Open Call to VMware – Commercialize Cloud Foundry Software!

After spending time at VMware and Cloud Expo last week, I believe that VMware’s lack of full backing for Cloud Foundry software is holding back the entire PaaS market in the enterprise.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of momentum in PaaS despite how very immature the market is. But this momentum is in pockets and largely outside of the core of software development in the enterprise. CloudFoundry.com might be moving along, but most enterprises don’t want to run the bulk of their applications in a public cloud. Only through the Cloud Foundry software layer will enterprises really be able to invest. And invest they will.

PaaS-based applications running in the enterprise data center are going to replace (or envelope) traditional app server-based approaches. It is just a matter of time due to productivity and support for cloud models. Cloud Foundry has the opportunity to be one of the winners but it won’t happen if VMware fails to put their weight behind it.

Some nice projects like Stackato from ActiveState are springing up around cfoundry, but the enterprises I deal with every day (big banks, insurance companies, manufacturers) will be far more likely to commit to PaaS if a vendor like VMware gets fully behind the software layer. Providing an open source software support model is fine and perhaps a good way to start. However, this is going to be a lot more interesting if VMW provides a fully commercialized offering with all of the R&D enhancements, etc.

This market is going to be huge – as big or bigger than the traditional web app server space. It’s just a matter of time. Cloud Foundry is dominating the current discussion about PaaS software but lacks the full support of VMware (commercial support, full productization). This is just holding people back from investing.  VMware reps ought to be including Cloud Foundry in every ELA, every sales discussion, etc. and they need to have some way to get paid a commission if that is to happen. That means they need something to sell.

VMware’s dev teams are still focused on making Cloud Foundry more robust and scalable. Stop! It’s far better to release something that’s “good enough” than to keep perfecting and scaling it.
“The perfect is the enemy of the good.” – Voltaire

It’s time for VMware to get with the program and recognize what you they and how it can be a huge profit engine going forward – but they need to go all in starting now!

(c) 2011 CloudBzz / TechBzz Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This post originally appeared at http://www.cloudbzz.com/. You can follow CloudBzz on Twitter @CloudBzz.

Open Clouds at Red Hat

Red Hat has ben making steady progress toward what is shaping up as a fairly interesting cloud strategy.  Building on their Deltacloud API abstraction layer and their CloudForms IaaS software, a hybrid cloud model is starting to emerge. Add to this their OpenShift PaaS system, and you can see that Red Hat is assembling a lot of key components. Let’s add the fact that Red Hat has gotten very involved with OpenStack, providing an interesting dynamic with CloudForms.

Red Hat is the enterprise king in Linux (RHEL), strong in application servers (JBoss), and has a lot of very large customers.  Their VM environment, RHEV (aka KVM) won’t displace VMware in the enterprise space any time soon, but it is pretty interesting in the service provider space.

Red Hat’s community open source model will be very appealing to the market.  In fact, any of the OpenStack distro providers should be at least a bit worried that Red Hat might leapfrog them.  With their OpenStack move, CloudForms is being repositioned as a hybrid cloud management tool.  Now their competition in the future might be more along the lines of RightScale and enStratus.  What I’ve seen so far of CloudForms shows a lot of promise, though it’s still pretty immature.

Red Hat is pushing a message about “open clouds” – which is less about open source than it is about avoiding vendor lock in with cloud providers.  That’s something that CloudForms is intending to address.  It’s also why OpenShift has been released as an open source project (Apache 2.0 – yay) that can be deployed on other clouds and non-cloud infrastructures.

The big opportunity, IMO, is for Red Hat to go very strong on the OpenStack path for IaaS (e.g. release and support an enhanced Red Hat distro), really push their OpenShift conversation vs. Cloud Foundry based on their ability to drive community (along with it’s deep integration with JBoss), and move CloudForms further up the stack to a governance and multi-cloud management framework (their messaging on this is not very strong).  It’s this model of openness – any cloud, any app, that will make their “Open Cloud” vision a reality.

