Bryan Friedman: Clouding Up

My Journey from Enterprise IT to the Cloud

Category: Pivotal

SpringOne Platform 2018 – Let’s Get Technical

SpringOne Platform is known for showcasing some of the most compelling customer stories you’ll find at any tech conference. Last year, we heard from many leading companies about how they are getting better at software. This year, there were more amazing tales of transformation from enterprise leaders. It’s safe to say that “it’s still about outcomes.”

But behind all these great outcomes is a lot of cool tech! I attended quite a few technology-focused sessions this year. They got me excited about the various announcements throughout the week. There was all the stuff you’d expect at a conference called “SpringOne Platform” — new versions of Spring components, Java 11 talk, and platform releases for PCF and PKS. Then there were so many other tech topics that showed up too. I found these five to be the most intriguing:

1. Continuous Everything (CI/CD)

We’ve heard the virtues of continuous integration and continuous delivery at SpringOne before. There’s plenty to be found on the power of Concourse as a CI tool. Even PCF operators are big on Concourse and its ability to provision and repave the platform. This year, there was talk of inviting a new friend to the party.

What Happened?

Pivotal announced that it “has a team working on contributing Cloud Foundry support to open source Spinnaker.” Spinnaker already supported AWS, Azure, GCP, Google App Engine, Kubernetes, and other platforms. Now, Pivotal is ensuring that Cloud Foundry is a first-class citizen of Spinnaker. Jon Schneider covered this on the main stage and in detail in a breakout session.

Why Is It Cool?

Spinnaker is one of the few true multi-cloud delivery platforms. Started by Netflix, it has contributions from Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and now Pivotal. There are two essential components: a multi-cloud application inventory and pipelines.

The inventory piece is critical, since applications rarely live on a single platform. Spinnaker presents an aggregate view of all your applications, clusters, and instances. (It can do this without even having deployed them.) This allows users to determine their application health and state across platforms. It also means Spinnaker is distinctly able to run out-of-band processes. As a result, it supports running things like vulnerability scanning or chaos engineering tooling at build time.

Along with the inventory, as you’d expect from a CD solution, Spinnaker offers pipelines. Even if you are a user of Concourse, Jenkins, or other CI tools, Spinnaker is best suited to help with these delivery aspects of your pipeline.

How Can I Get Started?

Check out Spinnaker on GitHub and at https://www.spinnaker.io/. Keep an eye out for the 1.10 release which will include an early version of Cloud Foundry support.

2. Secure Credentials

Presentations about security topics don’t always offer the most gripping demos. Still, I was very interested in a few of the breakout sessions on CredHub, the credential manager that’s baked right in to Cloud Foundry. It turns out, security can be seductive.

What Happened?

CredHub is the credential manager that’s baked in to Cloud Foundry. In his three sessions, Peter Blum offered a few different looks at CredHub. There was a great overview of how it works with PCF and Spring. His most fascinating session, though, brought the magic of CredHub together with Kubernetes.

In his example, a webhook object in Kubernetes injects CredHub into pods on the cluster. Then application code in the pods may access secrets from the credential store. It was a slick demo and an incredible way to show off CredHub’s simplicity and strong capabilities. Peter’s CredHub with Kubernetes code is on GitHub!

Why Is It Cool?

CredHub offers a secure way for humans and applications to interact with secrets. With Pivotal Application Service and the CredHub Service Broker, developers never have to know or see any passwords. Passwords are only available to application containers with authorized access. Each application container includes a signed certificate and key. This key provides identity when communicating with CredHub.

How Can I Get Started?

There are tons of amazing CredHub resources out there. Check out some of the recent blog posts from my colleagues:

You can also go straight to the CredHub Docs or the GitHub repo for more detailed info. For you Spring buffs, there’s even a Spring CredHub project.

3. Serverless

What’s a tech conference today without the mention of serverless? SpringOne definitely had its share of serverless moments. Of course, Pivotal Function Service (coming soon) got a shout-out from Onsi Fakhouri. Plus, there were plenty of other details covered about Knative and riff at the conference.

What Happened?

Mark Fisher did a live demo of riff on the main stage. There were also some very informative and demystifying sessions on Knative and riff. They ranged from YAML-heavy to YAML-free with one especially for Spring developers.

Why Is It Cool?

At SpringOne Platform last year, Pivotal announced riff, an open source serverless framework. Earlier this year, Pivotal revealed that riff was replatformed on top of Knative. My colleague Brian McClain described it best when he tweeted:

This is the technology that is driving Pivotal’s serverless future. Knative and riff will power the yet-to-be-released Pivotal Function Service.

