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Attracting more developers to Cloud Foundry's cloud native application framework is the top priority for the open source foundation’s new boss, Abby Kearns.

Kearns took on the role as executive director late last year, following the departure of former CEO, Sam Ramji, who joined Google’s enterprise cloud division. Meanwhile, Chip Childers became the Foundation’s CTO.

The reshuffle followed a solid year for Cloud Foundry, adding new members including Google, Bosch and Volkswagen, while the Foundation has updated its strategy around containers with the transition to a new container manager system, Diego.

There are now 2,800 code contributors and 140 full time committers for Cloud Foundry and, in a wider context platform as a service – which has lagged way behind other cloud delivery models – is gaining ground too, with revenues expected to grow at 18.5 percent a year according to Gartner

However, adoption remains at a relatively early stage in comparison to IaaS and SaaS and Kearns says that attracting more developers is a key part of expansion plans in the next 12 months.

"Cloud Foundry is one of those rare products where it has tremendous adoption and no one really knows about it it is like the best-kept secret," says Kearns. "While that is fun and all, I would like it to be a little less of a secret. So we are going to spend a lot of time this year building awareness."

This means building out an ecosystem of services around Cloud Foundry to support developers, Kearns says, as well as catering more to programmers at the Foundation’s Summit events. While Cloud Foundry is aimed at easing the process of application development, only a third of attendees at its annual US Summit were developers.

"If you go to all the events this year you will see that there is a very different tone," Kearns says. "We are actually going to be targeting developers as well as the operators, so we will build out tracks and focusing on developer and language communities and make summits a place where developers can go and network and learn about developing applications on Cloud Foundry." 

Enterprise PaaS challenges

A number of large enterprises are now using Cloud Foundry to build new applications. For example, Volkswagen is using a combination of OpenStack and Cloud Foundry to create new connected car and mobility service software more quickly. Most of the large UK banks are using the technology to some degree, according to Kearns. See also: Volkswagen continues open source cloud push with Cloud Foundry

However, one of the challenges for growing enterprise adoption of Cloud Foundry is that it can require an overhaul of internal processes. Adopting new development practices and modern application architectures is as much a cultural issue as a technical one, Kearns says. This is reflected in how Cloud Foundry is used by customers. For example, vendors such as Pivotal and IBM are focused on helping businesses understand continuous delivery and test-driven deployment as well as selling them software tools. 

"Cloud Foundry in enterprise organisations is often used as a shim, a forcing function as it were, for digital transformation," Kearns says. "So it becomes a technology that is enabling that business transformation."

"That shift is difficult to undertake and not just for developers and operators but the business as a whole, because it is asking you to really rethink the way that you think about your entire organisation and the role technology plays in it."

She adds: "It is not just pulling developers and operators closer together, it is what are we developing, what is the product, how do we iterate, take in customer feedback and point that back into a new product or new technology, how do we hire or retain talent, what does that look like, how do we manage the financials and investments towards the future."

Lessons from OpenStack

There are clearly parallels to be drawn between Cloud Foundry and OpenStack, the open source cloud project which targets the infrastructure as a service layer in data centres. Kearns says that the Cloud Foundry Foundation has learned from both the successes and struggles of OpenStack.

"We have learned a lot from them but we have also taken a very different path," she says. "Cloud Foundry has evolved and operates very differently from OpenStack in terms of how development works. But there are a lot of things we have taken from them  like OpenStack Days which are really community-driven events. They gave us all of the information to create the Cloud Foundry Days we rolled out at the end of last year, so we have definitely learned a lot from the path that they paved for us and obviously Cloud Foundry and OpenStack is a compelling use case for many users Bloomberg, Yahoo Japan to name but a few.

"But I think we will learn from some of the struggles on integrity of the technology and from how the technology evolves. We have kept a tighter grip and opinion on the technology to ensure that it doesn't become something so cumbersome and complex that users cannot run it at scale."

Concerns were raised around support for OpenStack last year with two big backers – HPE and Cisco – reducing their involvement to some degree. For HPE this meant the sale of its OpenStack and Cloud Foundry assets to open source software vendor Suse (although HPE will continue to sell both services).

"It is interesting," says Kearns. "I am excited to see where SUSE takes the OpenStack and Cloud Foundry assets and the technology and what they do with it. They have obviously a great story with their Linux distribution as well as Ceph and I am excited to see what they are going to bring to the table both in terms of committers and contributors. But as a member of our board their voice will mean a lot as we think about the strategy for Cloud Foundry." 

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