All posts by Sanjiva Weerawarana

Time for a CEO Change in WSO2

Getting ready to dance with Ballerina and more with Tyler taking the lead

It is my pleasure to announce that effective today, I have stepped down from my job as CEO of WSO2 and that Tyler Jewell will be taking over. Nope; I am not going anywhere?—?I will remain as Chief Architect and will also become Chairman of the Board. Tyler will be joining the board too, of course.

Tyler Jewell, CEO of WSO2

Tyler is no stranger to WSO2 — he first reached out to me via a cold-call email in November 2010 while he was head of investments in Quest Software. Quest went on to make a $4M investment in May 2011 and Tyler joined our board at the time. After Quest was acquired by Dell, Tyler left and went to Oracle as VP of Cloud and later returned to become a partner in Toba Capital, the VC firm set up by the ex-Quest Chairman Vinny Smith after he completed the acquisition. Tyler re-joined our board then. Later, Toba acquired Dell’s investments including the WSO2 shares and became a larger shareholder. In 2013, after we fought off an acquisition offer, Toba bought the shares of Intel Capital (our first investor) and other shares and ended up as the largest shareholder of WSO2. Tyler remained on our board throughout and was a key part of surviving that acquisition challenge!

In 2013, Tyler also founded Codenvy, became its CEO and built it to become the leader in cloud IDEs and developer workspaces as a service. In June this year, he sold the company to RedHat. After successfully completing the transaction, Tyler left RedHat in August.

Was bringing Tyler on board initiated by our shareholders?

No. I reached out to Tyler, convinced him, then the board members and finally the shareholders that this is the right thing for WSO2.

I am handing WSO2 over to Tyler because I believe that this is absolutely the right thing to do for WSO2 and all its stakeholders; i.e., shareholders, employees, partners and of course our customers.

Why?

Paul and I (along with a 3rd person who’s long gone) started WSO2 more than 12 years ago. We’ve had a pretty good run in these years?—?we now have a 5-product portfolio that offers a superb digital transformation platform, 400+ customers, 490 employees, a recurring revenue business that’s growing really well and one that will be profitable this year. Yes, profitable.

Oh and Dr. Paul’s back as CTO too, after finishing his Ph.D. in IoT Security.

So we’re doing ok. OK, so why now then?

We also have a few additional rocket ships we’re building. However, let me first focus on Ballerina?—?the new programming language we’re creating.

Ballerina will end integration as we know it. It will also dramatically simplify writing microservices. Importantly, it will end the reign of configuration-over-code in enterprise app development and will make code great again. Yeah it’s a big deal.
Ballerina is what I’ve been focusing on for the last year and more. While my Ph.D. was not in programming languages, I have a long history of working on languages and really enjoy the power language creation gives to shape how people think. Ballerina embodies everything that I’ve learned in my nearly 30 years of being in the IT industry and absolutely embodies what WSO2 has learned in the last 12 years of its existence. Yeah it’s serious shit.

Um, again, why?

While I’m pretty good in technical stuff (if I may say so myself ;-)), taking such a rocket ship and positioning it to the market, driving its evangelization and making it win in the marketplace is not where I know I’m the best in the world at. I also know that a lot of that needs to happen in the US, the land where technology trends are created.

OTOH, Tyler is incredibly good at that stuff. (He’s actually pretty damned good (maybe even incredibly good) at technical stuff too .. but he really is incredibly good at that stuff.) Ballerina and WSO2 deserve to have the best in the world guiding its market leadership vision, strategy, plan and execution.

This is absolutely not just about Ballerina either. We have several other rocket ships in our portfolio and more on the way. Plus, our entire portfolio of products really is simply a hell of a lot better than anything else to digitally transform an enterprise. Tyler will, of course, own that too and will help improve the positioning, packaging and marketing of our digital transformation story to get it to market domination status. In other words, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Tyler also understands that this is a massive long term opportunity that he’s taking on. We’re both not in a hurry?—?we have the legs and stamina to take on the market in a marathon and beat them.

That is why I’m leaving as CEO and giving control of WSO2 to Tyler.

What will I be doing?

I’m not going anywhere?—?I will be a having a ball putting 100% of my energy into my Chief Architect role, a title I gave myself a few years ago. In that role I will continue to nurture Ballerina and the rest of the WSO2 products’ overall design, architecture and scope.

At the board level I will be the chairman of the board as well.