How Can I Get Started?

Check out https://projectriff.io and https://pivotal.io/knative for more details. You can also find both riff and Knative on GitHub.

4. Buildpacks Everywhere

Containers and Kubernetes are hot topics at conferences. What’s even hotter? Taking control of the application lifecycle in a container-centric world. Developers want a fast and secure way to get from source to container. It’s something the Cloud Foundry community has had solved for a while with buildpacks. Now this solution is expanding.

What Happened?

Day 1 main stage had a surprise ending from Stephen Levine from Pivotal and Terence Lee from Heroku. They introduced an effort to bring buildpacks to the broader cloud-native community. It’s called Cloud Native Buildpacks, and it joins the CNCF as a sandbox project today.

Why Is It Cool?

Buildpacks are an “opinionated, source-centric way to build applications.” They are a big part of the magic behind Cloud Foundry’s `cf push` experience. Buildpacks detect the kind of app then fetch and install the tools needed to run it. For operators, the ability to manage a curated set of buildpacks is attractive. It also allows for rapid, secure patching en-mass using remote image layer rebasing. All the while, developers simply focus on delivering value for their own customers. The new specification and set of tools enable buildpacks to be used on any platform.

How Can I Get Started?

Check out https://buildpacks.io/ for more info. Meanwhile, use the `pack` CLI to experiment with Cloud Native Buildpacks.

5. Reactive Programming

Reactive programming is not a new concept for SpringOne Platform attendees. I vividly remember Phil Webb’s awesome keynote from last year comparing blocking with non-blocking. (Who can forget the swimming ducks and cats?) This year there was more Reactive-related fun.

What Happened?

There were two impressive keynotes relevant in the Reactive programming space. First, there was the introduction of the non-blocking relational database connectivity driver, R2DBC. We also learned about RSocket, a new message-based application network protocol.

Why Is It Cool?

In two articles on InfoQ, Charles Humble examines both R2DBC and RSocket. He does an amazing job explaining the advantages of Reactive programming. As Pivotal’s Ben Hale explains in one article, “Reactive programming is the next frontier in Java for high efficiency applications.” He points out two major roadblocks to Reactive programing: data access, and networking. R2DBC and RSocket aim to address these problems.

I found RSocket to be particularly fascinating. In the main stage presentation, Stephane Maldini gave a brief but helpful history of TCP and HTTP. He framed RSocket as an alternative to these protocols while sort of bringing the best of each to bear. Rather than simply request/response, RSocket offers four different interaction models. (They are Request/Void, Request/Response, Request/Stream, and Stream/Stream.) What’s more, it’s language-agnostic, bi-directional, multiplexed, message-based, and supports connection resumption. It kind of blew my mind.

How Can I Get Started?

As always there’s a .io site for RSocket (http://rsocket.io/) and an RSocket GitHub repo. R2DBC is on GitHub too. It’s also worth checking out the related content from the conference. Ben Hale covered both R2DBC and RSocket in his sessions.

Next Year in Austin!

My Interoperable Opinions of Cloud Foundry Summit 2018

Last week I visited Boston for the first time and attended my very first Cloud Foundry Summit. I also took the opportunity while I was there to make my first visit to Fenway Park. It was a fabulous week of firsts for me.

As with any conference, one measure of excellence is the amount of quality examples of customer success stories. It’s also nice to see compelling demos of new and interesting technology. CF Summit 2018 did not disappoint in either of these departments. In fact, my colleagues have already written quite eloquently on these topics. So I’ll spend some time on something else that was a key theme of the conference.

Interoperability FTW

Interoperability was an explicit thread through many of the keynotes and breakout sessions. Cloud Foundry Foundation CTO Chip Childers even hinted at this trend back in January.

To be sure, Cloud Foundry tech has always championed interoperability. It’s multi-cloud. It’s polyglot. It’s OCI-compliant. The Open Service Broker API was even born of Cloud Foundry. (It’s now been adopted by the Kubernetes community.) It was fantastic to see these concepts expand even more this year.

There was the introduction of Alibaba Cloud as a BOSH CPI. Some awesome advances in .NET support appeared (plus a whole conference track to go along with it). Kubernetes was also mentioned quite a bit as the Cloud Foundry Container Runtime continues to take hold.

Indeed, it’s nice to see this interoperability movement flourish. Still, I couldn’t help but think of how it relates to another critical part of Cloud Foundry’s success.

