In Episode 40 of The EnterpriseReady Podcast, Grant is joined by Alexis Richardson of Weaveworks. They discuss Weave GitOps, insights on brand revitalization, and the storied career journey that led Alexis from finance to startups to enterprise software.
About the Guest: Alexis Richardson began his career journey in finance as a trader at Goldman Sachs before founding three startups– MetaLogic, Cohesive Networks, and RabbitMQ. He pivoted to enterprise software and served as Senior Director at VMware before founding Weaveworks, where he is currently CEO.
The episode begins with Alexis discussing how his math degree led him to sports betting and poker, which eventually landed him a career in finance. With his unique experience and strong mathematical background, he began his professional life at Goldman Sachs, working with hedge funds to increase their value by betting on changes in the market.
In the '90s, a financial scare with defaulted Russian bonds led Alexis and his colleagues to play the economic game in a much more cautious way. With a new need for regulation, the markets shifted, and electronically regulated systems became standardized. This move turned the financial industry’s focus away from people and towards technology. Alexis’s path was forever changed, and he dove into the world of tech.
Alexis’ first venture into the software world began with a tool that allowed financial institutions to make better decisions using predictive models. While this venture garnered some beta customers, the founders decided to part ways, leading to the creation of Cohesive Networks in 2006, an experience rooted in open-source ideology.
While running Cohesive for the first few years, open-source, cloud, and virtualization were proliferating. Alexis realized there was a significant gap in companies’ technology stack for a middleware message bus. With this in mind, Alexis began to pivot, creating a product and eventually a company called RabbitMQ. After a year and a half at Cohesive, Alexis decided to go all-in on RabbitMQ. That’s where things started to get interesting.
For the second time, Alexis (regrettably) found himself working on something generic with a broad scope rather than a focused and specific tool. Despite this realization, his luck would soon turn. While raising money to expand RabbitMQ, the new kid on the block, VMware, saw an opportunity to improve their middleware stack and decided to acquire Alexis’ venture.
With VMware’s takeover, Alexis wanted to create a product that was easy to use (unlike his competitors) and featured good support and a smooth user experience. In addition to flushing out a product to sell, Alexis focused on finding diverse communities to champion VMWare’s products. To do this, he utilized the concept of “Rockstars and Platforms,” finding individuals as well as communities (Heroku, Ruby, Ubuntu, EngineYard) to embrace VMware’s offering. Alexis targeted users turned off by Oracle and IBM’s clunky and expensive software, and from there, was able to launch directly into enterprise businesses.
Eventually, Alexis was put in charge of a VMware product called Spring, a tool with about three million users and represented 50% of all Java developers. Due to internal challenges, Spring, despite its market foothold, capabilities, and fantastic engineering team, was neglected. With no plan or reason to keep Spring around, Alexis began to look at the new cloud-based businesses, such as Netflix, LinkedIn, and Twitter, which he knew were working with Java. He realized that enterprise users loved Java but not Spring.
With this realization, Alexis strived to give a new generation of businesses a tool with more helpful and unique capabilities suited for cloud-based enterprises. Thinking back to his beginnings and considering what he heard from enterprise leaders, Alexis felt an open-source option would revamp Spring. With V2 in full effect, not only were they receiving positive feedback but now had millions of more users and over 100 million downloads per month.
At about this time, two new players called Docker and Kubernetes joined the market, and Alexis pivoted with excitement to launch his next venture, Weaveworks. As time went on and Weaveworks received funding, Alexis’ focus shifted from Docker “being the center of the universe to being part of the universe,” as Kubernetes began to dominate as the container tool of the future. Similar to his success in the past, he focused on finding rockstars and platforms, particularly in the Kubernetes expert communities.
At this point, Alexis began to focus on GitOps and popularize it as a concept for businesses worldwide to adopt. With this new focus on GitOps, Alexis built WeaveGitOps to bolster and commercialize GitOps, and assist enterprises in improving their best practices. Now Alexis collaborates with massive companies such as Amazon, Microsoft, CodeFresh, and RedHat, as a community to define GitOps continue to support and optimize developers.
Here at Replicated, we also strongly believe in the power of open-source software. The Replicated platform is open-source-driven, and even EnterpriseReady, the site on which we host this very podcast, is open source.
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