Platform-as-a-Service is passe for CloudBees as CI tool Jenkins is pushed to the fore

Founded in early 2010, CloudBees was from its very inception a pioneer of Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), becoming the first cloudy company to offer complete application lifecycle support, from development to deployment, for Java devs. But whilst the  the JBoss veteran run company enjoyed steady growth, PaaS itself proved to be a more slippery proposition than anyone had envisioned – and this month, the founders took a brave step away from the technology they helped to popularise.

On September 11th, it was announced that Japanese engineer Kohsuke Kawaguchi, who joined the Bee hive as CTO this Janaury, would would be leading the company in its new direction as the world’s foremost provider of open source continuous integration (CI) tool Jenkins. And if anyone is a natural fit for this project, it’s Kohsuke. After all, he did invent the technology, launching into the OSS wild back in 2011. Simultaneously, it was announced that RUN@cloud, the company’s PaaS solution for Java providers, would, after a protracted grace period to allow its hundreds of users to migrate to other services, be shut down for good.

Although CEO Sacha Labourey once predicted “hockey stick growth” for the software widely touted as the future of enterprise cloud, things haven’t played out that way PaaS. For all the smaller indie operations that sprung up, even collectively, none could match the clout of mega-infrastructure providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google, or Microsoft, who all threw their own PaaS-like services into the ring.

 PaaS itself proved to be a more slippery proposition than anyone had envisioned

According to Steve Harris, senior vice president of products for CloudBees, this influx of offerings from the heavy hitters has served to blur the lines “in terms of what an independent PaaS vendor is bringing to the equation.” Furthermore, uptake of PaaS in the enterprise has been, for the most part, geared around on-premises usage over public PaaS, with many companies choosing to build similar functionalities within their internal clouds. This has also contributed to the slow uptake of the software.

Add the advent of zippy, sleek Linux container tech Docker, which ticks a lot of the old PaaS selling points, but with less focus on infrastructure, at a lower pricing point, and you’ve got a recipe for a leaky customer base.  Incidentally, this is all managed by the team behind fellow old-school cloudy services company dotCloud, who by re-purposing their internal containerization investments and de-emphasizing their PaaS business, saw their crumbling market toe-hold revive.

But whilst there primary offering has slipped out of the zeitgeist, Jenkins is rapidly becoming an essential bit of kit. With its inherent ability to compile source codes and builds, test, and automatically deploy, Jenkins has become an integral for many in the DevOps sphere charged with nurturing the lifecycle of their applications. According to CloudBees, Jenkins had 85,000 active users in 2013 –  a staggering 160% leap from the previous year. Although it’s still early days for the company’s integrated Jenkins support and cloud service, there’s clearly a huge potential for capitalising on this huge user base by focusing a lion share of company efforts in this new direction.

Jenkins – the  “Cadillac” of CI tools – was the de facto choice

Moreover, now that the Bees have retired from the PaaS circus, the walls are down between themselves and former-rivals. However, although a couple of news outlets initially jumped to the conclusion that the PaaS pioneers would be shuttering their entire PaaS operations (admittedly a more dramatic headline), that’s not quite the case.

It’s no coincidence that on the same week CloudBees announced that it had inked deals to work with Pivotal and the Cloud Foundry platform, who will, moving forward, be assisting the team in their efforts to grow the  CloudBees Enterprise Jenkins (CBJE) footprint by integrating it as an offering in their existing PaaS services. From Pivotal’s perspective, Jenkins – the  “Cadillac” of CI tools – was the de facto choice, used by more Java devs than any other solution. Ultimately, this will help to spread the good word about the benefits of continuous integration and continuous delivery in the future, speeding up development around the world.

On the back of this new direction, CloudBees says that in anticipates annual CD product generated revenue to quadruple against 2013 figures. As Labourey says, this move to a Jenkins-centric company just makes sense. But what about the other indie cloudy service guys positioned at the lean end of the wedge on this market of scale? According to the veterans in the market, it seems it’s a case of adapt or die in this new non-vanilla PaaS world.

Image by Russ Seidel

Jenkins Delivers PaaS Market Opt-out for CloudBees

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