As I advocate the bright future PaaS holds in the cloud era, I never missed a chance to point our how VMware’s CloudFoundry is disrupting this space. The reason I think CloudFoundry is disruptive is because of the open approach they take (OpenPaaS) in their platform services. While there are some lock-in worries about the cloud itself, PaaS has a much bigger lock-in threat. Imagine relying on single provider’s infrastructure and their customized development platform. The cost of moving out of such a service is prohibitively expensive. This is where the multi-cloud approach promoted by Cumulogic got really attractive. But CloudFoundry (and later Redhat’s OpenShift) took it beyond multi-cloud into a multi-language, multi-framework open source approach. This OpenPaaS approach greatly minimizes the lock-in concerns, offering higher flexibility than the hosted versions. In my opinion, the OpenPaaS approach is critical to PaaS entering the enterprise space.
When CloudFoundry was launched earlier this year, they announced that their multi-cloud approach also included the ability to run CloudFoundry on the desktop or laptop. Yesterday, they announced the public availability of Micro CloudFoundry, the version you can run on any laptop or desktop using VMware Player or VMware Fusion or any other similar software. It is a 800 MB download which can be set up in 5 minutes. The impact on your modern day desktop is minimal and once the app is pushed into it, it can be accessed by others in your network easily. Essentially, this is the same environment as CloudFoundry.com or any service running the code from CloudFoundry.org. This gives developers a seamless experience while testing the code and then pushing out to a production environment. This is clearly a case of not getting locked into any single infrastructure.
The other aspect of OpenPaaS mantra is the support for any language or any frameworks. The general impression people had about these multi-language, multi-framework support was that CloudFoundry will support multiple languages and multiple frameworks, like what few other PaaS providers are offering. But I got excited for entirely different reasons. I saw value in the CloudFoundry’s own framework itself which has been designed to allow third party to add their own programming languages or frameworks, in the true open source spirit. It is a framework which anyone can use to build their own PaaS layer (different from their own PaaS service) using any language or framework that suits them. This is the feature which, in my opinion, is going to crack open the enterprise PaaS market in favor of CloudFoundry. Imagine the flexibility it gives enterprise IT managers while also offering the advantages of PaaS.
Appfog (previous CloudAve coverage), formerly known as PHPFog, is a company that started out offering hosted PHP PaaS and now, based on the market demands, are morphing into a managed cloud platform to build scalable applications. Even though they are focussed on PHP right now, I am expecting them to take a more open approach in the near future. They are now the project lead at CloudFoundry for PHP and their goal is to plug PHP into the CloudFoundry framework. Initial support is available at Github and anyone can pull the code from here. Similarly, ActiveState is leading the efforts to plug Python into the CloudFoundry framework. Not only that, they have built an enterprise focussed PaaS platform using CloudFoundry and it can run on any VMware infrastructure in the enterprise. The efforts around CloudFoundry by AppFog and ActiveState are just the beginning. If my speculation is correct, it is going to take off in a big way and, may, ultimately turn CloudFoundry into the OpenStack of the PaaS world. While many pundits will raise concerns about this claim because of VMware’s presence, I see VMware using CloudFoundry as a way to keep their infrastructure market going. I don’t see them doing anything that will disrupt CloudFoundry, either now or in future. In fact, I see VMware playing a role similar to what Rackspace is doing with OpenStack. At the end of the day, what matters is the license and CloudFoundry is on a strong OSS footing here.
While I am on this topic, let me also plug my favorite topic, ie. the importance of open source in the cloud based world. While some pundits and folks at OCI are hell bent upon proving that only open protocols are important and open source is not critical, examples like OpenStack and CloudFoundry are showing what open source can do to the cloud ecosystem. Not only we see enormous flexibility in the form of coopetition between different players, open source is one critical reason for the emergence of the federated cloud ecosystem. Open source lowers the barriers and helps service providers offer various scalable, interoperable cloud services without any significant barriers to entry. CloudFoundry is going to do the same in the PaaS space. What do you think?