Buying A Seat at the DevOps Table

Cloud-related acquisitions seem to be as plentiful as pollen in the air these days.

IBM announced a deal to buy UrbanCode, a company that specializes in the automation of software delivery. Think DevOps and PaaS, and you’ll be in the right territory.

On the same day, CA Technologies announced the acquisition of Layer 7 and Nolio. Layer7 is all about managing the APIs that glue apps together in datacenters; Nolio focuses on application service workflow design (now that’s a mouthful). The connection to cloud is clear.

Meanwhile, rumors are swirling about IBM, EMC, and AT&T looking to acquire SoftLayer, the largest privately held IaaS provider that’s not in the AWS, OpenStack, or CloudStack orbits. I wouldn’t be surprised if half a dozen similar stories pop in the coming weeks.

What’s behind the spring fever?

Pollen, pollen everywhere. Photo credit: Jan Charles Linus Ekenstam (Flickr)

Pollen, pollen everywhere. Photo credit: Jan Charles Linus Ekenstam (Flickr)

Predictions of strong market growth in all cloud-related sectors of the economy abound and inorganic growth is a time-honored strategy that the big boys use to compete on innovation—so it’s no surprise that the appetite for small and innovative players in cloud is strong. But I think something deeper is going on. It’s a war for developer mindshare.

Part of the reason why Microsoft enjoyed such strong growth in the 80s and 90s was that it had done a superb job of collecting a large community of developers who used Microsoft’s compilers, IDEs, and libraries. A strong developer ecosystem is also at the root of Xbox’s success.

Amazon seems to be headed down a similar path with cloud. Recent reports from Gartner show Amazon/AWS almost alone in the upper right visionary leaders quadrant for IaaS. Importantly, inquiries by developers about how to write for cloud platforms are skewed in Amazon’s direction by a similar amount.

I think this puts the spate of cloud acquisitions in a slightly different light. It’s not just about acquiring customers or revenue—it’s about acquiring mindshare with the folks that build the DevOps solutions of tomorrow. Anybody lacking a seat at that table is going to regret it fairly soon.

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