PaaSing Comments – Data and PaaS

I’ve been looking at the PaaS space for some time now.  I spent some time with the good folks at CloudBees (naturally), and have had many conversations on CloudFoundry, Azure, and more with vendors, customers and other cloudy folks.

Krishnan posted a very good article over on CloudAve, and at one level I fully agree that PaaS will be come more of a data-centric (vs. code-centric) animal over the next few years.  To some degree that’s generally true of all areas of IT – data, intelligence and action from data, etc.  But there is a lot more to this.

Most PaaS frameworks have very few actual services – other than code logic containers, maybe one messaging framework, and some data services (structured and unstructured persistence and query).  You get some scale out, load balancing, and rudimentary IAM and operations services.  Over time as the enterprise PaaS market really starts to take off, we may find that these solutions are sorely lacking.

In the data and analytics space alone there are many types of services that PaaS frameworks could benefit from:  data capture, transformation, persistence (have), integration, analytics and intelligence.  But this is too one-dimensional.  Is it batch or realtime, or high-frequency/low-latency?  What is the volume of data, how does it arrive and in what format? What is the use-case of the data services?  Is it structured or unstructured? Realtime optimization of an individual users’ e-commerce experience or month-end financial reporting and trend analysis?

Many enterprises have multiple needs and different technologies to service them.  Many applications have the same – multiple data and analytical topologies and requirements.  Today’s complex applications are really compositions of multiple workload models, each with its own set of needs.  You can’t build a trading system with just one type of workload model assumption.  You need multiple.

A truly useful PaaS environment is going to need a “specialty engine” app store model that enables developers to mix and match and assemble these services without needing to break out of the core PaaS programming model. They need to be seamlessly integrated into a core services data model so the interfaces are consumed in a consistent manner and behave predictably.

Data-centricity is one of the anchor points.  But so is integration.  And messaging.  And security in all it’s richness and diversity of need.

This gets back to the question of scale.  Salesforce has the lead, but they also have a very limiting computational model which will keep them out of the more challenging applications.  Microsoft is making strides with Azure, and Amazon continues to add components but in a not-very-integrated way.  But will a lot of other companies be able to compete?  Will enterprises be able to build and operate such complex solutions (they already do, but…)?

This is a great opportunity and challenge, and I have great expectations that we will be seeing some exciting innovations in the PaaS market this year.

Forward PaaS: VMware’s Cloud Foundry First Down

I know it’s baseball season, but there’s no passing in baseball and this post will just work better as a football analogy.

VMware’s announcement this week of Cloud Foundry (twitter @cloudfoundry) has gotten a lot of attention from the cloud community, and for good reason. Just as hardware is a low-margin commodity business, hardware as a service (e.g. IaaS) is the same. Ultimately, price will be the core basis for competition in the IaaS space and a lot of high-cost “enterprise” clouds will struggle to compete for business without some real differentiation.

For the past few years, PaaS offerings from Salesforce (force.com)a, Microsoft (Azure), Google (AppEngine) and newcomers like Heroku (now owned by Salesforce), EngineYard and others have really gained a lot of traction. Developers really don’t like sysadmin work as a rule, and provisioning instances of EC2 is sysadmin work. Writing code that turns into applications, features, etc. that end-users use is far more interesting to the developers I’ve worked with (and who’ve worked for me). PaaS, then, is for developers.

But PaaS before this week meant lock-in. Developers, and the people who pay them, don’t like to be locked into specific vendor solutions. If you write for Azure, the fear (warranted or not) is that you can only run on Azure. Given that Microsoft has totally fumbled the opportunity to make Azure a partner-centric platform play, that means you need to run your Azure apps on Microsoft’s cloud. Force.com is even worse – with it’s own language, data model, etc. there’s not even the chance that you can run your code elsewhere without major rework. Force.com got traction primarily for people building extensions to Salesforce’s SFA and CRM offerings – though some people did do more with it. VMforce (Spring on Force.com) was supposed to change the openness issue by providing a framework for any Java apps to run. Google AppEngine is also proprietary in many respects, and when it launched with just a single language (Python!), a lot of developers shrugged. Even the proprietary PaaS components of AWS have been a problem. I could not get my developers to use SimpleDB back in 2008 because, as the rightly pointed out, we’d be stuck if we wanted to move off of EC2 at some point.

