Cloud-native development and deployment – Interview with Pivotal

November 8, 2017 Philipp Schöne

For this week’s interview, I’m very happy to welcome Dormain Drewitz, Director Product Marketing at Pivotal.

Philipp Schöne (PS): Hi Dormain (DD), can you please present Pivotal in a few words?

DD: Pivotal’s mission is to transform how the world builds software. We’re a four-year old company, with offices in nearly 20 cities worldwide. Over a third of the Fortune 100 work with Pivotal to build and run applications on our cloud-native application platform. Our Labs team helps companies learn modern user-focused product development methodologies. We also help companies modernize their data analytics platforms for the cloud era.

PS: You are addressing the development and deployment of apps. Can you explain to us why this is such a hot topic and what makes Pivotal’s solution stand out against others?

DD: Six years after Marc Andreeson’s presciently noted that “software is eating the world”, the call to arms is more urgent now than ever. Enterprises recognize they need software development and deployment as a core competency in order to compete. The sharing economy and the gig economy, for example, are changing how we make purchases, how work gets done, and what we all expect from the brands we interact with. The challenge for many big companies: they don’t release software often. Their technology stack, the team structures, the tooling — are all stagnant. That just doesn’t cut it.

Pivotal Cloud Foundry (PCF) is an empowering technology in the shift to digital. Agile and lean practices help teams work in shorter iterations and feedback loops. But engineers need a way to deploy, operate, and scale applications. That’s where PCF comes in. It makes it easy to deploy cloud-native applications to production, operate and manage them,  and quickly implement changes to those applications. As a result, users see new features frequently, and more business opportunities arise. Cloud Foundry is running essential apps at many of the largest enterprises in the world (Ford, Comcast, Liberty Mutual, etc.). It’s opinionated, but flexible. It provides multi-cloud portability. And it helps companies improve their security posture by being able to patch servers, repair apps, and rotate credentials faster.

PS: Which role do APIs play in the Pivotal Cloud Foundry solution?

DD: The use of APIs is inherent to building apps on PCF. There are several principles at work in making a cloud-native application. One of them is looser coupling of different components so that teams can iterate on services independently. An API-based architecture supports that looser coupling.

PCF is an application-centric abstraction for developers. Developers just push a snippet of code to the platform, and PCF handles the rest. It also automates the infrastructure orchestration to reduce the operational burden. Teams that use an API-driven, loosely-coupled architecture release code more often. PCF is the platform to continuously deploy and run cloud-native apps.

PCF itself also has APIs for interacting with the platform and other useful abstractions. The Open Service Broker API, for example, has become an industry standard for backing service abstractions. It began in Cloud Foundry, but is being adopted by the Kubernetes ecosystem as well.  

PS: Which are the different scenarios for Pivotal Cloud Foundry in combination with API management?

DD: There are two major areas where we’ve seen API management combine well with PCF. The first is microservices management and the other is application replatforming and modernization.

As teams build microservices, PCF is an ideal place to deploy and run those applications. Spring Cloud Services (for Java) and Steeltoe (for .NET) provide the service discovery, externalized configuration, and circuit breaker functions in a microservices architecture. Given the API-driven nature of microservices, API management is critical as well.

Replatforming involves upgrading an application so it can take advantage of the operational efficiencies of PCF. Replatforming, the app is re-structured to adhere to the least possible Twelve Factor principles to get an application to run on the cloud. Existing functionality is preserved. Alternatively, developers can begin to modernize along the “seams” of the application.

API management capabilities help speed up this process by exposing application endpoints as a RESTful interface for other applications. In addition, API management tools enable new applications to be quickly developed on legacy systems by connecting to any number of immutable back-end system.  These two principal use cases combine to help reduce risks around transitioning applications to a new platform.

PS: Who are your customers? Which industries do you address and what are their specificities?

DD: Digital transformation is an imperative at organizations across industries and governments. Any organization doing custom application development can benefit from PCF to improve developer productivity, operator efficiency, application availability, and security. Comcast has measured a 50% reduction in time-to-market. The Home Depot has thousands of developers pushing apps to the platform. Ford Motor Company now lets app teams push changes from dev to QA to production. Garmin has ramped to 1,100 deploys per month on PCF.  And the list goes on.

PS: Which channels do you sell your product through? Online, via sales teams, via partners?

DD: Most enterprises buy PCF either directly from Pivotal or one of Dell Technologies’ strategically aligned businesses, which includes DellEMC and VMware. Pivotal also has a growing channel whose members must graduate from a rigorous training program to take part. For developers who want the experience of pushing applications to PCF, we offer a hosted environment called Pivotal Web Services.

PS: What’s your pricing model?

DD: The primary unit of sale is an Application Instance (AI). An AI is how applications are deployed using the Application Runtime (formerly known as Elastic Runtime). Application Runtime gives developers a consistent and reliable way to deploy applications. It automatically adds dependencies and creates a container. The Application Runtime also manages networking and binds specified backing services. Meanwhile, it gives operators the container orchestration, scaling, and aggregated logging they need to manage Day 2 operations.

With the announcement of the Pivotal Container Service (PKS), that will add a new unit of sale for PCF. These are Kubernetes clusters for container workloads, with the Day 2 operations management from PCF.

Customers can also buy the Operations Manager for each PCF environment. It provides a set of APIs and a graphical interface to deploy and upgrade PCF components.

Finally, there is a marketplace of add-ons and extensions. Some of these are sold separately. Pivotal has several of its own add-ons, like Pivotal Cloud Cache, RabbitMQ, and Concourse. Ecosystem partners, like database vendors, APM vendors, and security vendors also have built extensions. This includes several API management vendors, like Apigee and MuleSoft.

PS: Can you share with us a recent customer success story, indicating the challenges they faced and the outcomes they got with your product?

DD: T-Mobile recently shared its story at the Cloud Foundry Summit in Santa Clara last June. It was taking the company seven months and 72 steps to make changes to one of its applications. The application was a Java monolith with over 1,000 functions. T-Mobile worked with Pivotal to decompose the app into Spring Boot microservices and run those on PCF. After three months 100% of production traffic was running on PCF. On PCF, the company could do same-day bug fixes with zero downtime. API management played a big role in T-Mobile’s transformation as well.

PS: Which recommendations would you give to our readers who are about to deploy APIs?

DD: If you’re building APIs, you probably care about developer productivity. Who doesn’t these days? If that’s the case, also think about how long it takes to provision environments to developers. Think about how many manual steps exist between a developer completing code and running that code in production.

If you are deploying APIs as endpoints for microservices, you need to be prepared to manage a complex environment. How are your microservices orchestrated? How are Day 2 operations, like patching and upgrading, handled at scale? How are you troubleshooting across service boundaries?

In short, consider the broader factors that will affect the success of your API strategy. This may include people/teams, processes, and technologies used.

PS: Can you share with us your product presentation video?

DD: We have a YouTube channel that offers content on a broad range of topics. You’ll find videos for developers, operators, architects, and data practitioners. This video is a useful overview to get started with Pivotal Cloud Foundry.

 

PS: Are there any other topics you would like our audience to be aware of about your company?

DD: We’re focused on customer success. We collaborate with customers and the community to drive feedback into our products. We also have a set of practices to help our customers be successful in adopting PCF. If you want to hear directly from these users, attend SpringOne Platform in December in San Francisco. My personal discount code for you is S1P200_Drewitz.

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