Twitter is full of self-appointed pundits making comments about the state of the world, this is particularly evident in the technology sector where snarkiness is part of the modus operandi of most people. So when I see a series of tweets criticizing one or other vendor, I tend not to take notice. But when those tweets come from the creator of an attention-grabbing product, and directly criticize the actions of the organization running the initiative around that product, my ears prick up. This was the case recently when Mark Lucovsky, an integral part of the initial group that built the Cloud Foundry product, tweeted in apparent frustration:
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— mark lucovsky (@marklucovsky) January 2, 2014
Lucovsky was involved in the Cloud Foundry product at its inception but a year ago slid back to VMware to build a “mega cloud platform”. While his LinkedIn profile still says he’s VP of Engineering there, his Facebook profile indicates he’s moved on to a new startup. Lucovsky is something of a magnet for interesting stories, he was formerly the director of engineering for Google and came to Google from Microsoft where his departure caused something of a tantrum from CEO Steve Ballmer.
The tone and vehemence of Lucovsky’s comments got me interested and I reached out to get some further context on his views. Lucovsky was adamant that in order to obtain the greatest efficiencies for the projects he’s running, he is looking for a vendor that takes the delivery of PaaS and IaaS seriously. For him the “as-a-Service” part is critical such that vendors take care of all of the behind the scenes work. In Lucovsky’s view, PaaS should be delivered with reliability, robustness and a real service-first focus.
It’s worth bearing in mind that Lucovsky is now using a PaaS within a small startup – and this, I believe, colors much of his perspectives about PaaS. Highlighting this point, Lucovsky went further and contrasted what he sees from both Cloud Foundry and OpenShift with the full service approach Heroku takes – he was critical of a “bag of bits” approach where customers have to assemble, monitor, scale and keep the components up to date. In his view that’s not PaaS, it’s simply a selection of component parts that can go together to create a PaaS. Lucovsky contrasted the two vendors with other IaaS/PaaS vendors, in particular Heroku, Google App Engine, Microsoft and Azure who he feels operate with a service first mindset.
Lucovsky wasn’t all positive about these other vendors though, not content to criticize just one former employer, he had strong words about Google. While he was positive about both the Google App Engine and Google Compute Engine products, he lashed out at Google more generally accusing it of having “blatant disregard for their developers”. In his view, the history of API deprecation from Google suggests that customers should be wary when committing to their platform.
Lucovsky’s Pivotal and OpenShift snark however fails to take into account that both OpenShift and Pivotal are following a very different business model from the platforms he’s so bullish about. Both vendors are strongly focused on enterprise private PaaS, where customers are happy (and, indeed, often prefer) to do a fair amount of wrench work on a new solution. Contrast this with Heroku, Google et al who are generally selling to line of business customers who are attracted to the fact that these platforms hide away all the operations complexity from them.
For OpenShift and Pivotal customers, more important is the flexibility to work within their existing architectures and this enterprise level opportunity is a massive one, both Red Hat and Pivotal are happy to leave the business line opportunity to the other vendors, or to their own downstream partners. Pivotal in particular has been very successful with its attempts to build a vibrant ecosystem of service providers and telcos using Cloud Foundry as the basis for a product offering for their customers – both Verizon and NTT have high-profile investments in Cloud Foundry delivered to public cloud customers.
As PaaS matures, and more people are comfortable what it is and what it isn’t, there will be a corresponding greater maturity in terms of understanding the nuances of the different product groups. This understanding will mean that not all PaaS vendors and products are lumped in with each other. The world of PaaS is fairly diverse and much of the criticism that Lucovsky raises can be attributed to a case of comparing apples with oranges. That said, his initial comment about moving on from competitor back biting and focusing clearly on delivering what customers need is certainly sage advice. Let’s hope there’s been a few New Year’s resolutions made in that general direction.
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