Opinions Are Like… Everybody’s Got One

Yes, it embraces interoperability. Yet Cloud Foundry has always been billed as an opinionated platformSo it’s important to point out that “interoperable” and “opinionated” are not mutually exclusive. But they are equally important characteristics for an effective platform. Interoperability without opinions runs the risk of becoming complicated or difficult to use. But of course, opinions without interoperability may prove irrelevant. After all, a good platform has to be able to handle many types of workloads. It should integrate with the services and technologies that you need to use.

So both are important. But in my previous life working in IT, I’ll admit I wasn’t in the opinionated camp. I didn’t even understand it as a concept. I generally went for selecting software with the ultimate flexibility. What I didn’t realize was how often this led to analysis paralysis and decreased productivity.

I remember one of the last projects I worked on. We were selecting a software product for financial planning and reporting. Ideally, we’d have found a solution that did 80% of what was required. We should have reevaluated the actual importance of the other 20% we thought we needed. Instead, we focused on that 20% until we settled on something that could handle it. Then implementation details, changing requirements, and complex technology got in the way anyway. As I recently heard one industry analyst say, “Choice is not a differentiator.”

Unfortunately, I had not yet learned about the value that opinionated software can bring. It’s about a simplified user experience and increased productivity. I like how Duncan Winn describes it in his book, Cloud Foundry: The Definitive Guide:

When you look at successful software, the greatest and most widely adopted technologies are incredibly opinionated. What this means is that they are built on, and adhere to, a set of well-defined principles employing best practices. They are proven to work in a practical way and reflect how things can and should be done when not constrained by the baggage of technical debt. Opinions produce contracts to ensure applications are constrained to do the right thing.

Platforms are opinionated because they make specific assumptions and optimizations to remove complexity and pain from the user. Opinionated platforms are designed to be consistent across environments, with every feature working as designed out of the box. For example, the Cloud Foundry platform provides the same user experience when deployed over different IaaS layers and the same developer experience regardless of the application language. Opinionated platforms such as Cloud Foundry can still be configurable and extended, but not to the extent that the nature of the platform changes…

That last part is key: “…can still be configurable and extended…” Remember, interoperability still matters. It just can’t happen at the expense of complexity. That’s why something like the Open Service Broker API is so elegant and powerful.

There’s an interesting nugget there at the beginning of Duncan’s description too: “…they are built on…well-defined principles…” It’s not only how the software works but also what it’s built on. The architecture is opinionated as well. A lot of times that means selecting a particular set of technologies or patterns and incorporating them together in a specific way. Basically: curation.

An Ounce of Productivity is Worth a Pound of Curation

Okay, so this play on a Benjamin Franklin quote isn’t exactly a perfect analogy. But the point is, as I’ve recently heard a customer quoted: “Curation is how we get stuff done!”

In the consumer world, we enjoy the benefits of curation daily. We trust companies like Netflix to suggest movies and television we will like. We look to Amazon to tell us what we like to buy. Our Facebook and Twitter feeds are filtered for us. These are the modern giants of content curation. They use algorithms and AI to keep things relevant, but people still drive the behavior. Plus, think about traditional television or radio news, or even used bookstore or boutique owners. We embrace curation in our daily lives.

In the business and IT world, however, it seems like curation is often avoided. Remember the 20%? Sometimes the customer knows better and doesn’t buy into an opinionated architecture. They insist on defining it themselves. It’s true that curation may not be for everyone. Under the right circumstances, though, it can help save a lot of time and headaches. Determine where you are on the curation scale and pick the right solution. If you trust the curator, they can help.

At CF Summit, I attended many talks about Kubernetes and its role within the Cloud Foundry ecosystem. As Onsi Fakhouri spoke about at SpringOne Platform late last year, it’s an and conversation, not or. It’s not about Kubernetes vs. Cloud Foundry, but rather how can they interoperate? Or, more specifically (and more opinionated), how should they interoperate?

This was a popular topic at CF Summit this year. Right now, Cloud Foundry has a few ways it interoperates with Kubernetes. Most prominently it’s a separate container runtime (as opposed to the application runtime). Some things fit better on the container runtime (like stateful workloads, ISV container images). Some are made for the application runtime (12-factor apps, microservices, etc.). The opinion right now is that it all depends on the use case.

Other examples and conversations about Kubernetes interoperability showed up at the conference too. There were products that include CF running on top of K8s and demos showing K8s running within CF. As a first-time attendee, it was amazing to see the open discussion and sharing of ideas. That’s the beauty of open source software and its community. It can evolve to incorporate (read: “curate”) other growing technologies and find the right (read: “opinionated”) way to put it all together. (For Cloud Foundry, it doesn’t just mean Kubernetes either. Look at how the code base has begun incorporating Envoy for another example.) It will all come together in the way that makes the most sense for the user experience. In the end, that’s all that should matter.

