Building on Developer Platforms to Deliver the Best Developer Experience

March 20, 2020 Dormain Drewitz

Forrester Research just published The Forrester Wave™: Public Cloud Development Platforms, North America, Q1 2020. It marks the first time that VMware has shown up in a developer-related assessment, a clear indication of just how exciting the transformation we're undergoing is. The Wave evaluated the Pivotal Platform—which, according to a Total Economic Impact™ study we commissioned from Forrester Consulting, can deliver a three-year, 142% ROI—and while it missed out on all the new Tanzu goodness, it's great to be recognized as one of the providers that matters most for enterprises building modern apps on the public cloud.

VMware has come a long way to be considered as a public cloud development platform, and we are delivering more than ever before to realize our vision of building, running, and managing any application on any cloud. VMware's strategy is different from that of the public cloud vendors, however. When it comes to public cloud, VMware has a strong partnering strategy. In fact, many of the vendor evaluations include commentary on their integration with VMware; on-premises and hybrid cloud support was one of the report’s criteria. But more importantly, we see the scope of challenges facing companies today as being bigger than what public cloud development platforms address. The developer experience is about making it smoother to deliver better software to production anywhere. 

Development experience goals and challenges 

By providing a developer experience that makes it easier to deliver better software to production anywhere, we address companies’ business goals and technical challenges. Consider these findings from a March 2020 Forrester Consulting thought leadership paper commissioned by VMware, in which Forrester Consulting surveyed more than 600 global enterprise CIOs and SVPs of IT to learn how their application portfolios are impacting customer experience and revenue goals, “Improving Customer Experience And Revenue Starts With The App Portfolio”:

  • 88% of survey respondents believe that improving their application portfolio is key to improving the customer experience. 

  • 78% cite a lack of skills with modern development platforms as a primary challenge to application improvement and modernization.

  • Respondents expect a 55% increase in the number of public clouds, private clouds/data centers, and edge environments where they will build, manage, or run applications over the next three years.

In 2018, the Forrester Analytics Global Business Technographics® Developer Survey found that almost 60% of teams release applications less often than monthly. The takeaway? Ensuring that developers can frequently get to production with features that improve the customer experience is critical, as is doing so across multiple clouds and on-premises—with more of the skills an organization already has.

To reach those goals, developers need an experience that spans clouds, focuses on productivity, and bridges existing infrastructure and operations (I&O) realities with a DevOps future. 

Abstracting above the cloud provider level

As we think about the superset of applications that need to be developed and modernized, we have to also consider the developer experience. According to Brendan Aye of T-Mobile, what's needed is a uniform developer experience across infrastructure: "We want developers to learn a different abstraction than a cloud provider's API. So, if you need to deploy your application on AWS vs. on-premises vs. GCP or Azure, your experience should not be different."

Including on-premises applications in that developer experience is not trivial. Today, most companies are still managing many critical applications in their own data centers. These applications are mission critical. This includes rigid core systems that "limit your ability to make dramatic changes to business processes that will power the next wave of innovation," according to Forrester in “Modernize Core Applications with Cloud,” a report published in August 2019.

Developers need a better, more consistent experience, regardless of where the application is running. Underpinning the Tanzu developer experience at several levels is a multi-cloud operating model that is invisible to the developer. Specifically, you will find it:

Finding the developer experience happy path   

Developers need options, particularly for languages, frameworks, and databases—the technologies used to build applications. But once an application is built, there's a very real cost to optionality. Designing and configuring, say, networking and monitoring layers distracts from solving the business problem. As Darren Forsythe of Liberty IT put it during a panel discussion at the 2019 Cloud Foundry Summit in The Hague: "If you had told me in college that I'd be writing configuration instead of writing code for a business problem, I would have looked for a different job."

Decisions are a cognitive load for anyone, but especially for developers writing code. Having 10 ways to build and run a Java application, for example, leaves developers with a lot of decisions to make. It's not a good experience.

"But the code that drives a digital transformation doesn't magically appear—developers write it. That's why digital natives like Amazon, Netflix, Stripe, and Uber value their software delivery capability more than any other corporate asset."

- Digital Transformation Requires Development Transformation; Forrester Research; December 2019

Standardizing deployment processes helps developers get to production quickly. Our strategy isn't to build all the services, but to let developers seamlessly tap into open-source and cloud provider innovations. Instead of asking developers to make choices everywhere, we focus on supporting a developer experience with the choices that matter, among them:

  • languages and frameworks, in the buildpacks supported by the Tanzu Application Service
  • production-ready open-source software, with Tanzu Application Catalogue
  • databases and other building components via the Open Service Broker API, which includes brokers to AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud AI and machine learning services

Harmonizing the developer experience with the operations experience

As an industry, we've learned some hard lessons over the years about running snowflake environments. DevOps has been shifting the world towards treating systems as cattle, not pets, and in that world, consistency is your friend. But such consistency continues to be elusive, even as teams adopt the cloud because once those "Day 2" realities set in, developers become burdened with operational concerns. As Talanx Group’s Daniel Basten put it: "You have to patch everything. You have to patch your EC2 instances that are beneath ECS. You have to patch your docker containers. You have to patch your Java libraries."

The flip side of a developer experience is the operations experience. If a development platform offers 10 ways to deploy an application, it's creating snowflake environments. Snowflakes force operations teams (or the development team, if they've skirted traditional I&O teams) to absorb the overhead of those inconsistencies. In the past, this has led to processes and constraints aimed at "locking down" developer resources, putting ops and developers at odds with each other.

The developer experience needs to support a sustainable operational model. So even though operations teams bear a different set of concerns than developers, Tanzu allows platform teams to deliver an experience that addresses operational concerns while still delivering software anywhere by:

  • empowering platform teams to apply security patches without disrupting developers or applications, with Tanzu Application Service
  • empowering platform teams to manage Kubernetes clusters and identity and access control across clouds and infrastructure, with Tanzu Mission Control

Adding Pivotal was key to VMware’s move to support developers. To learn how Tanzu Application Service yielded a three-year, 142% return on investment from productivity gains, increased revenue, reduced downtime costs, and more, be sure to check out this Forrester Total Economic Impact study, which Pivotal commissioned from Forrester Consulting in December 2019.

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About the Author

Dormain Drewitz

Dormain leads Product Marketing and Content Strategy for VMware Tanzu. Before VMware she was Senior Director of Pivotal Platform Ecosystem, including RabbitMQ, and Customer Marketing. Previously, she was Director of Product Marketing for Mobile and Pivotal Data Suite. Prior to Pivotal, she was Director of Platform Marketing at Riverbed Technology. Prior to Riverbed, she spent over 5 years as a technology investment analyst, closely following enterprise infrastructure software companies and industry trends. Dormain holds a B. A. in History from the University of California at Los Angeles.

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