The Linux Foundation and many of its collaborative projects all had a substantial presence at Boston's OpenStack Summit in May. One of those collaborative projects, the Cloud Foundry Foundation, helps its members and users to solve common network infrastructure conundrums, according to the Cloud Foundry's Devin Davis.
Davis, Cloud Foundry's head of marketing, sat down with Telco Transformation at OpenStack Summit to dig into the details of how digital transformation requires leveraging enterprise cloud more effectively. Here, in Part I of this Q&A (lightly edited for length and clarity), Davis explains how an automated cloud infrastructure can increase agility and conquer complexity. Coming up, in Part II, look for Davis to talk about network speed in the video-content delivery context, multi-cloud, colocation and vendor lock-in.
Telco Transformation: How is Cloud Foundry working with network-carrier partners?
Devin Davis: The way that we function is as a non-profit foundation. So, effectively, we give away the software. There are about 11 distros of Cloud Foundry, and there are a number of telecoms that are using those in one form or fashion.
Quite a lot of these companies are closely related to Cloud Foundry -- and using them in one form or fashion -- oftentimes with OpenStack, oftentimes with other clouds and oftentimes with multiple clouds.
TT: What are the common challenges you're seeing lately among your partners? Are there any good opportunities or solutions that have come from those collaborations?
DD: With things like industrial IoT solutions, history has taught us that the way these technologies tend to work is that you find the industrial use case for it and then it filters into the home in a real way. A lot of the stuff that we see in the home today -- when we think about IoT in terms of the consumer IoT -- are precursors to what we're going to have in 15 or 20 years. And it's going to be less directly tied to those as it will to the industrial IoT solutions that companies are building today. It's less about cool gadgets in the home and being able to use your thumbprint to get into your door -- although it will eventually be about that -- and it's more about being able to push software updates to a wind turbine and really make an actual change.
So one of the things that the companies that are using Cloud Foundry are using it for is to sort of right-size their business to be able to move faster. So one of the big struggles that many large network carriers are struggling with is how to move at the speed that consumers have become accustomed to and be able to quickly iterate on products and applications and things that they're touching on a day-to-day basis. Cloud Foundry helps solve that problem.
Comcast runs on Cloud Foundry. In the last two years, they went from three developers to more than 1,000 developers using Cloud Foundry and all their backend services, which is millions of services a day and billions a year, are now running on top of Cloud Foundry. And they're updating and iterating these products on a consistent basis.
TT: It sounds like it's really about the agility?
DD: Yeah, very much so. When you're a multibillion-dollar corporation with tens to hundreds of thousands of employees, agility is hard. And so one of the things that we talk about a lot is digital transformation, and taking that shift from a business that has some sort of digital footing in one form or fashion to actually becoming a digital business. So when you're talking about network operators, they've been running the networks for a long time and they're technology companies. They're not really digital companies. They're becoming that, and they're becoming that because they have to.
To take a personal example, I have
AT&T U-verse at home. And their app has gotten light years better in the last year and a half, to the point where now I use it for the stuff that I record on my DVR. This week, I was watching a show that I would normally watch on the evening that I would watch it. I was able to do that [watch it at a different time] because they've become more of a digital company, even though that's not, historically, what their business has been.
TT:Sure. Not a lot of digital telegraphs out there.
DD: That's right (laughs). That's right. Yeah, we've come a long way, or they have!
TT: Now agility has a flip side of the coin, and that's "fragility," or complexity. To what extent are you or your partners helping to reduce that complexity, that fragility?
DD: So the way the Cloud Foundry works is it actually abstracts away a lot of the complexity. So once you've chosen your cloud or your clouds at the infrastructure level, when you choose Cloud Foundry what you're actually choosing is to not worry about that anymore. Cloud Foundry connects naturally to your clouds and chooses the best cloud for you; it automates a lot of the processes. That used to be something that would create a lot of time and effort for business to accomplish. And it does what needs to be done so you can just do what you need to do, which is develop applications. Largely, historically, if you go ask a developer in a large enterprise what they're spending time on, an enterprise of any kind, they're going tell you that about half of their time is spent just figuring out how to make the thing work so that their application will run, and not actually creating applications. Cloud Foundry solves that problem.
TT: You hear about this all the time in IT. So much time is spent just keeping the lights on. The day-to-day stuff?
DD: Yes. That's exactly it. And that has not gone away, and that will never completely go away, but technologies like Cloud Foundry will help solve it.
— Joe Stanganelli, Contributing Writer, Telco Transformation