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Ben Kepes is an analyst, and entrepreneur, an commentator, and a business adviser. His interests include a diverse range of industries from manufacturing to property technology. As a commentator he has a broad presence both in the traditional media and as an extensive blogger. He sits on the boards of a number of organizations, both commercial and not-for-profit. Ben is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 197 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Cloud Foundry–A Beautiful Thing for Users, Questions for Vendors

04.21.2011
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This week’s announcement by VMware of its CloudFoundry PaaS product was an exceptionally refreshing surprise. Other have commented that it’s a rare thing for a big company to really do things right – but with CloudFoundry, VMware have ticked every box – opensource? Yes, avoids lock-in? yes, value added? yes.

A quick recap of what CloudFoundry is, and does;

  • Open PaaS
  • Supports apps in Java, Rails, Node.JS
  • MongoDB, MySQL and Redis support
  • Use it public, private and cross infrastructure
  • No lock in (did I mention no lock in – this is BIG)

The comments among the clouderati were ebullient to say the least. Even the most cynical of souls, the ex-president of the private cloud himself, Christian Reilly, found himself getting excited;

ebullient

The comments from the blogosphere have been very positive – Krish (who has been testing CloudFoundry for some time) loves it, hell even Gartner, not normally quick to jump on latest developments, is positive. I see this through two different lenses, so here they both are;

For developers, end users and IT staffers everywhere

This is awesome – PaaS IS the future of cloud, providing more value than IaaS and more flexibility than SaaS. PaaS that gives users the ability to migrate, that lets them use their stuff wherever they like is truly golden. This is a big moment

For the vendors

This kind of hurts. No one has ever made any money from OpenSource (deliberate provocative statement that is very over stated but intended to get people thinking). We’ve seen a real commoditization of infrastructure over the past couple of years. That kind of culminated a week or so ago with the OpenCompute project launched by Facebook which OpenSourced their data centre design – great for some, but also creating yet another commodity layer with little opportunity for differentiation.

There is every chance that CloudFoundry (and the offerings that other vendors introduce in response – because they will) will further commoditize the market place – only this time higher up the stack where there was still money to be made. Simon Wardley in his inimitable style suggests that this is in fact the intention of VMware – Wardley couches this in terms of a;

huge moat devoid of differential value in the platform space and a vast ecosystem driving this

If this is the intention – I worry about the unintended consequences of commoditizing something ABOVE the layer in which your bread and butter lies – VMware runs the risk of cutting off it’s nose in spite of its face (cue a dodgy metaphor).

So… where does the real opportunity lie. Well as Wardley points out, the real money comes from the high touch stuff – brokerage, marketplaces and, ultimately, service. It’s the very reason Rackspace has invested so much in OpenStack (disclosure – Rackspace is a client) – they see the futility of fighting against a juggernaut of commoditization and rather look to steal the edge by getting in early in the services differentiation game.

Summary

CloudFoundry, like OpenStack before it are simply beautiful. Open is good. Moving up the stack with open is even better. I love what it means for the industry and dearly hope that vendors can see ways to avoid fighting a commodity battle but instead determine paths to providing customers with real value built on top of these commodity platforms.

To the cloud (oh yeah, I think someone already took that line). Ah well.

References
Published at DZone with permission of Ben Kepes, author and DZone MVB. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)

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Comments

Mark Unknown replied on Thu, 2011/04/21 - 2:10pm

Actually, PAAS (and most *AAS) are not "good" for IT staffers. Not so much if it is internally hosted. But if it is externally host, then they are needed even less- http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9215448/Pharma_firm_bans_non_SAAS_apps?taxonomyId=12

Lots of good stuff in that article but this one hits home for me: "On the applications side, as of 2009, IT had stopped allowing internal lines of business to buy software that wasn't available as a service, McBride says.

As an example, he cites AMAG's need for "pharmacovigilance", which, per Food and Drug Administration mandate, requires use of an adverse event database in drug safety reporting. "Most pharmaceutical companies bring this in-house, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on servers," says McBride, speaking from more than a dozen years of experience working in biotech IT. "But we told the company we wanted to use, 'host it for us or we'll find somebody else who will."

Shoaib Almas replied on Sat, 2012/08/25 - 5:49am

I don’t know much about Cloud Foundry as it’s only been out for a few days, but I would perceive it as VMware re-positioning themselves in a changing market. I say good luck to them for embracing a community driven approach.

As much as people knock VMware for their IaaS centric cloud-washing and their definitions of cloud computing being so centric on their own products, I still see VMware as a fundamental architecture that underpins the layers sitting above them.

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