And Yet, It’s Still Early Days for Cloud: 5 Years at Cloud Foundry Foundation
Pie in the Sky
Where were you in January 2015? Perhaps you were anticipating the April launch of the first Apple Watch, the July launch of Windows 10 or the September release of the Tesla Model X Signature Series. Uptown Funk was on every radio station, slowly ousting Shake It Off; people were starting to wake up to the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up; and Barack Obama was in the White House.
It was during this cultural moment that the Cloud Foundry Foundation officially launched, amidst a landscape murky with opposing definitions of cloud. I was at Pivotal, working with enterprise executives to define and design their cloud native strategies and help them progress on their digital transformation journeys. Cloud Foundry was already moving the needle on the cloud conversation, enabling organizations to deploy a multi-cloud strategy, scale quickly and transform developers’ lives for the better.
But for so many companies, the cloud was as far away as actual clouds. Some giant technology providers were blatantly anti-cloud; others were cloud-curious, but hesitant to depart from their legacy products. It was our job at Pivotal to convince major enterprise customers to take a chance on cloud when some of their long-time vendors hadn’t made the leap. Cloud was the new frontier and there was resistance to committing to that journey — which is understandable, as it was the great unknown. For massive service providers, changing their portfolios is daunting and risky; for enterprises looking to update their services, re-training their teams can be a hurdle. It’s impossible to see the future, but I had confidence that cloud native architectures would be the future.
Moving the Needle
Meanwhile, the Cloud Foundry Foundation was working across the technology landscape to pull together a vibrant and collaborative ecosystem. The Foundation laid the groundwork for the best kind of open source collaboration: competitive companies coming together on neutral territory to envision a future of cloud, broadly, that improves business outcomes, streamlines developer productivity and lowers the bottom line.
By the time I joined the Foundation in 2016 and became Executive Director later that year, Cloud Foundry Foundation was becoming a leader in the cloud native and PaaS markets. Thanks to the cross-collaboration between the Foundation and our members, we accomplished our two major goals: raise awareness of Cloud Foundry and boost adoption of the technology.
When I look back at the findings from our annual user surveys, I continue to be amazed at the rapid growth of Cloud Foundry. Nearly half of survey respondents in 2019 reported they have at least 100 developers using Cloud Foundry and the share of companies with more than 50 applications on Cloud Foundry grew from 24 percent in 2017 to 43 percent in 2019. In a mere two year period, broad deployment of Cloud Foundry nearly doubled. Nearly a majority (45 percent) of user respondents describe their Cloud Foundry use as “broad” compared to 30 percent in 2018 and 23 percent in 2017.
Before Cloud Foundry, typical users deployed and configured cloud applications manually (58 percent), or used custom install scripts (52 percent) or configuration management tools (38 percent), according to the 2017 User Report. Doesn’t that seem like a lifetime ago now? Cloud Foundry has moved application development from weeks or months to days.
Unsurprisingly, Cloud Foundry also drastically transformed developer expectations. Developers want to work on cutting-edge technology that saves them time and lets them be creative. It was no accident the Foundation came of age during this era of rapid cloud adoption and experimentation. We wanted to give developers the freedom to create the apps they wanted to work on by saving them precious development time — and we knew what developers wanted because our community is made up of them. And since day one, the Foundation has lobbied for the enterprises employing those developers to design and implement a cloud strategy so their developers would be happy and successful.
Five years ago, we thought this might take a year. But for an industry constantly reinventing itself, the move to cloud native solutions has been relatively slow. I believe that’s because this isn’t just about technology companies: it’s about retailers like The Home Depot or governments like the United Kingdom or financial services like Citibank or health care organizations like Kaiser Permanente becoming technology companies. Their status quo isn’t rapid-fire technological innovation! Their expertise is their commitment to their customer base (whether that’s people buying hammers or the entire population of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland) and it’s been our job to show that those users will be more satisfied if those companies are iterating quickly, using continuous delivery methods to ensure constant uptime, and rolling out new, user-centric products regularly.
Early Days Are Here Again
Since the inception of the Foundation, we have watched consolidation of clouds, as more organizations are moving their workloads to a concentrated cloud footprint, investing in digital transformation initiatives, and making cloud a core strategy. From my time working directly with customers at Pivotal to my current state working closely with the Cloud Foundry ecosystem, I have learned the stories of what people need in their day to day, and it never ceases to excite me to see how fast organizations are moving to take advantage of cloud native technologies.
Amazingly, we’re still in the early days of cloud. While 60 percent of organizations we surveyed late last year agree that the benefit of moving to cloud is undeniable, nearly a quarter reported that their organizations were still evaluating cloud. This demonstrates huge potential for cloud adoption and broad deployment within organizations. Ultimately, cloud has changed the expectations of developers and of users, meaning the expectation of the workforce’s ability to interact with that technology is going from niche expectation to a broader mandate.
While at the Cloud Foundry Foundation, I have had the unique opportunity to sit at the nexus of the biggest transformational trend in business and technology in decades. Thanks to our neutral stance as an open source software foundation, we are able to serve as a guiding light for the people shaping what the future of cloud native architectures look like. As one of the larger open source projects sitting front and center in the cloud native universe, we continue to move the needle forward, working in tandem with hyperscale cloud providers and open source communities to ensure the future of technology and business is still people-first.