Cloud Services / Culture / Sponsored / Contributed

How Comcast Was No Longer ‘Blinded by the Light’

28 Jun 2019 8:50am, by

Cloud Foundry sponsored this post.

Abby Kearns
With nearly 20 years in the tech world, Abby is a true veteran of the industry. Her lengthy career has spanned product marketing, product management and consulting across Fortune 500 companies and startups alike. As executive director of Cloud Foundry Foundation, Abby helms the ecosystem of developers, users and applications running on Cloud Foundry and works closely with the board to drive the Foundation’s vision and grow the open source project. Prior to Cloud Foundry Foundation, Abby focused on Pivotal Cloud Foundry as part of the Product Management team at Pivotal.

So many of us are so fixated on the shiny new “It” technology that we neglect to consider who will use it, how they’ll use it and what that technology can actually do to help make our organizations more productive.

Technology is only as good as the strategies we implement. Without a solid foundation and plan for success, any cloud native technology runs the risk of being overshadowed by legacy infrastructure, inflexible work culture or a lack of understanding around how to use the new technology.

I get it: You’re excited about the latest new cloud tech. But instead of impulsively deciding to move to the cloud or adopt new cloud native open source thing, take the time to fully consider the why and the how. Find reasons rooted in reality, like taking advantage of hyperscale computing resources in a way that can’t be realized in the data center or embracing an opportunity to move workloads to the cloud. Also, consider determining what unsolved problems you have and what technologies — if any — might help to solve those problems, as opposed to the other way around.

Whatever you do, don’t move to the cloud because you think it’s going to solve your digital transformation efforts — because it won’t. At least not on its own.

When Enterprises Make the Change

Think about what you’re trying to solve as an organization and how the cloud and cloud native technologies could enable that outcome. What do you hope to accomplish, and more importantly, how does the rest of your organization fit into that approach? That conversation gets especially difficult for larger and older businesses.

There are countless examples of young, nimble companies starting in the cloud from day one with tremendous success. But I am especially impressed when large, relatively comfortable and entrenched enterprises use cloud native technology to systematically change how their business operates, seek out new opportunities and transform their cultures to drive that change.

Comcast, one of the world’s largest broadcasters, TV and internet providers, might not be the first company that comes to mind when you think about innovation in open source technology. But during the Cloud Foundry Summit in April, a trio of its executives shared fascinating examples about how they are using cloud native open source technology to achieve movement throughout the enterprise, speed up application development and deploy services that elevate the entire community.

“Happy developer, happy business,” Mike Crisafulli, senior vice president of product and platform services development at Comcast, told me during our fireside chat at the event. For a company as large as Comcast, change has to be taken slowly and methodically, and Crisafulli was transparent about telling his colleagues in the audiences that transformation takes more than five years, which is how long Comcast has been on this journey. “Clearly we’re not there yet,” he said.

“Don’t try to change everything out of the gate; pick and empower and have clear outcomes. Then let go, and trusty and verify,” Crisafulli said. It’s that frictionless environment — not a top-down management approach — that developers crave. Asking an enterprise to let go of some of those controls is a big deal, and many businesses aren’t prepared to do it, but for Comcast, the results speak for themselves.

Giving developers more freedom and a sense or purpose takes tremendous self-awareness and a level of risk-taking that makes many enterprises uncomfortable. Figuring that part out is difficult; in fact, it was “one of the biggest obstacles” for Comcast and took the better part of a year to work through.

Sustaining Your Strategy

More companies are going to be driving how technology unfolds, and it’s important to remember what that asks of industry and the people that power those businesses.

Soon after Comcast switched from a company that procures software to one that leverages open source, it noticed an imbalance in its approach, Nithya Ruff, the head of Comcast’s open source office, told me. “We realized that it wasn’t enough to just consume, we needed to actually contribute back any changes we made — frankly [to] sustain open source and do our part to give back,” Ruff said.

Comcast has contributed more than 150 open source projects to date. Everyone I’ve spoken with at the organization, including Ruff, has a much grander vision for where open source can take it, and where it can take open source. “If you can get your leadership on your side and you can get the legal team on your side, developers are already on your side. They’re chomping at the bit to do open source,” she said.

Before you begin your journey to the cloud, consider the value it brings to your business. Clearly communicate that vision and hold fast to it. That will be your North Star as you navigate the challenges of a journey that is well worth it.

Feature image via Pixabay.

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