Culture, values, Sri Lanka and all that kind of stuff

In the past twelve years I, and really all the people who’ve been part of the WSO2 journey, have built an awesome culture in WSO2 based on a set of core values that are all about doing the right thing for all stakeholders of our mission and oriented towards making the world a better place. Importantly, we’re also a culture that is always learning and always improving both at an individual level (for all involved) as well as at the company level.

It is silly to think that a change in CEO, especially the annoying, opinionated and (apparently, even though I don’t buy it) stubborn founding CEO, will not have some impact on how things will be done.

Culture is of course not a constant. Those of you have been subjected to my various preaching sessions in the last 12 years will remember this quote by Chamath Palihapitiya about culture that I’ve repeated often:

Fight for the culture the way it should be…not the way it was or the way it’s becoming.

So of course things will change, but will only change the way we all make it change.

. . .

I’ve always told people that if you want to be successful you must aim for the stars?—?and maybe you’ll at least land on the moon. The hard work of the last 12 years has us orbiting the moon, ready to slingshot off it and head for the stars.

As the founder of WSO2, I have always given it everything I had. I’m looking forward to continuing to do that and to “come home” to the technical world which I love, to help WSO2 slingshot off the moon and head for the stars.

. . .

It’s been a privilege and an honor to start a company and grow it from birth to a reasonable sized global business with operations in Sri Lanka, UK, US, and Brazil. I’ve learned a few things along the way (e.g., I’m finally able to read a P&L .. but not a balance sheet yet; it’s BS after all) and can safely say I lost no hair doing it.

I’m most thrilled, humbled and proud of the people I’ve worked with. There are so many people who’ve been here through the entire journey?—?basically never leaving after they joined. We have all grown, and not just in years, but in maturity, in smarts and just overall as human beings through the WSO2 journey.

Another aspect I’m very proud of is the more than 100 folks who’ve left WSO2 to go to graduate school. Of that, around 50 have now completed PhDs in Computer Science. I’m very bullish on people getting more and more education (and Ph.D. is hardly the end) and it’s great that so many have done that. And more are on the way?—?and many of the people who have worked in WSO2 for many years have earned PhDs of their own, even though we don’t call them doctor!

From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who has made the last 12+ years amazing, awesome and incredibly educational for me.

. . .

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling sad to give my baby over to someone else. From amongst all the people in the world, I believe Tyler Jewell will do a fantastic job taking this toddler and making it into a teenager!

So actually I’m not sad but excited instead. Excited at the potential we have in front of us. Excited by working with Tyler. Excited at the thought of having more time to be technical and write code again.

Exciting times ahead :-). Good luck Tyler!

API Management: the missing link for SOA success

[This post first appeared on my blog at http://sanjiva.weerawarana.org/2012/08/api-management-missing-link-for-soa.html.]

Nearly 2 years ago I tweeted:

Well, unfortunately, I had it a bit wrong.

APIs and service do have a very direct and 1-1 relationship: an API is the interface of a service. However, what is different is that one’s about the implementation and is focused on the provider, and the other is about using the functionality and is focused on the consumer. The service of course is what matters to the provider and API is what matters to the consumer.

So its clearly more than just a new name.

Services: If you build it will they come?

One of the most common anti-patterns of SOA is the one service – one client pattern. That’s when the developer who wrote the service also wrote its only client. In that case there’s no sharing, no common data, no common authentication and no reuse of any kind. The number one reason for SOA (improving productivity by reusing functionality as services) is gone. Its simply client-server at the cost of having to use interoperable formats like XML, JSON, XML Schema, WSDL and SOAP.

There are two primary reasons for this pattern being so prevalent: first is due to a management failure whereby everyone is required to create services for whatever they do because that’s the new “blessed way”. There’s no architectural vision driving proper factoring. Instead its each person or at least each team for themselves. The resulting services are only really usable for that one scenario – so no wonder no one else uses them!

Writing services that can service many users requires careful design and thinking and willingness to invest in the common good. That’s against human intuition and something that will happen only if its properly guided and incentivized. The cost of writing common services must be paid by someone and will not happen by itself.

That’s in effect the second reason why this anti-pattern exists: the infrastructure in place for SOA does not support or encourage reuse. Even if you had a service that is reusable how do you find out how well it works? How do you know how many people are using it? Do you know what time of day they use it most? Do you know which operations of your service get hit the hardest? Next, how do others even find out you wrote a service and it may do what they need?

SOA Governance (for which WSO2 has an excellent product: WSO2 Governance Registry) is not focused on encouraging service reuse but rather on governing the creation and management of services. The SOA world has lacked a solution for making it easy to help people discover available services and to manage and monitor their consumption.

