CloudBees acquires Electric Cloud, strives for better ways to deliver software

CloudBees buys Electric Cloud

DevOps tools provider CloudBees has acquired application release automation specialist Electric Cloud and says it is now working towards the next step in application delivery: the software delivery manager.

Terms of the deal haven’t been disclosed, but in a phone call with DevClass, CloudBees CEO Sacha Labourey outlined the motivations behind the purchase and gave a rough sketch of what is to come.

“The idea is really to offer solutions that can help you do CI/CD and more generally software delivery across all types of applications, all environments – on-premises, in the cloud, and so on,” said Labourey. “For us it was a layer that was missing, that really reinforces our CD positioning with traditional applications.”

Electric Cloud is best known for its deployment automation tool ElectricFlow, and ElectricAccelerator, which can be used to speed up the building and testing processes by automatic parallelisation of tasks. Customers of the company include GM, Intel, and Samsung. DevOps folks will be familiar with CloudBees through its CI/CD focused DevOps Suite and the enterprise version of the Jenkins CI server.

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Though in the short, and maybe even mid-term, not much is planned to change for Electric Cloud customers, Labourey said, “down the road what we’ll do is unify this technology in a single offering”. Though he described the packaging of the new offering as “not fully defined yet”, CloudBees has great plans for the future: “We talked, at Jenkins World, about CloudBees Core v3, and it’s really where we’re going. […] the CI/CD layer per se is important and we’re still doing a lot of work, but we’re building this first implementation of what we call SDM – software delivery manager.”

CloudBees CPO Christina Noren described the latter in a blog post as a “new category of software system that we are inventing to solve this problem of getting every function in and beyond the software delivery organization on the same page.” If you’re wondering what that is all about, Labourey’s teardown on what’s going on inside his customers might help you get the gist: “Our customers realise that they’re investing a lot of money in DevOps. They buy a bunch of tools and they make significant investment not just in tools but in training people. But very quickly they realise that they have no visibility into what they’re really achieving and how much value they’re getting out of these investments.”

Changing software delivery

SDM is meant to help with that and do something for software delivery, that CRMs have done for sales and marketing or RPs for the finance sector in recent decades. “If you’re going back twenty, twenty-five years ago, in sales or marketing you had a bunch of local tools left and right, you had everything from Filemaker to Access to spreadsheets flying around, but you had no unified view as to what’s ahead of your sales business” mused Labourey. “And that’s what we see today in DevOps: it’s just an explosion of tools, developers doing things on their own… If you truly think that what is going to happen is that you’re going to get velocity so that each team starts pushing code, it’s not just like what I would call an agile big bang where you release everything every month, but you have actually a hundred teams deploying things every week or every day then you end up with a stream that is very hard to manage.”

A combined offering of CloudBees and Electric Cloud tools should prevent data silos from emerging, which in the end should “ensure the safety of what you’re doing” as well as measure its impact. “The role of the SDM is really to manage at large the software delivery that is in Jenkins, that is in Jenkins X, that is in Electric Flow – it doesn’t really matter. It captures the data from all of the silos that are today existing in DevOps, it can be in Git, it can be in JIRA, it can be in runtime, and we’re capturing all of that data as part of SDM and so for us Electric Cloud both accellerates and reinforces this strategy because they have a number of assets we can directly use as part of this strategy. And it reinforces because it adds this pillar we didn’t have before. So what we’re really doing is building this powerhouse of software delivery.”

Customers afraid that an overlap of functions will lead to their favourite tools being discontinued can breathe easy as far as Labourey is concerned. “There is a bit of overlap in terms of the analytics we have, but it’s not a lot and they are typically used in a different context,” he said. “So that part will be simplified at some point, there is not a huge emergency. You don’t buy one or the other, you buy one because you are doing work with the CloudBees platform or you’re doing analytics because you’re doing ARA. Once we integrate the two, it obviously won’t make sense to have two sets of analytics as an example. But other than that it tends to be pretty loosely connected.”

Since, according to Labourey, lots of Electric Cloud customers are using either Jenkins or CloudBees anyway, he is certain that the new set-up will offer more “peace of mind” to customers. “They’re getting support from a single vendor and integration issues between the two stacks will be handled. I think it will simplify a lot of things. We’re not talking about two widely different audiences, it’s really typically the same buyers.”

Shopping spree ahead?

As for why the acquisition is taking place now – Electric Cloud has been around for nearly two decades, CloudBees was founded in 2010 – Labourey elaborated “we have all done our own journey and now CloudBees is a pretty decent sized company, we had more than 400 people working for CloudBees – had because that’s without the Electric Cloud team – and so it’s easier for us to start considering these kinds of acquisitions and we’re definitely considering to do more.” To him, a critical mass of customers is necessary to survive, and if that hasn’t been achieved after a certain amount of time, help might be needed.

“In terms of Electric Cloud, I think it’s not surprising in some way, because we see a lot of those companies in the DevOps space right now where they’ve built an extremely great tool, they have a very talented team, but at some point either you have the critical mass or you don’t have the critical mass, and if you don’t have it you need to join I think a different mothership. I don’t see this as ‘failure’ from Electric Cloud because they didn’t have product market fit or something like that, it’s more that their size wasn’t sufficient to fight this fight alone.”

Electric Cloud however doesn’t come into the tie-up empty handed. Access to customers like General Motors was one of the considerations going into the acquisition process. “It’s always a consideration in the sense that it’s part of the 1+1=3 equation you have to solve when you do an acquisition,” said Labourey. “It’s interesting, but what’s equally or even more interesting is to expose Electric Cloud to our own customers and our own market. Electric Cloud had no presence in Europe for example, but we have a very decent size in Europe and so that’s one other thing that I wanted to do, just expose ElectricFlow to the European market.”

Takeovers during the last year have seen teams dissolved – as at Travis CI for example – which might leave many wondering what the future is for the talent at Electric Cloud. With a muffled laugh, Labourey tries to chase any doubts away. “We’re not a private equity firm, so this should reassure them.”

He cited the example of Codeship – which had teams in Austria and Berlin – which CloudBees acquired last year.

“The CEO of Codeship is the one who has been leading those acquisitions, so the first signal would have been if he wasn’t part of the company anymore, but he is still there, he is still very active, so the Electric Cloud team cloud team should have absolutely no worries. They have a pretty decent-sized team in San Jose, and they have a team about the same size in Ukraine, in Odessa, and we intend to keep all of these teams very busy.”

We’ll see how this is going to turn out and what other companies will join the company’s portfolio on the route to SDM.

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