Continuous Interviews: Jez Humble, Cruise

Cruise is the new kid in the block in the Continuous Integration space. So what’s going on? What can we expect next from ThoughtWorks Studios? In this two-part interview I attempt to find out. Part two will be out next Tuesday.

Jez Humble is the product manager for Cruise. I’ve known Jez for a long time. He’s the affable one in the yellow. I’m the one in black with with the annoying accent.

PS: Jez is writing a book on building and deploying software. I’ll be bugging him for a review copy.

Update: here’s the transcription:

JULIAN: Today, I am talking with Jez Humble from ThoughtWorks Studios. Jez is the product manager; is that right, Jez?

JEZ: That’s right.

JULIAN: For Cruise, the continuous integration product from ThoughtWorks. So, really, I will start by getting Jez to say a little bit more about who he is, and what he really does.

JEZ: Right. So, like you said, I am product manager for Cruise. All that means in practice is that I do a little bit of everything. In theory, I am supposed to kind of define what Cruise does, and look at the market, see what the competition is, and generally own the vision for Cruise and where we are going with it. In practice, I end up doing a bit of that, a bit of analysis, some sales, some support, and occasionally a bit of development, much to the consternation of the rest of the development team.

JULIAN: I get similar accusations with my team. So, can you tell us a little about Cruise, and what actually makes it special as a product.

JEZ: Right, so, Cruise is not just a continuos integration server, is the idea; I mean, there are plenty of CI servers on the market. We are also trying to do something in the release management space. So, it is not just aimed to developers and development teams; it is also aimed at QAs and operations people, and the idea is that you are getting software from [ED: lost the video quality here]. It’s about getting software through the last mile, not just, you know, QA passed, but live, working, released, in production, and that is really, kind of, the source of many of the distinctive features of Cruise, like the release pipeline, the deployment pipeline functionality.

JULIAN: All right, cool. And, um, how long have you been actually using the product yourselves; I mean, there must have been a point at which you managed to switch off of CruiseControl, I guess, and actually eat your own dog food. How long have you been doing that now?

JEZ: For quite some time. So, we started developing Cruise back in December of 2007, and in 2008, by spring festival, Chinese Spring Festival in 2008, which was in March, I believe, we were self-hosting on Cruise, and we had an internal ThoughtWorks project hosted on Cruise as well, which is one of our first customers. So, we are very serious about dogfooding, and we try and make sure that we have projects, within ThoughtWorks, dogfooding as well. So, for example, Mingle uses Cruise in order to build Mingle. So, yeah, I mean, it took us about 3, 3 or 4 months, to be self-hosting with Cruise, and we have been using it ever since.

JULIAN: That is pretty sweet. I mean, 3 months to actually getting a usable product; that is kind of nice.

JEZ: Yeah, I would not go as far as usable, but it got usable pretty quickly.

JULIAN: Very good. I think, as one of the things, you look at some of the other products, and you can tell the ones that are extensively used by the developers and the ones that aren’t, and other little features you see I think are, um, the kind of thing that you would never actually think to put on a product sheet, but the kind of thing that just evolves as your developers get annoyed with the product, or not.

JEZ: Yeah.

JULIAN: And it affects it. So, it is a lovely sign for a product, when it does that.

JEZ: Yeah.

JULIAN: So, I think you really touched on this, that Cruise does not just do CI; I mean, do you think that the CI market is going to support all the venues that we have right now? I mean, you have got the economic downturn; even though I really don’t want to mention that because everybody else is, and also, sort of free competition as well from increasingly more impressive things like Hudson. What are your thoughts on that?

JEZ: Yeah, I mean, it’s true, though. We do have a lot of competitors out there. I think, actually, to be honest, it is not something that worries me tremendously, partly because I think we are not actually that far up the curve of adoption of continuous integration. So, I think there are a lot of developers out there, and a lot of development shops that are not using any kind of CI at all right now. So, I think there is a lot of space for expansion to enter that market. I also think that, you know, we are not really necessarily direct competitors with the Hudson’s of this world. I mean, yes, Cruise is a CI server, but it is trying to do something a bit more than Hudson in terms of the pipe-lining, especially that whole piece around release management, actually deploying, testing, and releasing of software. So, in many ways, we compliment tools like Hudson. I mean, if you have Hudson already, that is typically very much focused on development teams; it is not focused at helping QA teams and operations people. So, we can kind of compliment what Hudson does in many ways, and actually, I don’t think there are that many products which were really aiming at solving that whole problem, all the way through to release, in the same way that we are.

