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CloudBees' software delivery management portfolio has yet to reach general availability a year after the company announced its plans, but for now enterprises are most concerned with short-term issues such as pricing for existing products.
CloudBees' software delivery management (SDM) strategy includes new products that will ship by the end of 2020, targeting engineering and business managers. But the bigger news this week for CloudBees CI/CD customers concerned plans to bring pricing for the CloudBees CD software acquired with Electric Cloud last year into line with CloudBees CI, previously known as CloudBees Core.
CloudBees CD will now offer a tiered user-based pricing model that also includes CloudBees CI/CD bundles based on number of users, according to company spokespeople. They declined to specify product pricing numbers.
Until now, CloudBees CD had a flat price per user that made no allowances for number of users or frequency and breadth of use by end users in different positions. Thus, enterprises had to pay the same rate to allow infrequent access to a small part of the CD pipeline for QA engineers as it paid for access by enterprise architects charged with building the full pipeline strategy for the company.
Daniel RitchieDistinguished engineer, Broadridge
"The previous pricing structure for CD was indicative of a 'top down' philosophy where a small team would service the product for the organization," said Daniel Ritchie, a distinguished engineer at fintech provider Broadridge. The company heavily uses CloudBees CI, based on the open source Jenkins continuous integration product, but found CD pricing a showstopper for company-wide adoption so far.
"Contrast that with CI, [which] has always had an expectation of inclusivity," Ritchie added. "Wide enablement of individuals is ultimately what leads to transformation at scale, and I think this aspect has been a key to Jenkins' staying power. I hope that this [pricing change for CD] encourages wider adoption."
Software delivery management roadmap revamped
Last year, CloudBees previewed Product Hub, a component of its software delivery management product strategy that would tie together multiple tools from both CloudBees and third-party vendors to give business managers a view into the overall product delivery process. That product, which remained at the preview stage since that announcement, will now be rolled into the Feature Management module, due out by the end of 2020.
"[With SDM] you have this core engine that collects all the data and normalizes everything, and then you have specific applications that use it," said Sacha Labourey, CEO of CloudBees, in an interview. "We thought that releasing just the core engine might not be the best thing, because a lot of companies want more of an opinionated view up front, with guidance about what they should be doing."
Thus, Feature Management has evolved from Product Hub's focus on the "left" side of the DevOps release process, which is focused on turning business requirements into software features and will broaden to include the full deployment pipeline into production. It will also provide an interface that lets managers group feature flags -- which CloudBees released in its Software Delivery Automation (SDA) product line last year -- according to products and decide where and when those products should be updated.
A second SDM module due out by the end of the year is called Engineering Efficiency, which will target engineering managers interested in how software delivery pipelines are performing, how teams operate, how to reduce interruptions and other data analysis. CloudBees offers similar insights with its DevOptics product, and CloudBees CD inherited similar metrics measurements from Electric Cloud, but the SDM module will be able to tie in third-party products, Labourey said.
Another distinguishing feature for SDM versus SDA is that SDM will be SaaS-only, while SDA products can be deployed on premises and self-managed by customers.
SDM delivery timing will be crucial
SDM will ultimately tie into and potentially subsume third-party tools, but as CloudBees has regrouped its product plans, competitors such as Atlassian already made products available that monitor the software delivery process for upper managers. Competitors including Plutora and Tasktop also have engineering efficiency monitoring products that customers can purchase immediately. Fresh competitors in the market will also soon include Puppet's forthcoming Relay software.
Some large enterprise customers do still need time to reorganize around BizDevOps principles before tools such as SDM become truly useful, Ritchie said.
"In the conversations I've been having about this, [SDM] isn't something we're demanding yet -- we're still deciding what it looks like for us," he said. "We'd like to expand the scope of CI/CD beyond the technical process to include the business, but it isn't a burning problem that prevents us from getting software to clients."
Meanwhile, as COVID-19 forced a shift to remote work and revealed a stark gap in how digitally transformed companies responded to the pandemic versus those that still rely on legacy tech, companies shifted their priorities quickly. These enterprises, tasked with advancing automation and software-driven customer experiences, must also make purchasing decisions more quickly than in the past, said Mitchell Ashley, CEO and analyst with Accelerated Strategies Group.
The pandemic and economic uncertainty mean that it's not an ideal time for companies with CloudBees and Jenkins already installed to re-tool with another vendor, according to Ashley, so CloudBees still has time to deliver SDM. But such customers are also looking to make moves as soon as they can.
"Because there's so much uncertainty … people are sticking to the things they think will deliver the most strategic business value -- projects get looked at very closely and need metrics around what [companies] expect them to deliver," Ashley said. "[That] puts more pressure on tools in this space, like CloudBees and others, that help not only get software out but get the right software out with an outcome that's positive to the business."