VMware recently announced the general availability of Tanzu Application Platform – a modular, application-aware platform that allows developers to quickly build and deploy secure software on any cloud or on-premises Kubernetes cluster. What exactly is Tanzu Application Platform? How does it help enhance the developer experience and productivity? How does improving the developer experience eventually translate to positive business outcomes? Valentina Alaria, Product Management Director at VMware, joins us on TFiR to answer all these questions and more.
Here are some of the highlights of the discussion:
- What is VMware Tanzu all about?
“Tanzu is really a broad portfolio and when we started building components for it, we were focusing primarily on that infrastructure and operations layers. We wanted to make sure that it was very easy for users to bring up the Kubernetes cluster.”
- What kind of challenges organizations face when it comes to software delivery?
“One of the biggest challenges, as described by a VMware customer, is they end up having a lot of custom, bespoke, snowflake type of supply chains or path of productions that you need to build for a variety of reasons. That specific customer had a very large number of lines of businesses that have quite different requirements as well as best practices.
“For others, it has to do with just the fact that they’re targeting different cloud environments. They don’t want to deploy to a single Kubernetes component but to multiple cloud infrastructure.”
- How does Tanzu help customers who have their own toolings and heavy customization?
“It’s that right balance of not ripping and replacing every single tool, but helping organizations move closer to Kubernetes and cloud native, as well as potentially transition a subset of their tooling as part of that journey.”
- How does Tanzu Application Platform help in improving the developer experience and productivity?
“A few of the things that we’re doing is prepackaging a lot of the tools that developers need, so that they don’t have to go and find those and figure out how to stitch them together.
“What we want to make sure is that a developer can have a consistent experience. Whether they’re in the development environment, a staging environment, or getting ready to push the production, they should not have to redo things differently or rebuild their application.
“Ultimately, it’s about bringing these tools close to developers, making sure they have to change the least amount possible from their current development workflow and DevSecOps persona still has a lot of control of what is happening behind the covers.”
- What kind of direct impact does the improved developer experience have on the business itself?
“As it has a very direct impact on how quickly and effectively you bring applications to market, it just increases the velocity for the business. It impacts their productivity, the team’s health and eventually, the business.”
The summary of the show is written by Monika Chauhan
Swapnil Bhartiya: Hi, this is your host, Swapnil Bhartiya and welcome to TFiR Let’s Talk. We are very recently announced the general availability of Tanzu Application Platform. It’s a modular application of your platform that allows developers to quickly build and deploy secure software, any cloud or on premises companies cluster. To talk more about the platform, how it will enhance the developer experience and company interaction, we have with us today Valentina Alaria, product management director at VMware. Valentina is great to have you on the show.
Valentina Alaria: Thanks for having me.
Swapnil Bhartiya: We have of course covered Tanzu so many times since it was announced, but if I ask you, it has been evolving, changing. What is the platform, can you talk about that?
Valentina Alaria: Tanzu is really a broad portfolio and when we started building components for it, we were focusing primarily on that infrastructure and operations layers. We wanted to make sure that it was very easy for users to bring up the Kubernetes cluster. Then we started thinking about how do you manage multiple Kubernetes clusters at once? This is a lot of the early products that are part of the portfolio as we work with more and more of our customers and users, what we hear is we’re all committed to Kubernetes, and now we need to really find a way to enable our application teams to be successful on top of Kubernetes itself. That’s where the need for components that are targeted at that persona, and really start going up the stack come into existence. That’s really why we started working on Tanzu Application Platform. To begin with, we wanted to bring together a lot of the existing benefits and outcomes of products like Tanzu application service to the Kubernetes world.
Swapnil Bhartiya: Ever since Tanzu was announced, I mean so much water has gone under the bridge. I mean, what I’m trying to say is that so much has happened in the Cloud Native escape because it’s a very fast moving space that we are in. If I ask because that option of Kubernetes is increasing and Cloud Native has become a to right. Everybody has to have a Cloud Native strategy, it doesn’t matter where your workloads are running. If you just focus on software delivery, how things have changed, what kind of challenges organizations are facing, of course, once again, they’ll go back to asking how is Tanzu or VMware helping them? Let’s start with the problem area.
Valentina Alaria: Yeah, absolutely. If you think about the problem area, I’m going to just start talking about what happened in a conversation with a customer a few weeks back. They were sharing that one of their biggest challenges as they think about their DevSecOps tooling and path to production, or software delivery, however you want to call that portion of the solutions, it’s quite complex. They end up having a lot of custom, bespoke, snowflake type of supply chains or path of productions that you need to build for a variety of reasons. That specific customer had a very large number of lines of businesses that have very different requirements and very different best practices.
