Sacha Labourey interview

The future of PaaS – an interview with CloudBees’ CEO

Coman Hamilton

CloudBees founder and former JBoss CTO Sacha Labourey tells us about the ongoing PaaS struggle and what Docker is changing in IT.

The future of PaaS is not entirely clear. Is there still enough room for several big players like Amazon, Google, Pivotal or OpenStack? Or will we all soon be submitting code to one single unifying PaaS solution?

We asked PaaS pioneer Sacha Labourey how he sees the future of Platform as a Service.

Previously the CTO of JBoss, he now leads CloudBees, renowned for its open-source continuous integration platform Jenkins. Labourey describes himself as having been “born in Open Source, grown up in the cloud.” Labourey’s company recently made headlines when it dropped its PaaS [email protected] and partnered up with Pivotal.

PaaS, present and future

“I definitely think that consolidation will happen,” Labourey tells us. “It’s happening with other wares. There’s no why it shouldn’t happen in PaaS.”

But Labourey is reluctant to agree that change will come from the big infrastructure players. It’s not the kind of thing they could grow in-house, Labourey argues. “I doubt that OpenStack will come with the magical solution. We’ve seen it a little where SaaS vendors and infrastructure vendors have never been able to provide the ultimate middleware offering. They always have to acquire somebody to get it.”

Finding a PaaS religion

It’s been said that nearly all web applications will soon be running on PaaS. But the growth of PaaS has been slower than anybody expected initially. The reason for this, Labourey believes, is that there’s a lot of confusion in the market.

First you have a lot of different PaaS solutions. It takes time to find your religion.

On top of that, there’s also plenty of commotion happening within DevOps. “What about this Docker thing?” asks Labourey. “Should I use Docker instead of some orchestration?” There’s plenty of road blocks, the CloudBees CEO explains. “And for developers to take the right solution, it takes time. You need to get the right tools. Is it going to get enough flexibility vs. health from the framework, and so on.”

But all of this is good, Labourey reminds us. Indeed there is lots of great innovation taking place as a result of this change. “That’s why the market is going to be much easier to understand in a couple of years, when things have settled down a bit,” says Labourey.

“Things first need to settle down and the it’s going to be much more obvious what to choose. And I definitely think PaaS has a big role to play. For a wide percentage of people, PaaS is really all you need and the most efficient way to achieve it.”


Throughout our conversation with the CloudBees CEO, there is one word that constantly lurks in the background: Docker. Labourey speculates that maybe one day PaaS will also be based on Docker images, so that we have the flexibility to build our own images.

Due to its successful integration of Docker, Jenkins is also witnessing plenty of interest in Docker. “We see people building Docker images from configuration files on Jenkins. And then also deploying applications on a Docker image. The full thing, you know? Tools, source code to applications, on Jenkins as well as infrastructure as code, to Docker binary.

“And that’s related to a very important point, in my opinion, which is that we’re seeing a number of ways of moving forward in parallel – you have continuous delivery, you have DevOps, you have cloud – all kind of related in some way. Once you start to define all of those, between CD, cloud and DevOps, you get to a very powerful position. That’s really next-generation IT.

“I think you’ll find a dozen or two dozen companies that are at the centre of these three ways that will be the key companies when it comes to redefining IT. You’ll find companies like Docker, you’ll find companies like CloudBees with Jenkins, you’ll find companies like Atlassian, and AWS obviously – all of those companies are, I think, in a great position to help define where tomorrow’s IT is going to be.”

New Jenkins features

Having dropped its [email protected] PaaS to focus on Jenkins, it’s to be expected that CloudBees will be rolling out some new features in the near future.

In addition to some extended monitoring features, Sacha told us that CloudBees are working extensively on the workflow features.

“A lot of our customers are doing CD on top of Jenkins, but until now they had to use tricks to get there and use kinds of pipelines. You would end up with lots of tricky jobs, and so on. It was great because Jenkins has so many configurations with a lot of tools that you could easily integrate, which also makes the definition of the pipeline itself relatively awkward.”

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Labourey also tells us that the open-source community has been working extensively on the “Jenkins Workflow” – a means of defining sophisticated workflows among masters and so on. The project is already available for testing in the community, and CloudBees as a company will be providing a number of features – for example the visualisation of those flows.

The Jenkins fork

Finally, we ask Labourey about the famous Jenkins fork of yore. Many readers will remember how Oracle had issues with the trademark policy for Hudson. Since the Jenkins fork a few years ago, Hudson has since become an Eclipse project. So how does Labourey see the relationship between Hudson and Jenkins?

“It’s funny because in early 2011, and throughout 2011, we had lots of discussions inside the company about what was taking place … were people migrating to Jenkins? And we were pretty often looking at metrics to see how well we were doing. I guess it was funny, because I don’t think we’ve ever talked about it in the company for at least two years. It’s not even being discussed. So I don’t think people find it interesting anymore. So it’s really over for us.”

It’s not even being discussed.

“We don’t see Hudson in the field. We don’t hear about it. So if people are happy with Hudson that’s great. But that’s not really something we’re looking at. It could be a completely different project. It would be the same thing for us.”

Coman Hamilton
Coman was Editor of at S&S Media Group. He has a master's degree in cultural studies and has written and edited content for numerous news, tech and culture websites and magazines, as well as several ad agencies.

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