API Management

What’s an API? Its the interface to a service. Simple. In other words, if you don’t have any services, you have no APIs to expose and manage.

API Management is about managing the entire lifecycle of APIs. This involves someone who publishes the interface of a service into a store of some kind. Next it involves developers who browse the store to find APIs they care about and get access to them (typically by acquiring an access token of some sort) and then the developers using those keys to program accesses to the service via its interface.

Why is this important? In my opinion, API Management is to SOA what Amazon EC2 is to Virtualization. Of course virtualization has been around for a long time, but EC2 changed the game by making it trivially simple for someone to get a VM. It brought self service, serendipitous consumption, and elasticity to virtualization. Similarly, API Management brings self service & serendipitous consumption by allowing developers to discover, try and use services without requiring any type of “management approval”. It allows consumers to not have to worry about scaling – they just indicate the desired SLA (typically in the form of a subscription plan) and its up to the provider to make it work right.

API Management & SOA are married at the hip

If you have an SOA strategy in your organization but don’t have an API Management plan then you are doomed to failure. Notice that I didn’t even talk about externally exposing APIs- even internal service consumption should be managed through an API Management system so that everyone has clear visibility into who’s using what service and how much is used when. Its patently obvious why external exposition of services requires API Management.

Chris Haddad, WSO2’s VP of Technology Evangelism, recently wrote a superb whitepaper that discusses and explain the connection between SOA and API Management. Check out Promoting service reuse within your enterprise and maximizing SOA success and I can guarantee you will leave enlightened.

In May this year, a blog on highscalability.com talked about how “Startups Are Creating A New System Of The World For IT”. In that the author talked about open source as the foundation of this new system and SOA as the load bearing walls of the new IT landscape. I will take it to the next level and say that API Management is the roof of the new IT house.

WSO2 API Manager

We recently introduced an API Management product: WSO2 API Manager. This product comes with an application for API Providers to create and manage APIs, a store application for API Developers to discover and consume APIs and a gateway to route API traffic through. Of course all parts of the product can be scaled horizontally to deal with massive loads. The WSO2 API Manager can be deployed either for internal consumption, external consumption or both. As with any other WSO2 product, this too is 100% open source. After you read Chris’ whitepaper download this product and sit it next to your SOA infrastructure (whether its from us or not) and see what happens!

Sanjiva Weerawarana, WSO2 co-founder and CEO
Sanjiva’s blog: http://sanjiva.weerawarana.org

Growing the Business

As you probably know already, we announced a $6.5M funding round a couple of months ago. Along with that we announced the opening of an office in Palo Alto, CA and then soon after that we hired a new VP of Marketing and a Director of Sales for Europe. On the product side, we recently released a platform-wide update – simultaneously releasing new versions of all 12 of our existing WSO2 Carbon based products and throwing in two more (WSO2 Message Broker and WSO2 Complex Event Processing Server) for good measure. If you have ever written any complex software then you know it’s no mean task to release 14 products at once.

This week we are releasing a new version of WSO2 Stratos, the world’s only 100% open source PaaS offering which meets real enterprise needs, as well as WSO2 StratosLive, our own hosted service version of it. imageStratos and StratosLive are going out with ALL 14 of our Carbon based products — yes you can sign up and instantly get your own (virtual) app server or ESB or message broker or whatever just like that. Try releasing the world’s most advanced open source PaaS and deploying all of that into production in an elastically scalable environment all at once. Yep, our engineering rocks.

The engineering beauty of our stuff will appeal to geeks: all WSO2 Carbon products and the corresponding WSO2 Stratos services version of them are in fact, exactly the same codebase. We “simply” run as a single tenant in the Carbon case and as a multi-tenant, self-serviced, elastically scalable system in the Stratos case. No one, NO ONE, but us has ever built a single enterprise middleware stack that provides a single environment that scales from traditional on-premise deployment to private cloud deployment to public service like that. We know all of our competitors are trying to do it, but most are AT LEAST 5 years away. Eat our dust guys.

The launch of StratosLive (which has been available in beta since late last year) marks our foray into the cloud service provider space as well. In other words, we are no longer just a software manufacturer but we provide it as a service too. I believe this is a key part of all open source businesses in the future — write and release software, and also host it for others to use. Many (old world) pundits say one organization can’t do both well — we are simply going to prove them wrong.