For others, it has to do with just the fact that they’re targeting different cloud environments. They don’t want to deploy to a single Kubernetes component. They want to deploy to multiple cloud infrastructure. They’re trying to make sense with very disparate tooling. A lot of these heterogeneous fragmented types of solutions are really sitting at the core, the crutch of why this is quite challenging for these organizations to successfully adopt Kubernetes at large. One of the things that we’re doing with the Tanzu portfolio and Tanzu Application Platform specifically, is to bring a solution that has a set of batteries included. You talked about this modularity in your opening statement, and this is really at the core of what Tanzu Application Platform is all about. We want to make sure that it’s really easy for someone to get started and all the DevSecOps tooling that you need, are prepackaged and ready to go.
The way we like to describe it is that we give you tense application platform with a pre-baked opinion, our opinion on how to run that path to production, but what every single organization wants based on what I was just describing is actually the ability to customize that path to production, to bring in existing tooling that are well established and adopted within their organization and bring their best practice. In a nutshell, they bring their own opinion to the platform.
That’s really where we see the best of the two worlds coming together, having a simple pre-baked opinion that makes the initial adoption curve lower and simpler to navigate, but then having the ability to customize. Thinking about that customer that had a bunch of different lines of businesses by using Tanzu’s application platform, they can take the default supply chain or path of production and say, “Line of business one, wants to have this set of tools change this way. I’m going to give it to them. Line of business two, wants a different tool for CI, I can swap it, I can customize it slightly differently.” Similarly, they can just have that solution run across, let’s say two public cloud environments or public cloud and an on-prem type of environment
Swapnil Bhartiya: Excellent. As you are talking about Bespoke, Snowflake environment, plus we have also been seeing a great resignation, people are burning out. Sometimes in organizations, no matter how much you try, it creates a tribal knowledge when you do too much customization, you end up creating a technical debt internally. Now I was reading a Tweet a few days ago and it was more about, “Hey, it’s easier to find a new job every three years than to refactor your code and deal with your own technical debt.” How is Tanzu going to help because as you said, “It’s a balance between both the worlds, they get the flexibility and customization, but also standardized.” How do you help customers so that it doesn’t matter whether the team members are moving or not, their workloads, their business is not going to impact it? Can you talk about the importance as well?
Valentina Alaria: Absolutely. I think the right balance there is that the core tooling, we do want to preserve some of that, if you have standardized on a specific tool for CI or for CD, or for image scanning or for code scanning. What we want to make sure is that we’re not ripping that off and replacing because that causes a lot of… ultimately problems for the organization, but where we want to help is a lot of that custom scaffolding and duct taping of things together to build into that path of production. That’s where we want to bring a more standardized framework for you to interconnect this component, to describe that desire and say something that it’s much more allow with Kubernetes and the declarative model of Kubernetes itself. It’s that right balance of not ripping and replacing every single tool, but helping organizations move closer to Kubernetes, to Cloud Native, also helping as part of that journey, potentially transition a subset of their tooling.
Maybe there is an opportunity for some of this organization to revisit what is the most Cloud Native aligned CI component or CD component that should be adopting. But for the most part, it’s just really about helping them get there. Maybe one angle that we haven’t quite touched on is the counterpart of all this DevSecOps tooling, which is the developer. As you were about just this pandemic blues, they were all suffering for. I think it’s really important to think about team health and team productivity. One of the things we have been observing as we are working with these organizations, often when these top-down Mondays happen around Kubernetes, this definitely has an impact on the morale of the teams and on the morale of the developers they’re overwhelmed with. This is on top of a very overwhelming world that we live in.
For us, it’s all about thinking hard about increasing that developer productivity, making it easier for organizations to bring new hires in and not having to learn these 15 books about how Kubernetes behaves and every single intricacies components there, but being able to really think about their business logic and business application and relying on a bit of the magic from the platform. Then as developers grow into their knowledge of Kubernetes, as the organization grows into their knowledge of Kubernetes, they can start peeling the onion off. Taking more advantage of what’s behind that magic first layer.
