Last week Bernard Golden had the opportunity to interview Sam Ramji, the newly appointed CEO of the Cloud Foundry Foundation, as part of his Cloud Luminary Fireside Chat series. They discussed Sam's initial focus, his goals and the vision for Cloud Foundry as well as the impact Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) has for businesses. Below is a recording of the entire Fireside Chat and notable quotes from the new CEO.
Cloud Foundry: The "Fastest Growing Software Startup on the Planet"
"The key thing is drive and speed. It's an amazing set of capabilities that we have. We are effectively the fastest growing software startup on the planet. We have hundreds of engineers working on the core. We have thousands of engineers who are building applications on top of it. It's already being adopted by hundreds of enterprises and we have distribution channels with some of the biggest software and technology companies on the planet. So when you think about the challenges a startup usually has is, number one: where do I get my money? Well we now have $18 million dollars of investment that we need to shepherd and do the right things with. That's not a series A, that's a series B or maybe a series C, depending on what you're doing. And that's from the get-go. The foundation was accepted on January 21st, 2015 with all of these assets.
Plus, you always struggle with distribution. Distribution, obviously Bart Copeland from ActiveState is on the board, and you're a distributor as well as a collaborator. But also HP, EMC, SAP, VMWare, Pivotal, Intel, IBM. There are companies like Centurylink and Swisscom who are operators that are service providers, those are also distributors for Cloud Foundry because you can distribute Cloud Foundry as a set of bits that you're going to go and take and apply on premise, just like Linux. Or you can host it in the cloud just like Amazon does with Linux. So both of these sides of the equation are pretty enormous, so those are an unfair set of advantages for a new startup.
The third advantage we have is that we're not for profit. When people hear we're not for profit or a foundation, there is a lot of confusion about that. There are foundations that are 501(c)(3)s that are charitable foundations. This is not a 501(c)(3). This is a 501(c)(6), this is a not-for-profit, enjoys special tax status from the government, but the purpose of the trade association is to drive a global brand, to drive rapid growth. It's basically marketing and business development and then shepherding...intellectual property management, intellectual property governance and we have a technology leadership role because between our 40 members, including our 9 board members, each one is competing with the other. In some cases there is alignment, so maybe you have a provider like ActiveState and maybe you have a channel partner, maybe you work with Accenture. In those cases you have straight cooperation. But you also have a lot of competition. IBM is certainly competing with Pivotal. HP is competing with IBM. EMC will compete with all of them...If it's unmanaged and you don't have a foundation, then it just becomes everybody's self interest and the whole thing is going to vibrate in odd directions. It's going to look more like Brownian Motion than like a directed path where you're going to be successful."
The Cloud Foundry Foundation Vision
"Our vision is twofold. Number one: how do we stitch all our members together so they are going in a complemented direction that makes for a really strong market and allows them to compete for a much bigger market? The second piece, and this is where a lot of people forget that Microsoft is extremely popular among a lot of people on a visceral level because they feel like Microsoft helped them put their kids through college and pay their mortgage. Why is that? When I left Microsoft in 2009, in our last worldwide major review we kind of did all the numbers, it was about a $65 billion annual revenue company at the time. We were doing $24 billion in profit. And some people look at those numbers and think big, greedy, evil, profitable, whatever. Those are the facts.On top of that, we did studies to figure out what was the ecosystem effect. It turned out that that platform, sort of sat at the bottom of a pyramid of 70,000 ISVs and 1.2 million partners. So all of that opportunity was about $8 for every $1 of revenue Microsoft had. It changed how I thought about platform markets. So if Cloud Foundry can be an effective market, we get all the platform providers right, all the vendors and members. But then can we project a stable platform so that thousands of ISVs, hundreds of thousands of consultants, partners, systems integrators can all make a living based on a market that is made more efficient by having a consistent application platform. That's the bigger reach and the bigger goal. If we can do that, then we've created not just an infrastructure, but infrastructure that's a market force that can be really useful and meaningful for the next 10 or 20 years."
Using PaaS to Achieve Developer Productivity
"So, when you look at the economics, you have to have a Platform-as-a-Service that can take you through all of those levels and get you into the biggest possible market because every enterprise is becoming a software company."
"Every enterprise is becoming a cloud service provider. If you didn't have a website in 1998, you pretty much didn't exist. It was like not having a front door. What we've observed in 2015 is if you don't have an API, you don't exist. So where does that API come from? How are you projecting your capability in connecting to mobile devices, to partners, to developers. You have to do it somehow, you can't do it on old infrastructure. So you have business development agreements. How does those get made? That's code. You have business expansion and you got a new capability, how do you turn that into an actual, active business that can be called by partners? That's more code. So the demand on software engineering, app development, and service development, is only going up. And the supply of developers in the world is not increasing at the pace of demand. So you can see that in developer salaries, you can see it in the shape that corporations are taking. All this takes us back to the inescapable fact, which is you must make application developers more productive in order for businesses to be in business. So for me that's where PaaS fits. It's supporting this tremendous economic pressure of the need for more software to be developed because business is implemented through software these days. It doesn't matter if you're John Deere or American Express or all of these things that you wouldn't have thought of as software companies."
"Cloud Foundry is a place to run apps. And that's basically what enterprises want. They want an application fabric that makes them stop worrying. Citigroup has 40,000 developers. Imagine if they take all 40,000 developers and make them all productive in that environment instead of having to write systems code and monitoring scripts."
Making the Cloud Foundry Foundation More Effective
"We have to lean forward. Each of the competitors at the table have to fervently believe that even their own selfish interests are best served by cooperating. Again, that strange word co-opetition, we're going to co-operate and compete. Each member has to really embrace it. We have to have a standard kernel and a standard set of required services that also allows for differentiation at the edge, where you can say these are the non-standard required services."
"We have to embrace speed. We have to say this is a start-up...One of the things we have within the Cloud Foundry Foundation is a concept called Defer-zero. Defer-zero means never defer a decision...if you're in a conversation, if something comes up, make a decision right now, because you can always make the decision quickly and then iterate."
"It's about focusing rabidly on the users...Where do we need to go with this and drive that with a sense of urgency...Cloud Foundry the project has to have a lot of customers and they have to be driving the roadmap."
"[So there are] three key things: each of the members leaning forward, operating as a startup, and fundamentally integrating the perspective and needs of users so we continue to build great software and make it better, richer, more robust, more fit to enterprise...then we can produce this project that's valuable to every member of the community and make a community that's broad...and long lasting."