MonicaWith the product engineering (and now online services) side kicking butt, our marketing and sales engine is also running in high gear. With Monica coming in to drive marketing, with Jonathan’s renewed focus on business development and with Paul Broekhoven joining Lavi’s sales machine we are growing rapidly on the business side too. We’ve been pretty much doubling our business each year and of course that becomes difficult as the numbers become larger (and eventually impossible) but we believe we can do that at least for the next few years. That’s partly because of our business model — a very large portion of Paulbour revenues are out of recurring production support meaning we don’t start at zero every year, and partly because our products are soooo much better than the incumbents it’s quite easy to get in through the door. It’s very hard for a consulting and services business to grow like that but it is possible for a business like ours to do it.

We’re also looking for a few fantastic people to join our team! In California we are looking for a Business Development person to work with Jonathan on OEM and channel business. We’re the only enterprise middleware company in the world that has a comprehensive, 100% open source stack under the world’s best-loved open source license (Apache License v2.0) and of course the only one to have a PaaS platform too. Because we built the platform from the ground up, it’s intended by design to be embedded and can be used to whatever extent that makes sense for particular scenarios, thanks to Carbon’s component architecture of course. For example, if you’re a VAR selling a business application as a webapp on IBM WebSphere or Oracle WebLogic and you need to convert that into a SaaS offering (too), you can OEM Stratos and do it in a terrifically short time plus have a business model that is a lot more in your favor than now. Plus you can continue to sell it as a webapp too.  (Interested? Drop us a line.)

Our customers are often fellow technical geeks who are trying to figure out the best way to solve business problems. Our primary strategy to reach them is with education and information on how our stuff can help them technically. We repeatedly hear stories of how using the WSO2 stack results in a rapid or trivial solution in comparison to IBM or Oracle or any of the other big guys or even the niche open source players. We are looking for a group of people to help amplify that information and evangelize our platform to fellow techies. Location immaterial. Your mission is to take our products and help others understand how to solve their problems with them. You of course will influence the product teams to make sure that ours remains the best approach for particular problems! In the process, we will help you build your personal brand to become a technology rock star. Interested? Drop me a line — but no recruiters or head hunters of any sort please — I will only hire someone who individually WANTS to work with us!

In general my hiring philosophy is not driven out of published open positions. I look at the person who wants to work with us and together we try to figure out what best aligns WSO2’s objectives and their personal objectives. If such an alignment is possible then we move forward. The other key thing for me is passion and commitment — you must have something that drives you, some war you feel the urge to fight, some battle you feel the need to win, some vision that drives you — working in WSO2 must help you achieve those objectives. Otherwise you shouldn’t work in WSO2! Of course hard work is part of the deal – we’re in a classic David vs. Goliath battle and that is not going to be won without amazing amounts of Sanjivahard work. We do play hard too, but we work hard and intensely. Ask anyone who works here. Bottom line is that someone who wants to learn something and do stuff can make it happen. But it is impossible to teach someone to be passionate and committed; that must come from inside you, from deep in your heart.

Strap on; WSO2 is on a roll…

Sanjiva Weerawarana, WSO2 CEO
Sanjiva’s blog: http://sanjiva.weerawarana.org/

Welcome to the New WSO2 Corporate Blog

Happy New Year and welcome to the new WSO2 Corporate Blog!

Five years into the WSO2 journey, the WSO2 company and community continue to grow rapidly. This past year marked a number of significant milestones in our growth:

  • completing another year of 100% growth in customers, revenue and bookings
  • the WSO2 employee count surpassed 100
  • the WSO2 OxygenTank user community passed 30,000 registered members and 300,000 indexed pages
  • the pace of innovation remains high, with nearly 50 product and 20 service releases this last year

You can imagine the amount of documentation, articles, tutorials, and so forth this much activity generates! And WSO2 is unique in the openness and transparency with which we develop our products – with forums, mailing lists, code bases, and building an immense, fully-open knowledge base day by day.

And not just on the OxygenTank! Many bloggers including lots of WSO2 employees are regularly publishing valuable content elsewhere on a huge variety of WSO2 and industry topics. That includes me, Paul, and others of the executive team. Currently there are over 50,000 links back to the OxygenTank. Sometimes it seems impossible to keep up!

So today we’re inaugurating a simpler and more manageable way to share important technical and business milestones, executive viewpoints, and high-level commentary about industry trends. You’ll see posts from me, from co-founder & CTO Paul Fremantle, VPs Lavi De Silva, Jonathan Marsh, and Samisa Abeysinghe, and others. By consolidating and moderating contributions in a single place, we hope to make this corporate blog a concise, insightful, and entertaining way to track WSO2’s progress as we roar into our second half-decade.

Please subscribe or check back often!

Sanjiva Weerawarana, WSO2 CEO

Sanjiva’s blog: http://sanjiva.weerawarana.org/