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Interview with Sacha Labourey, CEO and founder at CloudBees

“DevOps is the new normal, cloud is the new infrastructure & Kubernetes is the new operating system”

Dominik Mohilo
© Shutterstock / iQoncept

We are now witnessing the democratization of DevOps. This concept seemed to be an unattainable goal until recently but now it has become the new normal. Digital transformations are a must and job descriptions are slowly changing as developers will have to increase their “operational” awareness. We talked to Sacha Labourey, CEO and founder at CloudBees about all this and more.

JAXenter: DevOps World recently took place in San Francisco and will go to Europe for the first time later this month. Could you briefly summarize the highlights of the conference from a technical point of view? What exciting new developments were presented and what can we expect from the upcoming conference?

Sacha Labourey: On the Jenkins front, a lot is happening. There is the modernization of Jenkins itself that is going full speed ahead, with efforts such as Jenkins Evergreen (for Jenkins to be always up-to-date, much like a SaaS), configuration as code (making it possible to fully externalize Jenkins configuration in simple files that can be easily versioned, backed up, restored and rolled-back) as well as Cloud Native Jenkins, leveraging cloud native services for core Jenkins functions. Once you merge those different parallel initiatives (some of them are pretty far along and already available for use), you end up with a very different Jenkins engine, one that’s very close to a “one-shot” environment that can be launched pretty much on-demand.

We are essentially assisting in the live “cloudification” of Jenkins, in steps. This is fascinating to watch. So the teams involved in these initiatives will be talking about those efforts in-depth and how to start leveraging them. There will also be a lot of talk about Jenkins X, led by James Strachan.

Jenkins X is better seen as a “layer above” Jenkins, focused on the in-depth integration with Kubernetes environments, and enabling last-mile continuous delivery of Kubernetes-native applications. It also features some advanced features to “lift and shift” existing classic applications into Kubernetes-native applications (using a library of templates for different source applications). The level of sophistication of Jenkins X is truly amazing, if you are anywhere serious about Jenkins X, you must take a look at it.

We are essentially assisting in the live “cloudification” of Jenkins, in steps.

On the CloudBees front, there is a lot to talk about. We are going to talk about what we have achieved obviously, what’s available today, but also share our vision for the future, where we are going to further accelerate software delivery. We are essentially becoming the “CRM of software delivery”. If you want to know more you should attend the conference in Nice.

But DevOps World | Jenkins World is also a huge opportunity to attend workshops, training, certifications, see presentations from the most advanced organizations and people in CI/CD, and an amazing networking opportunity. The energy and passion we could feel in San Francisco was just pure happiness. I’m very excited to go through the same in Nice!

JAXenter: Jenkins is one of the most widely used continuous integration tools. Why is Jenkins so popular?

Sacha Labourey: I think a key reason is that you can trust that whatever your problem is, Jenkins will be able to solve it. Think about it, Jenkins has more than 1,400 plugins/integrations, it can do ANYTHING, from enabling AIX/HP-UX workloads to deploying serverless and Kubernetes applications. The reason is that the community behind the project is purely amazing.

Any one of the 1,400 plugins has its own little (or big) community behind it, its own focus, its own passion. Innovation is incredible. If you just look at the Jenkins instances sending their statistics to the project, so we are talking about the tip of the iceberg here, more than 800’000 Jenkins servers are computing jobs at any point in time, this is an amazing number!

And with the ongoing efforts towards modernizing Jenkins core as well as simplifying its usage for “default use cases”, I think a lot of new users will find it much easier to adopt as well.

I also think that CloudBees investing so much in the project helps the project get even better and more robust and gives peace of mind to engineers and companies adopting it: they know that once things get serious, they’ll be able to get help from the experts.

JAXenter: What features is Jenkins missing now?

We have witnessed the democratization of DevOps.

Sacha Labourey: Interestingly enough, I don’t think anything is missing at all between Jenkins and Jenkins X. If anything, the main complaint is that there is too much. The getting started experience can be overwhelming for new users. That is why a number of initiatives aim at simplifying the getting started experience and overall management and update process (thanks to the Evergreen initiative). The idea here is not to show or do more but to actually simplify and show fewer options.

Another axis is also the core architecture of Jenkins which is going through a key transformation to be fully cloud native. This is great and a frequently requested change, but it is important not to forget the silent majority of users who still use Jenkins on traditional platforms. Jenkins can’t cut itself from this incredible base.

JAXenter: DevOps will be 10 years old this year. In the beginning, there was Andrew Shafer’s and Patrick Debois’ Agile infrastructure. How has DevOps developed over the past decade?

Sacha Labourey: We have witnessed the democratization of DevOps, from unicorns to the horses. 10 years ago, companies adopting DevOps were “original”, and the idea of scaling this to the enterprise was perceived to be a cute but unrealistic approach. Nowadays, CIOs get fired for missing their digital transformation, DevOps is the new normal, cloud is the new infrastructure and Kubernetes is the new operating system. Those are fun times!

JAXenter: How would you describe the status quo of DevOps? In which direction is the DevOps approach currently developing?

Sacha Labourey: We tend to see a first phase of adoption focused on enabling and empowering developers. You want to go from big-batch updates to a lot of parallel stream of changes, going as fast as possible. This is an amazing transformation that is hard to achieve, but there is no alternative.

But soon after achieving this, you then start realizing that you might be a victim of your own success: that all of this velocity is great but that you don’t feel that you have any system in place to govern this extreme velocity of constant changes. Finding the right balance between empowering teams and organizational peace of mind is key to success. This is what we are working on with CloudBees Core v3 that we will unveil in Nice.

SEE ALSO: The DevOps cookbook

JAXenter: Developers are more and more confronted with operational tasks. Does the distinction between developers and operators have a future or will the boundaries soon blur entirely?

Sacha Labourey: You’ll always end up with engineers fully dedicated to the infrastructure, but what constitutes that “infrastructure” will change. They will care about the overall metadata and service “map” of the organization, identity and security, SaaS integration, etc. But if ops means managing storage bays and network switches, you might want to think about a career change.

When it comes to developers if anything they’ll have to increase their “operational” awareness as a lot of those best practices will have to be baked into the architecture of their product. However, I also think that the new platforms we are seeing (Kubernetes and serverless, for example) really go a huge way in creating amazing abstractions. For the most part, you need to understand ops concern and bake them in what you do, but you don’t need to “do” ops, per se.

JAXenter: Do you have any best practices that any team/company that wants to implement DevOps should follow?

Developers will have to increase their “operational” awareness as a lot of those best practices will have to be baked into the architecture of their product.

Sacha Labourey: Yes, this is a key part of what we do as part of our professional services, we call this “CD Acceleration”, this has been greatly successful.

JAXenter: What do you think are still the biggest hurdles to successfully implementing DevOps today?

Sacha Labourey: Today, it is about people. Change is hard, change is uncomfortable and big changes bring big friction. This is why finding the right leader to transform is so important, one who will both respect the DNA of the teams and of the organization, but will also be relentless in forcing change, day-in and day-out.

I also think that compensation at the top of organizations is a key topic that needs to be addressed. A lot of organizations have incentives that are focused on optimizing margins and 12-24 month timeframes. Those type of incentives are totally at odd with digital transformations initiatives that will inevitably create temporary disruption. Why would top execs in any organization take such risk if their incentive is misaligned with it? Simply because “it is the right thing to do”? That seems short-sighted. This is where strong boards are required to identify the need for digital transformation and align incentives accordingly.

Thank you!

Author
Dominik Mohilo
Dominik Mohilo studied German and sociology at the Frankfurt University, and works at S&S Media since 2015.