Lots of flags on the field. Holding! Illegal receiver! Neutral zone infraction!

There have been some attempts to publish PaaS frameworks that can run on other clouds, but they have failed to gain much traction. (carried off the field on a stretcher? yeah, that works).

Along comes CloudFoundry by VMware and — INTERCEPTION!

In fact, it’s like a whole new game just started. On their first possession VMware completed a perfectly executed forward PaaS. It’s 1st & 10 on their own 20 yard line. There’s a lot of field out there, and while the defense is in total disarray for the moment, it’s going to take a lot of perfect execution to score a CloudFoundry touchdown.

The Cloud Foundry Playbook

VMware really nailed it on the launch, with very compelling playbook of offensive and defensive plays that should have most PaaS competitors reeling. Here’s their graphic that shows the core concepts:

Shotgun Formation: Across the top you can see three programming frameworks included at launch.  Spring (Java – SpringSource owned by VMware), Rails, and node.js.  You can expect more frameworks to be supported – including Python and PHP.  Ideally they would add .NET too, though not sure if the licensing can work there (a huge chunk of corporate apps are Windows/.NET based).  They also added support for MongoDB, MySQL and Redis for data management.

The Open Blitz: VMware did an incredibly good thing by launching the core Cloud Foundry project as an Apache-licensed open source project.  While I have some concerns around their lack of a community governance model, the fact that they went with Apache vs. a dual-license GPL/Commercial model like MySQL is incredibly aggressive.  I could, if I wanted to, grab Cloud Foundry code, create my own version (e.g. Bzz Foundry) and sell it for license fees with no need to pay VMware anything.  The reality is that I could, but I would not do that and VMware knows that their own development teams will be the key to long term sustainability of this solution.  That said, a cloud service provider that wants to add Cloud Foundry on top of their OpenStack-based cloud could do so without any licensing fees.  I can be part of the “Cloud Foundry Federation” without having to be a vCloud VSPP provider.

Special Teams: Cloud Foundry is deployable in an enterprise private cloud, a public cloud, or what they call a “micro cloud” model (to run on a laptop for development).  I suspect they will have a very strong licensing and maintenance business for the enterprise versions of Cloud Foundry.  They’ll also get support and maintenance fees from many cloud service providers who see the value in paying for it.  Of course, CloudFoundry.com is a service itself, which may be a problem for other cloud service providers to join the federated model.  This is something they will need to think about – EMC Atmos Online eventually had to be closed to new customers based on push back from other service providers who were looking to also be in the cloud storage business.  It’s hard to get service providers to use your stuff if you’re competing against them.

Just over a year ago I argued that VMware should “Run a Cloud…” as one of their options.  In fact, I predicted a Spring is the key to them being a cloud provider:

Their alternative at that point is to offer their own cloud service to capture the value from their enterprise relationships and dominant position.  They can copy the vertically integrated strategy of Microsoft to make push-button deployment to their cloud service from both Spring and vCenter.

Gartner’s Chris Wolf is following a similar line of thinking, especially when you add last week’s EMC -> VMware Mozy transfer.

So where does that leave Team CloudFoundry?

For now, they are on the field, in the game, and playing like winners.  Let’s see if they can march down the field before the defense gets into a position of strength.

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(c) 2011 CloudBzz / TechBzz Media, LLC.  All rights reserved.  This post originally appeared at http://www.cloudbzz.com/seamicro-atom-and-the-ants/. You can follow CloudBzz on Twitter @CloudBzz.