It’s All About the Outcomes

Technology is a great enabler. We can’t do technology for technology’s sake. Containers are cool. Machine Learning is fun. Yes, there are some amazing pieces of tech out there. Except it’s not about the tech itself, but rather what it enables for its users. It’s the user experience, the productivity gains, the value, that matters.

Ultimately, technology should be about doing things better, faster, more reliably. That’s the level that all software curation conversations should arrive at: customer outcomes. Whatever the future of Cloud Foundry and Kubernetes brings, we can’t forget the fundamental goal: build software better.

Five Things that Blew My Mind at SpringOne Platform 2017

Richard Watson from Gartner led a customer panel in the final round of keynotes at SpringOne. In it, he asked the company leaders what blew their minds during the conference. Of course, it got me thinking about what blew my mind at SpringOne Platform this year. Here’s what I came up with, in no particular order.

1. A High Quality Event

I’ve been to a fair amount of conferences in my career, and this one was truly top notch. Conferences are often draining and it can be hard to keep up the excitement throughout the week. This event felt elevated from the moment I checked in at Moscone Center. You had to be there to feel it I guess, but all these things contributed to the greatness:

  • Signage and graphics looked amazing and were well themed. Complete with ASCII art and 8-bit renditions of the keynote speakers.
  • The main stage room was incredible, and the keynote speaker lineup was tremendous. It was a nice mix of tech talks, customer stories, and philosophy. Everyone seemed to engage for the full two hours. That’s quite a feat.
  • The breakout sessions were right-sized, on point, and on schedule. And they were well attended! During sessions, the hallways were empty, with only a few stragglers at some booths or on laptops.
  • It had a fun vibe! Lots of discussion and socializing. Plenty of power strips everywhere. Coffee, drinks and food available at regular intervals. There were even old school arcade games!

2. Open Source is Thriving in the Enterprise!

When I saw links to GitHub repos in the Comcast and Intuit sessions, it was another mind blowing moment. It’s been a long road, but we’re finally there. Open source is in the enterprise for real. And I’m not talking about using open source software, though that’s impressive too. I mean that enterprises are contributing code back to the open source community.

Comcast has a lot of stuff out there, including a BOSH release for telegraf. Intuit showed off a validator and inspector for Spring Cloud Config. Other companies using PCF like Home Depot and Mastercard seem to have thriving public GitHub repos as well. What a time to be alive.

3. Windows and .NET at a Spring Conference!?

The announcement of PCF 2.0 highlighted some key Windows-related features. First, native Windows Server 2016 containers for .NET workloads. In one demo, Richard Seroter showed off ssh-ing directly into a Windows container. Typing dir into an ssh window may feel weird, but what a relief for .NET developers.

Speaking of feeling weird, how about displaying hardware at a software conference? That’s right, PCF 2.0 will have beta support for Azure Stack. The Microsoft booth had a working Dell EMC server cabinet to showcase it. Mind blown.

4. A Who’s Who of Cloud Native Celebrities

There were plenty of cloud famous folks to be found in both the keynotes and breakout sessions. I’m not ashamed to admit I had my fair share of geek out moments during the week. I’ve followed a lot of these tech personalities on Twitter for a long time, even before I joined Pivotal. So getting to see or meet a lot of them in person for the first time was super cool. It’s like bringing my Twitter feed to life.

People like James Watters, Andrew Clay Schafer, Onsi, Coté. Or legends of the Spring community like Juergen Hoeller, Phil Webb, Kenny Bastani and Josh Long. There was an entire panel of brilliant women — Cornelia Davis, Meagan Kjelland, Therese Stowell, Erin Schnabel, and Mathangi Venkatesan — talking about distributed systems. Other giants of the tech community outside of Pivotal even made appearances — Chip Childers from the Cloud Foundry Foundation, Erich Gamma of Microsoft, and Google’s Eric Brewer.

I know that’s a lot of name dropping. But it really was an incredible showing of very smart and talented professionals. The best part about all of this is how lucky I feel to be able to call so many of these people colleagues now. That realization is what blew my mind the most.

 5. Thoughtful Analyst Community

Finally, I have to drop a few more names so I can share the amazing interactions I had with the analyst community. RedMonk’s James Governor gave a thought-provoking keynote. Richard Watson of Gartner led the aforementioned customer panel. And Dave Bartoletti from Forrester gave a great session on cloud native ops superpowers.

