Today Tier3, Bellevue based enterprise cloud hosting provider, announced that they are adding .NET support to CloudFoundry (previous CloudAve coverage) by forking it. With this, they are essentially pushing VMware’s PaaS solution into Windows shops who might be interested in using an open source alternative. Remember it is not a mono implementation but .NET based one of CloudFoundry’s PaaS solution. As I have mentioned many times in the past, my excitement towards CloudFoundry is not just due to the open source part but also due to the fact that it is an open framework and anyone can plug in support for a new language with or without VMware’s blessings. This truly open nature of their PaaS platform is what makes CloudFoundry so powerful and it is one of the biggest reasons for my unabashed advocacy of their offering. Tier3 took advantage of this openness to offer support for a programming language which is bread and butter for VMware’s greatest adversary, Microsoft.
Tier3 is announcing an open source project called IronFoundry which is open source .NET implementation for CloudFoundry. IronFoundry comes in two flavors: downloadable open source code that can be implemented on premise and a promotional hosted offering which is initially free for 90 days and developers can get extra free months by referring others to this free offer. Tier3 is donating their enterprise grade infrastructure pool for this purpose. Hopefully, VMware takes this project and makes it a part of their hosted offering at Cloudfoundry.com.
IronFoundry consists of three core components:
- Core .NET fork of CloudFoundry. Tier3 will ensure that this fork is in synch with the main CloudFoundry branch
- Windows version of CloudFoundry Explorer
- Visual Studio plugin for CloudFoundry
Tier3 is releasing IronFoundry under Apache 2 license and the source code of all the components will be available on Github.
Why this is interesting?
I am really excited about this announcement because it has a potential to be disruptive in the space, if the stars align favorably. Let me outline below why I think this announcement is interesting.
- First, and foremost, this is the first clear fork of CloudFoundry (not sure if HP porting CloudFoundry to work on OpenStack can be considered as a fork as they haven’t announced anything about the release of any modifications to the source code) without VMware’s full participation. Yes, this project has VMware’s philosophical support (which can be found from the quote offered by Jerry Chen, VP of cloud and application services at VMware on Tier3’s press release) but they haven’t officially announced any blessing for the project or announced Tier3 as the lead for .NET support (much like what they did with ActiveState, Appfog and Joyent). If my guess is right, there is another startup trying to implement .NET on CloudFoundry and they must be waiting to see where these two efforts go before giving their official blessing. In the absence of any such support by VMware, this is a clear fork of the CloudFoundry project.
- Many in the enterprise space are still not comfortable with the idea of public clouds. Whether cloud purists like it or not, private PaaS is getting quite a bit of attention with enterprises. Microsoft has no private PaaS solution because of the technical underpinnings of Azure architecture. Their Azure appliance is not suitable for the private PaaS play. I am getting some indications that they are working towards a private PaaS solution but the fact of the matter is that there is no private cloud version of Azure available in the market today. Apprenda (previous CloudAve coverage) has been filling the gap with their own proprietary private PaaS solution. With the release of ironFoundry, enterprises now have an open source option for .NET based private PaaS. I have a feeling that if VMware embraces the .NET implementation, they can take the fight to the doors of Microsoft on the .NET cloud space. Right now, Apprenda has been sitting pretty with many customers from verticals such as financial sector, insurance sector and pharma but an open source .NET implementation of CloudFoundry could turn to be a formidable threat for them. It will be interesting to see how Apprenda positions themselves in the .NET CloudFoundry era. Even though Microsoft folks might spin this project as no threat to Azure, this will definitely push them to accelerate their private cloud strategy (I am really hoping to hear from them on this at 2012 MMS).
- HP has ported CloudFoundry to run on top of OpenStack and Citrix’s Cloud.com was helping OpenStack with Hyper-V support (well, I don’t know about the current status but it was the case before the acquisition). Let us assume all the dots are connected sometime in the future, we will be having .NET based PaaS running in more places without Microsoft in the picture. This scenario makes PaaS space even more interesting.
- Clearly, this will let developers use .NET at the PaaS layer without worries about Microsoft lock-in. Believe me, I have been talking to many .NET developers who are yet to embrace Azure (some of them are using AWS Windows instances for their needs) and they are not ready to get locked into Microsoft infrastructure.
- From Tier3’s perspective, this is going to help them in a big way with their 2012 plans (and beyond).
- This also helps me further advocate my pet topics such as Open Source is critical in the cloud based world and federated clouds.
I will definitely do another post once I get to talk to Apprenda and Microsoft in the coming weeks. This is a great news for CloudFoundry community and may even end up pushing CloudFoundry as the defacto leader in the PaaS space. ideally, I would love to see VMware support for this project as it will help the project gain traction among the enterprises. Even otherwise, this project has a potential to solve the needs of niche enterprise customers who want to use .NET without dealing with Microsoft licenses. We will have to wait and see the impact of this announcement in the coming months.