Charting Stacks

Cloud Foundry Summit – Scale, End Users and Business Outcomes

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TL; DR – Cloud Foundry continues to focus on end users. The end users are completely focused on business outcomes.

We had the opportunity to attend the Cloud Foundry Summit in Boston last week. As always this was an interesting event, with a significant level of enterprise attendance from across the Fortune 1000 and beyond.

Two years ago, after the 2016 summit, we noted that the key message to come out of the foundation was “focus on the innovative business outcome, not the infrastructure”. This message not only holds true today, it is the mantra of all the users of Cloud Foundry that we spoke with. In all of our conversations – and especially in the analyst session – this was not only a mantra, it was spoken about at length.

End Users, End Users Everywhere

Perhaps the most enjoyable part of Cloud Foundry from an analyst perspective is the amount of end users attending and presenting. At the summit in Boston there were enterprise and government tracks, featuring organisations as diverse as the US Air Force, Comcast, Allstate and JPMC.

No matter what way you slice and dice these organisations they all have a common requirement to run at significant scale. This is reflected in the Cloud Foundry developer survey, with 75% of the respondents working in organisations with in excess of $100M in revenue each year, and 61% in organisations surpassing the $1Bn mark. With developer organisations running into the thousands, consistency of approach for a swathe of new development becomes key.

Developer on Ramps

The trade-off of being a project so heavily geared towards the enterprise is that Cloud Foundry is perceived to have a difficult on-ramp for new developers. There has been a lot of work put into addressing this over the last year, with projects such as cf-local and PCF dev (from Pivotal) providing easy paths to getting started.

That said, there is still a significant amount of work needed to promote these projects among the wider developer ecosystem.


There is no doubt that some form of consolidation is coming, the sheer velocity around Kubernetes necessitates such a shift – but that does not get away from the fact that what matters to enterprises is ultimately time to market and long-term sustainability of the software, not what the underlying infrastructure is.

That said there are some very explicit pieces of work on-going across the Cloud Foundry ecosystem to work with the Kubernetes, such as the ongoing container runtime work. But it is important to look at, and understand, the different approaches for the projects. Cloud Foundry is focused on an extremely highly curated approach to development – it is very opinionated about how a developer approaches development, and the goal is to increase developer velocity.

Kubernetes, and the wider set of CNCF projects, are focused on creating a wide array of powerful primitives which can be curated into multiple different approaches and paths. Developer velocity is also a focus, but with a different set of requirements.

This brings us to the convergence aspect – there are already projects underway to bring the cf push experience to an underlying Kubernetes infrastructure. We anticipate a significant amount of work in this area in the coming year.

Most importantly, as my colleague, Stephen O’Grady, has written before Cloud Foundry and Kubernetes are different tools for different jobs. Then, as now, it is not an either-or choice. Choosing the right tool for the right job is key – and with that we come back around to the business outcome question.

Alibaba Cloud

The Cloud Foundry Foundation were very keen to tell everyone who was listening about their focus on China over the coming year, and the announcement that Alibaba has become a gold member shows why. Alibaba also announced their own Cloud Foundry offering.

China is a significant focus for every large opensource project at the moment. In our recent conversations with the CNCF, OpenStack Foundation and others everyone has been keen to tell us about how much time they are spending in China currently. In this Cloud Foundry is no different.

The Alibaba announcement is a clear indication of the demand that exists in the Chinese market. It is also worth noting the managed Kubernetes offering that they have recently made available. All of these offerings are positioned at providing as many on-ramps to their platform as possible.

Credits: Iceberg Image by AWeith, Wikimedia Commons. CC-4.0 license.

Disclaimers: The Cloud Foundry Foundation paid for my T&E. The Cloud Foundry Foundation and Pivotal are current RedMonk clients.

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