The Cloud Providers Are Moving Into Development Tooling: Here's Why They Should Do More of It
This week Google announced a new hosted Continuous Integration and Delivery platform named Cloud Build. Cloud Build market differentiators include analytics and insights into the state of your builds, integrated security scanning, and a fully scalable backend with consumption-based billing.
Interestingly, with Microsoft buying Github in June for $7 billion, and AWS having a slightly more mature offering of development tools, we now have all of the main public cloud platforms making a big move into the development tool space in a fight for developer mindshare and workloads.
In some ways, this is an obvious strategy. Cloud providers make money by hosting applications, so why not capture these applications at source and provide a path of least resistance into their cloud IaaS and PaaS hosting platforms?
That said, I think this is more important and defensive move for the cloud platforms than just the creation of another channel of customer acquisition. I also predict that we will see more activity and innovation in this area, be it through acquisitions or new product announcements.
The business value of the cloud is realised through the deployment of real applications into production. Offering an end-to-end integrated platform that makes it easy to rapidly build and deploy applications and achieve business value moves the cloud providers from being infrastructure providers towards being high-value business propositions: a much better place to be.
Of course, the cloud has always been more than just dumb infrastructure tin. It also provides innovation services such as data services, AI/ML, API gateways etc., but the developer has historically been left to glue those together in a different ecosystem, usually open source. Owning more of the developer experience really rounds out the service offering to a proper application delivery platform rather than a toolbox. A small but powerful adjustment in messaging.
This is particularly important as we see development moving rapidly 'up the stack', with PaaS finally taking hold, alongside container platforms and developments such as serverless. To those of us at the leading edge, configuring IaaS servers starts to feel like a sub-optimal route to the end goal of rapid delivery from idea to production, and there is likely to be a huge degree of disruption and churn as the nature of application development changes. Clouds need to move away from being infrastructure providers and towards being application delivery platforms with pace.
The integration options for a development environment and pipeline heavily integrated with the cloud are really exciting too: spinning up environments on demand to support builds and testing form within your IDE, integration with cloud platform services such as data, AI/ML or serverless, instrumenting your apps with the operational monitoring and security tools of the cloud. There are lots of possibilities for better integration between IDE and cloud that could massively accelerate cloud-native application development.
Developer tooling has traditionally been an unattractive market, as developers like to use open source tools and don’t like to pay for tools. However, with this uptick in the cloud provider interest, their desire to innovate, and the changing nature of cloud native application development, we should see more innovation and investment in the space as well as some big acquisitions. GitLab, for instance, are definitely one to watch.
It has been 18 years since Balmer famously chanted “Developers, Developers, Developers!”. Developers have been king since then, but could be about to become even more so for the hyperscale cloud providers.