CloudBees is expanding beyond its Jenkins roots to provide more end-to-end software delivery capabilities.
Continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) are growing much more sophisticated, according to Sacha Labourey, CloudBees CEO and co-founder.
“We used to have sophistication to the left of the life cycle and now we’re seeing that sophistication take place to the right of the life cycle. That’s definitely going to be an area of big focus for us.”
Or as Cuong Tran, a building engineer with ServiceNow, put it, the CI/CD space has become crowded with tool options, many of them open source. That means that CloudBees, as it approaches its 10th anniversary, needs a differentiator, he said.
While much evolution has taken place to use automation to speed application development, not so much has happened on the operations side.
In its 2018 report on continuous delivery and release automation (CDRA), Forrester ranked Electric Cloud among the market leaders and CloudBees lower, merely as a “contender.”
CDRA tools model, deploy and visualize application pipelines, orchestrating existing tools and assets. They also automate the delivery and release pipeline between development and production, according to Forrester. The pure-play release automation tools have the best security, as they were designed from the start to interact with production infrastructure.
Calling the service one of the deepest offerings in the market, Forrester claimed Electric Cloud’s release readiness capability brings together a wide variety of data from sources such as application performance management, cognitive operations and service management tools. It added that it was ahead of other CDRA products evaluated in applying advanced analytics to continuous delivery.
Forrester placed CloudBees among the CI vendors expanding into the broader CDRA market that bring strong capabilities to tasks, such as running automated tests and packaging tested software into deployable units. These vendors typically support fewer target platforms and rely more on scripting versus the modeling approaches that more mature CDRA tools offer.
“CloudBees understands that configuration management, continuous integration and release automation are converging and is adapting its strategy accordingly,” Forrester said.
The company just released Flow 9.1, its application release orchestration (ARO) platform, which incorporates Electric Cloud. The new features include customizable dashboards, data archiving, visibility into a release including its inventory, release portfolio feedback and greater flexibility and control for release pipeline execution.
Labourey called Electric Cloud an important asset for the company.
“We’re seeing a lot of automation of even complicated problems, and that’s where companies need things like Flow,” he said.
CloudBees was built on a commercial distribution of Jenkins, initially considered a continuous integration tool, though some companies also use it for continuous delivery.
However, the shift to cloud native and Kubernetes poses even more Jenkins management-specific challenges, as we’ve reported previously. That’s given rise to Jenkins X, a slimmed-down version designed to make it easier to develop and deploy cloud native applications to Kubernetes without having to learn the intricacies of the orchestrator.
CloudBees announced commercial support for Jenkins in December. Jenkins X sits on top of other execution engines as well as Jenkins, and can extend to the Tekton Kubernetes pipeline tool. The difference between Jenkins and Jenkins X has been the source of some confusion, however.
The company expects to release a SaaS version of Jenkins X by the end of the year.
CloudBees is attempting to create Software Delivery Management (SDM) as a new category “and would probably like their offering to be viewed as unique to the marketplace,” according to Redmonk analyst Rachel Stephens.
“On the other hand, we do see a generalized trend around the convergence of the previously distinctive CI/CD categories,” she said. “As more and more tools begin to blur the lines in the software delivery space, it’s reasonable to expect vendors to start collapsing — or expanding — their definitions of the markets they serve.”
In a Jenkins World keynote (the demo starts around minute 58 in the video above), Shawn Ahmed, CloudBees vice president of product marketing, talked about how, when leading a software development company, it needed a single place for developers as well as operations folks to see all the data coming in from the various tools they were using.
“When I was an engineering manager, I had to constantly context switch, come in before everybody else, dig into different DevOps toolchains — JIRA, GitHub, Confluence, Jenkins — to try to get a bird’s-eye view of where my features and products were in the value-delivery chain. … and there were still bottlenecks and inefficiencies going unnoticed,” he said.
CloudBees’ Software Delivery Management (SDM) offering, now taking participants in a preview program, creates a data layer aggregating data from all the tools used in software delivery pipeline.