JULIAN: Sure, I mean, um, in my day job, I come across that problem all the time, and I think that is interesting that you are able to say that the 2 products compliment each other. Will there be some kind of direct integration at some point, do you think? Or, will it always be kind of a hands-off thing, where the 2 products just happen to work on pieces of the same work-flow?

JEZ: I would actually like to see some direct integration. I mean, I do not think we will ever have a Hudson plug-in, but I think what we would have is some kind of integration piece where you could take artifacts that are produced by some other system, and then visualize them being released all the way through to production. Something like that, where you can plug into something which produces, kind of, artifacts of one kind or another, and, in fact, that is the kind of direction which we are going with Cruise, anyway, of being able to take artifacts of one kind, and put them through this kind of pipeline process.

JULIAN: All right, lovely. And, do you think the continuous integration market is going to, sort of, get a bit of a boost with every business sort of focusing on cutting waste at the moment? Do you think there will be a direct kind of correlation between that? I would like to think so, but um…

JEZ: Yeah, I mean, I like to think so too.

JULIAN: The cynical part of me thinks that we will do other mad things instead.

JEZ: That’s…

JULIAN: Are you able to… Go on.

JEZ: All right. Obviously, I would like to think that we are going to make money as well; because, otherwise, we are all in big trouble. So, there is, kind of, the theory, and there is the evidence. I mean, in theoretical terms, I think it does make sense, actually, to start investing in these products. What you see is a lot of companies that are starting to lay off people, unfortunately. The result of that is that people are having to do more with l
ess; so, you know, you cannot have a couple of developers kind of posturing around, hacking up CI service in the same way that you might have been able to before. So, it actually makes more sense to invest in a product than it might have done when there were less jobs on the line. So, it is an unfortunate consequence, but obviously, it is kind of good for us, and we have seen that reflected in sales. I know it has been tough, but it has not been nearly as bad as we were expecting it to be; there is still a decent pipeline of sales for Studios products. So, as far as we are seeing, actually, our play, and, you know, it has always been our play, as you know, having been at ThoughtWorks, is that we do the whole Lean thing, and that should help make businesses more profitable and more efficient, and that play seems to be working for us at the moment.

JULIAN: Okay, very good. So, are you willing to say who is using Cruise?

JEZ: Right, uh…

JULIAN: I mean, sort of, do you have a reference site or two, or some names you can drop that you have there?

JEZ: Unfortunately, so I did check on this before I joined the chat; I am not allowed to say who are our customers at the moment, but you will be seeing some case studies in the next few months, as we move towards 2.0. I can tell you, we have gotten more than 3,000 downloads so far. So, we launched in July of last year. So, being going for about 9 months now, we have had 3,000 downloads since then. We do have some Fortune 500 companies in there, and some big name brands, but I can’t tell you specifics yet, sorry.

JULIAN: Okay, cool; you have to try. So, I mean, ThoughtWorks has been incredibly prolific in pushing the continuous integration space for a decade now, and you have, you know, the 3 main flavors of Cruise Control now; the Java, the .NET and the RubyVision, as well as a few things that fell along the wayside. What is ThoughtWorks’ interest in those now; is that kind of just something for your engineers to get involved with as kind of a part-time occupation now, and Cruise is now the main, sort of, focus of your innovation?

JEZ: That is an interesting question; certainly, all those 3 products are still in use, and they are still very active products, projects I should say. Even within ThoughtWorks there are projects that use those things. It is interesting working for ThoughtWorks, because actually, one of our most difficult customers are other thoughtworkers, who are very sensitive about what they use, and rightly so. I mean, as a consultant, you have a duty to choose the best tool for the job at hand, and that might not always be Cruise. I mean, Cruise is only 9 months old; it is only at version 1.2. So, we do not have all the things we want there yet, and there are circumstances in which we might say, Well, actually, you know, maybe you should use or maybe you should use one of our competitors, indeed. So, that does happen, and that is great feedback for us. The reality is that all of those open source projects are still in use, we still have committers at ThoughtWorks on those projects, and they continue to do a great job. ThoughtWorks does not actively put money into those products; it provides infrastructure for some of them. I am pretty sure that we might be putting very much, in the way of money, into paying for developers to work on those products, but they are certainly still in use. Also, I would like us to get to the stage where Cruise is sufficiently better than anything else, that you wouldn’t consider using them, but we are not there yet.


One thought on “Continuous Interviews: Jez Humble, Cruise

  1. […] is part two of the interview with Jez Humble from ThoughtWorks Studios (part one here). I’m also getting it transcribed; watch this […]

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