Electric Cloud CEO: We automate agile development

An explosion of tools and platforms is making app dev much more complex. Mike Maciag, CEO of Electric Cloud, offers cross-platform workflow and automation to rationalize it all

Before "devops" was a buzzword, Electric Cloud was offering a solution to help get developers and operations on the same page. The company's flagship product, Electric Commander, automates app dev workflows regardless of language or tools. As with many programming products and strategies these days, it endeavors to make the "agile" in agile development real.

Recently I interviewed Mike Maciag, who has been Electric Cloud's CEO since 2005. Previously, he co-founded an enterprise software company called MS2, which was sold to Agile Software -- which in turn was bought by Oracle in 2007.

[ Also see Eric Knorr's post "Devops and the great IT convergence" plus "Devops gets developers and admins on the same page" by InfoWorld's Paul Krill. | For a skeptical view, read "Devops: IT's latest paper tiger" by InfoWorld's Neil McAllister. | Subscribe to InfoWorld's Developer World newsletter and make sure you don't miss an app dev article. ]

Maciag was refreshingly direct and concise in his responses to questions about his competition and the current state of app dev. I began our conversation by asking him how Electric Cloud fits into the complex matrix of solutions intended to make developers more productive.

Eric Knorr: You're right in the middle of one of the most active spaces now anywhere in enterprise software. And it's a big, confusing space with lots of overlaps between categories. What's your take on the landscape, and exactly where does Electric Cloud fit in?

Mike Maciag: We sit at the crossroads of three very large trends. The first trend is software developers adopting far more agile processes than they ever have. That's driving a need for batch sizes to get smaller, it's driving a need for retooling, and most importantly it's driving a need for automation.

The next thing that's going on is the move toward cloud computing resources. You used to develop software on XYZ machine; now that can be done on a virtual machine that comes and goes, or even on a public cloud environment that you rent by the hour.

The third trend that we've really seen come up in the last year or so is the convergence of the development organization and the operations organization. It used to be that software got tossed over the wall to operations, and operations was told to go deploy it. Now software is coming out much faster and people want to get deployments out faster.

So that's what's going on: the need for faster software development, the move toward cloud computing environments, and the closer working relationship between dev and ops. Electric Cloud sits in the middle of all that because all three of those trends call for a good automation platform that is robust and scalable, as well as flexible in terms of what it can do. Our flagship product, Electric Commander, does exactly that.

Knorr: Let's talk in terms of the end-to-end development process and exactly where Electric Cloud -- or rather your primary product, Electric Commander -- fits into that process.

Maciag: There's a front end and a back end to software development. The front end is the creative portion of software developers working in their IDEs, writing code, dealing with requirements, and doing those types of things. At some point they press Enter or do a check-in and that kicks off what we'll term a "software production process." The steps are: I want to do a build; if my build is successful I need to test it; and if my tests are successful I want to go package it and stage it with the other software to have a whole product. Then, ultimately, I want to deploy that software. That's where Electric Cloud fits in, which is that back end of the process, the build/test/package/deploy phase of it.

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