the key component, and what’s understood by most people as being PaaS. When people hear PaaS they understand deployment of applications – so that’s going to be the point of focus initially.
But we’re open to expanding that scope, especially as a lot of companies are warming up more to the idea of continuous delivery. I was in Munich two weeks ago, and was surprised how some massive organisations are thinking in terms of Continuous Delivery, and realise that today they are being too slow at pushing value from the initial ID to the actual delivery of the product.
To me, that has already been clear from a technical perspective, but what wasn’t clear until recently is how big and how real this is at a business level as well, and how some companies do understand that this is a problem at a business level.
Some companies have the tools to implement continuous delivery within their working environments, but what we see is that, for most companies, this is a change that’s going to take a long time.
For some of those companies, the way to do that is to start bringing continuous delivery [CD] within the organisation. Maybe it’s on a ten year time scale, but for some specific projects, start delivering business in a steady manner, using the cloud as a mechanism, because the cloud can be a good way to start implementing this outside of IT without disturbing IT and what’s working, and benefitting from CD on the side while they do these changes internally.
CloudBees works very closely with the Java community, and Sascha, you were once quoted as saying that you want to make Java developers “cool” again. What does this entail for people working in this ecosystem?
We think we’ve helped to make them cool again, at least, they can be cool again if they want! Before, a lot of the agile techniques and CD techniques were mostly only possible with other languages. There were very few build chains that were proposed out of the box where Java devs could get that freedom. Thanks to the cloud, thanks to PaaS vendors – including CloudBees, but not just us – tools like Jenkins and so on too, we’ve really helped create a pipeline that makes Java devs more efficient.
What’s also great now is that a lot of Java devs are more religious about the ‘Java philosophy’ and the JVM than they are about the Java language itself. They like the way you package software, they like the way the JVM works and so on, but languages come and go, and even though a big deal of JVM development still takes place in Java, I’m very happy and proud of the innovation that’s taking place in the JVM ecosystem. You can see things like Vert.x, Scala, Play, and so on. I think all of that is helping it.
At CloudBees we still consider Java to be our key priority, and I think it was very important for Verizon to pick a vendor that knew that community very well, because a lot of enterprises are very much focused on Java and the JVM.
Image by Sheldon Wood