Q&A: Joyent CTO Bryan Cantrill says more enterprises understand that they need to innovate by supporting containers and cloud computing to avoid market disruption by competitors.
Bryan Cantrill is a busy man these days. The CTO at cloud infrastructure provider Joyent is a member of the Technical Steering Committee of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation
, formed last summer to promote the development and adoption of container technologies.
He also spends a lot of time on the road evangelizing containers and the rise of the developer in the cloud-native world. I caught up with Bryan following the Container Summit at Interop in Las Vegas.
What is driving the growth of interest in containers and microservices, especially within the traditional enterprise?
We are in this stage where cloud computing is no longer about reducing cost but about enabling developer velocity. [Payroll processing company] ADP traditionally has been as conservative as you can imagine and has been around since the dawn of computing. Yet, they are now very aggressively trying to disrupt themselves before they get disrupted. They are thinking in really novel ways—thinking, How do we get to a software development culture?
It seems paradoxical that so much is in flux around containers, yet we are seeing lots of enterprises embracing it on their own and succeeding. How do you explain that?
There's confusion but it's not paralysis. What people are doing now is that even if the system is so big and vast, they want to try something and start making progress. This is different from previous technological revolutions where there was a holding back, letting other people get blood on the floor, not being an early adopter. No one is saying that now. They realize they have to change. They have to get to this model because they are seeing developers being able to develop new software quickly.
Give me an example of how the transformation is happening.
As recently as 2008 companies were still trying to outsource everything, especially software development. I was talking to a big hospitality company, which at one point outsourced everything. But they had a [terrible Website] and a simple change request would take weeks. And their outsourcers had outsourcers that would outsource to other outsourcers. They couldn't get anything done. They couldn't move. In the world of 2005, maybe this feels smart to the CFO who makes his quarter by cutting a big outsourcing deal. But when Airbnb … and your hotel competitors are [beating you soundly], it's not okay to blame it on the outsourcing. So they started redoing the Website in-house and are now chewing through the enterprise, developing microservices and doing it 100 percent for agility. As people begin to change their disposition toward information technology, they are seeing it not as a cost to be cut, but as a mindset to how I can weaponize my information—how I can develop software to compete faster and better.
How is the cloud-native world going to change IT itself?
You can't think of yourself as a "systems administrator" any more. The whole idea is that you don't administer systems. You are not a bureaucrat for the systems. You are an operator, yes, but you are also part of the software creation process. It means taking you out of your comfort zone. If people are allowed to resist change they will, but the change is happening and it's really not optional. If you don't inflict this change on your way of doing business, somebody will do it to you.
How has Joyent adapted to the cloud-native world?