Swapnil Bhartiya: Can you also talk about… Just boil down and just focus purely on developers, that how is it really going to improve their [inaudible 00:09:04] their experience and also help them with not getting burnt out. Because the fact is, no matter how much we like to talk about DevOps/DevSecOps, a lot of things are now falling in the bucket of a developer. Things are getting very complicated for them.
Valentina Alaria: Yeah, absolutely. I think in the bucket of things that are getting more complicated, there’s probably two trends that I’m observing the most. One, is there’s a huge push of organizations to shift left and shifting left often just means, “Oh, this becomes a developer concern.” I want to shift left automation. I want to shift left security. Now we’re asking a developer who is just not skilled for those tasks to take on more. That’s point number one, just the shift left trend, that it’s really translating to more burden. Second, is just the very basic facts of Kubernetes was never designed to be a developer interface, a developer platform. There’s a huge developer experience gap that exists there and we’re asking a developer that needs to interact with Royal Kubernetes to understand networking and services and policies and eventing and all sorts of things that are just way above and beyond what he should be thinking about.
Those two things, the shift left and the Kubernetes complexity, turn into a developer having to actually build an application that has a lot of knowledge of the underlying layers that should not exist there. A few of the things that we’re doing is, one it’s really thinking about prepackaging a lot of the tools that developers need, so that they don’t have to go and find those and figure out how to stitch them together. We want to bring them to where the developers are familiar with where the developers work. One of the things that we do is, we integrate with their with the most common IDEs so that you can actually create workloads and debug and get logs from the ID itself. We prepackage all the tooling that developers need for the inner loop, for their personal developer experience.
If they need to build an image, if you need to deploy, even if their organizations wants them to scan code or scan images, all of that it’s there built into what we give the developers automatically. They don’t need to go and scramble and figure out, “How do I scan code? How do I scan an image? How do I stitch that into my automation workflows?” The second part is all about separations of concerns and bringing some of the best practices of the organization up front, so that the developer has those safe guardrails. There’s a couple of things that we do there, which we’re seeing, being quite powerful. One, is we think hard about giving developers blueprints or what we call accelerators, which are very much, some predefined best practices from an organizational perspective of this is how you build this type of app with this language, with these backend services. You don’t have to go figure it out, start from these nice blueprints that you can just click and get started from.
The second part, is all about separation of concern. What we want to make sure is that a developer can have a consistent experience whether they’re in the development environment, in a staging environment, or getting ready to push the production. They should not have to redo things differently or rebuild their application. But at the same time, we want to make sure that the DevSecOps persona can say, “Oh, this is a Dev environment. You can just do some lightweight integration. We don’t need to worry about CD and all this sort of things.” But as you move closer to staging and progs, now I want to have more formal scanning. I want to have more formal CI, I want to have CD and also of interest in things.
Now these two, because they’re decoupled from a developer perspective, I’m still running the same commands, I’m still interacting the same way. But the steps that actually the code is going through are controlled by a different persona. I don’t have to worry about any of that. Scanning can be brought in, all the DevSec automation can be brought in and I don’t have to worry about any of that. Ultimately in nutshell, it’s about bringing these tools close to developer, making sure they have to change the least amount possible from their current development workflow and making sure that DevSecOps persona still has a lot of control of what is happening behind the covers.
Swapnil Bhartiya: When we look at the Tanzu Application Platform and all the work that you folks are doing to improve developer experience, what is the direct impact on the business itself?
Valentina Alaria: Yeah, absolutely. Ultimately it’s about just velocity. It just increases the velocity for the business. Developers can worry about building business value, delivering business value. They’re not wasting time procuring tooling, they’re not wasting time learning about a platform, they’re not wasting time debugging and troubleshooting and making sense of components of are not core to their day to day job. Ultimately it impacts, as I said earlier, their productivity and the team health and as a result, the business. I think what is indicative of how critical this is to businesses is that as I work with some of the large and smaller organizations, we’ve had the pleasure to partner with during our early phases of the beta releases. Many, if not, all of them have shared their executive vision. As an organization, what are some of the top priorities for 2022 and 2023. I can tell you that the vast majority had this developer experience and developer productivity as one of the top most items in their vision and their priority list. Because as you said, it has a very direct impact on how quickly, how effectively you bring applications to market.
Swapnil Bhartiya: Valentina, thank you so much for taking time out today and of course talking about the Tanzu platform. But also a wider problem that the developers are facing and also the critical role that they play in the success of any business. Thanks for sharing those insights. I would love to have you back on the show. Thank you.
Valentina Alaria: Thanks for having me. Thanks.