The Cloud-Native Ops Opportunity

March 14, 2017 John Allwright

How is it that you can have your best minds working on new products yet still lose in the marketplace? When every new idea is a software project, and competitive value decays from the moment the eraser hits the whiteboard, speed is critical. Rita McGrath covered the concept of transient advantage in 2013 but her conclusion is more relevant today than ever:

Speed is paramount. Fast and roughly right decision making must replace deliberations that are precise but slow.

This is a recipe for non-stop fire-fighting using traditional operations approaches. In the whirlwind of digital business where web and mobile apps generate a hockey-stick in ops workload, we need an evolved approach to ops, much like the stability of government must eventually respond to rapid changes in fashion or commerce. But how did we get here?

Dev and ops both want to see code running in production to meet the needs of customers, but the division of labor sets them up as adversaries. Impatient to release new features on Day 1, developers are at odds with the cautious ops mindset goaled with stability from Day 2 onwards. Ops knows from painful experience that today's minor change could be tomorrow’s fire-fight. So they add processes, checks and balances that lengthen release cycles and reduce agility.

It’s no surprise that developers turn to external cloud providers for the speed and convenience of on-demand, self-service infrastructure.  This creates an existential crisis for in-house IT & Operations as the rogue-IT footprint grows. 

The DevOps movement has been working on this problem for years. Despite positive results, a recent survey showed only 1 in 5 executives feel that DevOps has a strategic impact on their organization. Implementing culture change at a people level only is hard, relying on individuals changing long-held behaviors to make the change stick.  Much simpler to introduce technology that makes doing the right thing the easiest thing to do, and change culture in the deal.

A cloud-native platform provides the technology to upshift operations, meet the challenge of digital business, and realize strategic impact. It automates and standardizes how you do DevOps, so you can build a pipeline for Continuous Delivery and operate Microservice-based applications efficiently and securely. Offering developers the self-service, agile infrastructure they crave means scaling across your organization and eliminating rogue-IT.

Pivotal R&D VP, Onsi Fakhouri, expresses the developer experience of deploying on a cloud-native platform as a Haiku:

here is my source code
run it on the cloud for me
i do not care how

The ops automation in a cloud-native platform like Pivotal Cloud Foundry is built on a series of contracts and promises between various layers of the stack from infrastructure to app. Casey West’s paper drills into the specific promises that each layer in the stack offers:


You’ve probably used tools like Chef, Puppet and Ansible for configuration management of individual servers but for cloud-native you need a tool that operates at cloud scale, automating Day 1 deployment and Day 2 operations across any cloud infrastructure whether on-prem or public cloud. For Cloud Foundry that tool is called BOSH. We’ll cover BOSH in more detail later in this series, but for now Onsi’s ops Haiku is a great summary of the infrastructure automation promise:

here are my servers
go make them a cloud foundry
i do not care how

What does all this automation mean for individuals in the ops team?  Pivotal operates thousands of applications on our own hosted Pivotal Cloud Foundry offering with a small operations team. We've seen how this team reliably and securely delivers agility and cloud growth as Jevon’s paradox swings into action. In our experience, successful cloud-native deployments go viral within customer organizations, attracting more workloads onto the platform.

With the level of automation built into the platform, ops careers are transformed, eliminating many of the boring repetitive manual tasks defined in Google’s Site Reliability Engineering philosophy as “Toil”. Ops staff can redirect their time to operating the cloud-native platform and engineering improvements, resulting in higher value and visibility laddering up to corporate strategic goals. Michael Coté’s new whitepaper “The Cloud Native Journey” guides organizations through their journey to cloud-native and, to get ahead of Conway’s law, proposes an organizational mapping onto layers of the cloud-native stack:

Cloud-native operations is a core enabler to your digital transformation strategy. Slashing time to market from months to hours, up-shifting operations teams’ impact, and extending your reach beyond the datacenter to multi-cloud operations for maximum flexibility.

Don’t just take my word for it, see how other enterprises are realizing the ops opportunity:

“People have taken notice of the rapid rate at which we’re now able to deliver applications. We’ve transitioned to a situation where ops people who were moving files before are now managing Cloud Foundry, now seen as a partner instead of a barrier.”

Casestudy and video

Image result for comcast logo

50% improvement in development velocity

90% reduction in technical debt

900+ developers, 150 organizations supported on PCF

50% reduction in reported incidents

Reduced server farms by 75%


“We stood up PCF the same day”

“We can provision an environment in 15 minutes”

“We get to drive the company as a techology company not an old insurance company driven by actuaries”

“Moving from 100 days to minutes”

Interview and video

Developer productivity increased from 20% to 80%

Physical infrastructure reset shortened from 2 months to 6 hours and with no customer impact

New environment provisioning 60 hours down to 30 mins

Innovation capacity up from 5% to 80%

Casestudy and video

Want to read more? Check out these related in-depth topic pages on cloud-native and DevOps.

About the Author

John Allwright

John works on the Spring product team at VMware.

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