- Product hub: Where all software delivery activity is visible, including data from JIRA, Jenkins, observability and monitoring tools, behavioral analytics tools and others.
- Value stream: Where you can see a feature’s path from idea to production.
- Alerts and notifications: It shows all the contributions from the teams, but also where they are in the value stream and where there are bottlenecks. Teams are alerted when there are blocks to their contributions.
- Feature management dashboard: What’s in progress, what’s upcoming, what’s being rolled out — open tasks, open branch and indicators that have policy issues. With the policy engine, you can create rules. Say a pull request has been awaiting review for more than seven days. Did that reviewer go on vacation? It can help teams work through those issues.
- Efficiency dashboard: To foster discussions in retrospectives. It shows how teams did on key DevOps Research and Assessment (DORA) metrics and includes a recommendations engine to suggest policies to help teams become more efficient. For example, you can create a policy to alert when pull requests are left open for more than 24 hours.
In addition, each developer receives a personalized brief in their chat tool organizing the various things he or she needs to pay immediate attention to. You can drill down not only into the tasks assigned to you, but also those of other team members. You can see where you are blocking other people’s work and where they are blocking yours. You can see the amount of time that a particular piece of work has been in idle state in an effort to speed it along.
The technology is expected to reach GA by the end of the year.
Coming out of the demo, people were saying it’s a great idea, but speculating that configuring all the different data sources into a single view would take a boatload of work — a task likely to fall to someone with a full plate already.
It actually won’t take that much work, according to Ben Williams, CloudBees vice president of product management.
Administrators of those tools/repositories/projects will need to authorize the relevant integration apps. Then admins of Jenkins and CloudBees Core install a plugin that provides the connection. These are one-time tasks, he said.
“The app framework that we are building will allow users and partners to build additional integrations that can extend the data model, contribute policies and rules, and add additional functionality,” he said.
The company is working with a broad network of partners to create an ecosystem that will provide a library of similarly easy-to-install and configure integrations.
CloudBees is not the only company working on this, notes Jim Mercer, DevOps research director for analyst firm IDC.
Numerify is working in this area, Chef recently announced applications operations dashboards, and JFrog also is working mission control dashboards. Companies like XebiaLabs and Plutora also say they have similar technology.
Williams, however, maintains those companies only offer only pieces of what CloudBees has in the works.
“The SDM environment that CloudBees is announcing is a compelling story and something that organizations need,” IDC’s Mercer said.
One of its most attractive benefits is being entirely tool neutral, meaning it will take data from a wide variety of DevOps tools — and potentially non-DevOps business systems — and normalize it for reporting and dashboards, he said.
“It appears a fair amount of the technology that they need to make this happen is coming from their recent acquisition of Electric Cloud. However, it is still early days and it feels like CloudBees is still trying to figure out how they are going to glue everything together,” he said.
A lot of CI/CD players want to provide an end-to-end story — security scanning, repository, CI and everything else. That’s a good option for a lot of companies, especially small ones, Labourey said.
“But I think a large part of the market wants to be able to cherry-pick from different tools,” he said. “We need to have a way to orchestrate in a neutral way. … If you’re looking for something that’s just easy to set up, that’s great. If you’re looking for something more customizable, more adaptable to your choices and future situations that might happen, I think our solution is more appropriate. When you have more than one specific stack or more than one cloud, we’re going to be the best solution for that.”
Although Jenkins is the clear leader in terms of adoption in the CI/CD space, CI/CD tools have been largely commoditized by the cloud vendors [and others], according to Mercer.
“With so much of CloudBees’ revenue being focused on the Jenkins CI/CD solution set, they have to deliver on something other than CI/CD for their long-term future,” he said.
SDM can help to broaden the company’s messaging and enable higher-level sales discussions with CIOs and eventually with other business leaders who are part of the larger value-chain, he said.
CloudBees sponsored this story, which was written independently by The New Stack.
Feature image: Shawn Ahmed, CloudBees vice president of product marketing, Ben Williams, vice president of product management, and Marina Harrell, senior manager of engineering, in a demo of Software Delivery Management at Jenkins World 2019.