But it was the personal interactions I had with these analysts this week that had the most impact for me. It’s one of the great privileges I have in my role at Pivotal now. I get to have insightful, relevant conversations with these folks. Doing it in person is always an even more superior experience. The questions they had about platforms and the product landscape alone blew my mind. I appreciated their thoughts and observations this week. I look forward to more mind-blowing 😲 action next year in Washington, D.C.

 

My First SpringOne Platform

After two full days at my very first SpringOne Platform, my head is spinning. At times I’ve felt excited, lucky, proud, impressed, and overwhelmed — sometimes all at the same time. So what’s the best thing to do when I’m feeling all the feelings? Write about it!

I’ve been having lots of thoughts that I can’t shake in two key areas so I want to share about them.

PCF 2.0: It’s a Cloud!

During the keynote on Tuesday, among a slew of announcements, Onsi Fakhouri unveiled PCF 2.0. I’m not going to get into the details here, but you can (and should!) read all about it and watch Onsi’s incredible presentation if you haven’t already.

A few months ago, I caught a glimpse of what was coming with PCF 2.0. When I saw a rough sketch of the “four pillars” on a whiteboard, I thought “Hey! That’s a cloud!” It sounds silly to me now. Of course it’s a cloud! It’s right there in the name. Pivotal Cloud Foundry. And PCF 2.0 is its natural evolution.

To be clear, I’m not interested in having a “what is the cloud?” discussion. (I already get that with my family when they ask me what it is that I do.) Still, it’s fair to say that the cloud encompasses many things these days. Public clouds now offer such a breadth of products and services that it’s hard for some customers to keep up. At the same time, customers have more and more types of workloads and want more and more choices.

All the public clouds have an app service, a container service, and a functions (serverless) service. Some have more than one of each! They all also offer many data persistence and messaging services. So the concept of Pivotal Cloud Foundry offering these same products makes total sense. PCF is staying just opinionated enough. Like Richard Seroter commented in his summary of Day 1, customers will have choices, but not too many. The reality is that customers are running in on-premise data centers. They need workloads to run in hybrid or multi-cloud environments. IaaS isn’t enough to constitute a “private cloud” anymore. But PCF 2.0 sure is. (And it’s not even limited to that. It runs on public clouds too, remember!)

Everyone at SpringOne Platform seems pretty pumped about the announcements. But I’ve heard of other folks wondering why Pivotal introduced PKS when they already have PAS. Some may wonder why anyone would still use PAS once they have PKS. And of course, there are many who don’t yet understand what role serverless has to play and why PFS is even a thing. It’s simple. They are all choices. Did anyone ask Amazon why they didn’t kill their app service once they launched a container service? As Onsi said in his talk, the conversation is not an “OR” conversation. It’s an “AND” conversation. PCF will be able to handle all customer workloads.

During Wednesday morning’s keynote, I felt a little like a kid eating ice cream for the first time. It was riveting watching Kim Bannerman and Meaghan Kjelland do a PKS demo and seeing Mark Fisher show off riff. There is such an exciting future for PCF and I’m stoked I get to go along for the ride.

Did Somebody Say “Digital Transformation”?

SpringOne Platform is full of developers and technology enthusiasts. There are plenty of tech talks and deep dives into code and platform architecture. I love that stuff and I attended a few sessions like that. Mostly though, I opted to attend the more customer-driven sessions. I haven’t yet gotten to talk to enough customers in my time here, so I wanted to see the success stories up close.

See, I worked in IT at a large enterprise for 11 years. I saw how things run in an organization like that. I’ve been gone for more than 3 years, but I still know people there. Not very much has changed. They can get VMs provisioned a little faster now, but that’s about it. So while I work for a company whose mission is to “transform how the world builds software,” my experience in enterprise IT is so tainted, it has still been hard to fathom that it’s actually possible.

But believe me, it is. Digital transformation is real, and it’s spectacular. It’s true that “digital transformation” as a term may be over used. It’s probably the phrase I heard the most during all the sessions (aside from maybe “we’re hiring”). The thing is though, buzzword or not, companies are actually doing it. And Pivotal is making it possible.

I listened to industry giants from many sectors — telco, banking, insurance, government, automotive — all tell amazing stories. It was inspiring. Refreshing even. It was beautiful. I found myself feeling sorry for my younger self, stuck in the past and trapped in a cloud-foreign world. It may sound hyperbolic, but I’m not kidding when I say there were moments of shock and awe. It’s like meeting Big Foot. You’ve heard the rumors, you know the legend, but it’s not real until you see it.

Of course, these companies’ journeys aren’t over. Far from it. They know that. They all said it. But they know the path now. They have the confidence they need to move forward. Or at least to move. Pivotal showed them the way and continues to partner with them on their journey. Like Onsi said, it’s all about learning.