Inside Advanced Scale Challenges|Friday, October 19, 2018
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Foundation Positions Cloud Foundry PaaS As Enterprise Standard 

Cloud Foundry, the platform cloud framework long associated with VMware and then its Pivotal spinoff, is going the way of OpenStack now that Pivotal intends to establish a formal open governance model and associated non-profit foundation for the open source software.

Over the next several months, Pivotal and Cloud Foundry backers EMC, VMware, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Rackspace, and SAP will work to structure the foundation with the goal of accelerating industry adoption of Cloud Foundry. The partners expect to have the foundation up and running this summer. IBM, HP, Rackspace and SAP, as well as Pivotal's parent companies VMware and EMC, will become platinum sponsors, while ActiveState and CenturyLink have expressed their intention to join as gold level sponsors.

The Cloud Foundry Foundation will be to open Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) what the OpenStack Foundation is to open Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). The backers of Cloud Foundry decided it would be better to have a small coalition of vendors working in the spirit of co-opetition, instead of turning over the project to a decentralized open source organization, such as the Apache Software Foundation. Cloud Foundry is licensed under the Apache 2.0 license and will maintain that format as it transitions to a formal governance model.

Cloud Foundry is a multi-cloud technology that can be implemented locally on private infrastructure or remotely in a public cloud. The idea behind any platform cloud is to abstract away the virtual infrastructure and to expose functions like application or database serving as higher level services that can be accessed by programs. Applications are therefore portable across public and private clouds that support the same PaaS framework. Amazon Web Services, Windows Azure, and Google Cloud Platform all offer their own platform services, and they are most certainly not compatible with each other –although you could load up Cloud Foundry on the infrastructure cloud portions of these three services if you wanted to.

After acquiring Cloud Foundry several years ago, VMware re-launched it in 2011 as "the industry's first open platform as a service" and when Pivotal spun out of VMware and EMC in April 2013, Cloud Foundry was a key piece of the Pivotal portfolio. The framework can be used to build large-scale data services and can be deployed on Amazon Web Services, OpenStack, and VMware's vCloud and vSphere. (The key to Cloud Foundry's multi-cloud support is an open source deployment and lifecycle management tool called BOSH.)

Cloud Foundry diagram

"Cloud Foundry began as an open source project but now has evolved into the basis for a true open platform ecosystem," notes Pivotal CEO Paul Maritz in a blog post. The Cloud Foundry project has participation from major companies and more than 750 individual contributors, according to Pivotal. Now the Cloud Foundry foundation seeks to take adoption further into the enterprise space.

"As software continues to disrupt every aspect of business, enterprises want the ability to develop and deploy applications and have the freedom to seamlessly deploy those applications across a wide variety of cloud-based platforms," said Maritz in a prepared statement. "The foundation for Cloud Foundry will bring together industry leaders committed to the growth of the open PaaS movement, working in concert toward the development of an open cloud architecture that will enable a broad, open ecosystem that will allow many to contribute and benefit, creating applications and services that have major impact on business and our everyday lives."

With heavyweights like IBM, HP, Rackspace and SAP behind the effort, Cloud Foundry is now in the running to be a viable platform-as-a-service (PaaS) alternative to others such as Red Hat's OpenShift. Each of these companies has pledged $1.5 million over three years to get the Cloud Foundry foundation going.

Many tech companies have moved to bring Cloud Foundry into broader use. IBM, for instance, has been working with Pivotal since July to integrate Cloud Foundry with its family of cloud products. To that end, IBM has unveiled BlueMix, its implementation of Cloud Foundry that runs on its SoftLayer cloud and includes some home-grown IBM middleware and devops expertise. BlueMix aims to provide developers with an open, integrated development environment that scales. IBM says that it has invested more than $1 billion in software cloud development to help accelerate the new era of hybrid cloud computing.

"We are combining the strength of our developer ecosystem with the depth of subject matter expertise in domains such as mobile, big data and devops, to build a scalable model that easily spans from a single developer to global teams," comments Robert LeBlanc, senior vice president of software and cloud solutions at IBM. "Today's announcement is another significant move in extending true cloud integration – not just to existing data and transaction services but to a new class of emerging applications."

It is noteworthy perhaps that IBM's WebSphere portfolio of middleware got its start back during the 1998 Winter Olympics back in Nagano, Japan. At that time, the Web was relatively young and the Apache Web Server was not precisely enterprise friendly or scalable, and IBM was using it to host web-based applications to engage viewers with the events. The extensions and tweaks that IBM created for Apache were eventually commercialized and sold with support contracts as WebSphere, which is a multi-billion product line for Big Blue these days. IBM no doubt wants to repeat the same success with Cloud Foundry through its BlueMix effort.

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