A Journey Through SpringOne Platform 2017

The tour de force known as SpringOne Platform was this week. The unequivocal highlight for me: listening to IT leaders boldly share their stories. These days, every company is on a journey to get better at software.

Here’s my recap of the conference. It seemed fitting to frame the top themes as a “journey” through unfamiliar territory. Ready? LET’S BURN THIS CANDLE.

Time for some real talk. Enterprises are far more complex than most realize.

Before you start your journey, let’s level set. Big companies have lots of smart people and oodles of cash. But there’s a problem. To quote my favorite Anthrax album, it’s the Persistence of Time. That’s why every speaker cited the age of their company in their SpringOne talk. (If there was a prize for the oldest firm, Scotia Bank was the winner — 185 years old!)

What happens over time?

  • Technical debt accrues. Every piece of code is technical debt. It’s just that the interest rate varies. That makes monoliths the loan sharks of enterprise IT. Zing!
  • Employees leave. After a few years, institutional knowledge isn’t so institutional. As Rohit Kela from Pivotal said, no single person knows everything about the system after 10 years.
  • M&A. Each acquisition adds technical debt, new people, and new application stacks. This is why most big companies have a mix of Java, .NET and Node.js. Fintan Ryan of RedMonk said it best: your IT strategy is one M&A away from irrelevance.
  • Open source. New abstractions surface. Startups, unicorns, and hyperscale clouds open source their tech. That moves all of us forward.

The SpringOne speakers are delivering astounding results for their companies. And they’re doing it under this backdrop. Impressive!

There’s never been a better time to get started on your journey. So where to next?

Get a guide. You go faster when you know the terrain.

Niki Allen is leading Boeing into the digital age. (And doing pretty well as it so happens.) During her keynote, she said “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” It’s true!

Niki’s also savvy enough to know that Boeing can’t go on this journey alone. So who does Boeing partner with? Pivotal Labs of course!

The Labs engagements go like this. Boeing developers pair program with Pivots at a Pivotal Labs office. (Yay Seattle!) They learn about test-driven development and domain driven design. After a few months, the devs go back to Boeing. They’re eager to help others learn modern practices.

As Pivotal CEO Rob Mee says: “We don’t want to teach others how to fish. We want to help them become fishing instructors.” Geez, that’s a great quote! For the purposes of our “journey” metaphor, let’s tweak it to say “teach others to be survival instructors.”

Many other speakers hailed engagements with Pivotal Labs as a breakthrough moment for their respective journey. Which ones, you ask? Liberty Mutual, HCSC, and the US Air Force, for starters. I could go on.

These organizations are on a successful (and fun!) journey. Why? Their teams know how to thrive in the new digital world.

Tools are one part of a high velocity engineering team. But DevOps luminaries tell you that culture is more important. Way more important.

Use Pivotal Labs to bring new skills to your org. Your journey will accelerate if you do!

Time to pick up the pace. Guardrails keep you on course. (And more secure!)

Now that you’re armed with new skills, what now? Tools are part of the equation. And since SpringOne is a show for Spring developers, we can start there.

Spring and Spring Boot sparked a Java development revival. (I’m pretty sure that’s what makes SpringOne so popular.)

The adoption of Spring Boot is explosive. It’s easy to see why. The framework is opinionated in useful ways. Developers don’t have to futz with configuration and other toil. They can just write code, and get on with the job of building great apps.

Pivotal Cloud Foundry is similar. The platform makes — and keeps — promises to development and operations teams. PCF interacts with infrastructure in a defined manner. It handles monitoring, logging, and metrics. The product is “secure by default” in ways that matter. When you `cf push` your code, the platform automatically creates a container for you. It runs and scales your app from there. Great, right? Lots of big companies think so.

So Spring Boot and Pivotal Cloud Foundry each have a structure. What happens when you combine the two? Your team gets superpowers. Like for real superpowers. The evidence at SpringOne Platform was overwhelming. To wit:

Where do these results come from? A huge part is delightfully simple: guardrails. Together, Spring Boot + PCF keep your team laser-focused on delivery. They give you a frictionless path to production. Take your code from dev laptop to prod, stat!

Undifferentiated heavy lifting, work below the value line, resume driven development, DIY platform building — all this nonsense goes away. Guardrails turbocharge software development. (And they make your teams happy.)

Best of all: guardrails boost security. Patching PCF, and your apps, is a breeze. Immediately repair systems when a CVE hits. Do it during business hours without downtime.

I’m gonna go out on a limb and say your CEO and your board are asking you about security. (I bet they ask you all the time even.) How can you answer with confidence? Use a cloud-native approach! Your security posture will be much better. No matter what happens on your journey.

Now, you’ve got the culture and the tools. Time to add to more people to the mix.

The more the merrier! Plus, there’s strength in numbers.

You were probably part of a “tiger team” that kickstarted the journey for your company. Now others see the success you’re having. And they want in on the fun! So bring ’em along.

But they need get their bearings first. Several SpringOne Platform talks revealed how to get new teams familiar with the cloud-native world. The companies at scale with PCF have a common playbook. It looks something like this from Ford:

It’s not easy. But many others have done it successfully. Learn from your peers, like Tony McCulley from The Home Depot. Check out his talk from last year’s SpringOne.

With a bit of luck, and hard work, you should have several dev teams excited to push code to the platform. Sweet! It gets better. PCF has added a ton of features over the last few years. That means it’s likely to support all the wild new use cases of your fully ramped teams. Everyone knows PCF is great for 12 factor web apps that use HTTP/S. But it’s also great for:

And PCF continues to support frameworks like Java, Node.js, Ruby, Go, PHP, and Python. Mastercard appreciates how this flexibility makes it easy to on-board new apps when they surface.

By now, you’re journey involves many, many teams. You’re making good time. You’re at scale with the platform, releasing code thousands of times a month. Life is good!

But you want more.

Time to resupply. Use the right tool for the job.

You’re iterating and continuing to learn. You start looking at data pipelines and event-driven architectures. And this Kubernetes and serverless stuff seems pretty cool too.

How do you “resupply” for this next leg of your journey? Well, our goal at Pivotal is to help you run all your workloads…on a secure, highly available platform that enables developer and operator productivity. To this end, we announced Pivotal Cloud Foundry 2.0 at the conference. Continuously deliver any app to every cloud with a single platform. This is a big deal!

The largest brands in the world trust their applications to Pivotal Cloud Foundry. Now, we’re helping them run containers (with PKS) and soon functions (with PFS).

The best part? You can use the right abstraction for each workload without giving up the platform promises that you know and love. Multi-cloud and immutable infrastructure are still there (thanks BOSH). Networking (with NSX), security (with CredHub, single sign-on), plus integrated monitoring are in the mix as well.

Pick the right abstraction…without giving up the operational consistency or flexibility. Different strokes for different folks amirite?

That brings us to the future. We talked about that too at SpringOne Platform.

Uncharted Territory

As you go through your journey, open-source is going to change and evolve the tools you use. (Remember that from our first point above?) That’s why Eric Brewer and his “new cloud” pitch was the perfect close to the conference.

The tools you use today will invariably change. But the solutions you use in the years to come should still have convenient packaging, and a range of abstractions. You should feel confident in choosing the highest abstraction possible for each workload. Productivity is paramount. How else are you going to move forward in your journey?

Let’s close with a quote that captured the unbridled optimism of the conference. Leave it to superstar Greg Otto from Comcast:

Well said Greg. Your journey has a beginning and probably a middle. But there’s no end in sight, and that’s really the fun part.

Follow me on Twitter.