Maritz: Pivotal Platform Will Sidestep Amazon 'Tax' For Big Data Apps

Pivotal Initiative CEO Paul Maritz told CRN in an exclusive interview that the new EMC-VMware-backed big data venture is set to deliver an "open, data-centric, cloud-independent platform" that will prevent cloud lock-in and eliminate the potential for a "tax" on big data applications from the likes of Amazon.

"We don't want this world to be like the bad old days of the mainframe: when you wrote a COBOL CICS app, you were condemned to pay IBM a tax for all eternity," said Maritz, who is slated to publicly unveil the Pivotal Initiative in an April 29 press conference. "We don't want to make it so when you write an app in Amazon you are condemned to pay Amazon a tax for all eternity."

One of the key ingredients to the new Pivotal offering is Cloud Foundry, the company's open-source cloud computing platform as a service that effectively virtualizes the cloud so "you can write your apps and not care about whether it is running on Amazon or [Microsoft] Azure or VMware or whatever," said Maritz.

[Related: EMC, VMware To Launch Pivotal Initiative As Separate $300M Firm ]

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Thus, Pivotal is aiming to deliver a platform as a service on top of a wide array of infrastructure-as-a-service offerings, from Amazon's EC2 Web Service to Microsoft's Azure and other platforms too. "If infrastructure as a service is the new hardware, we are the new OS on top of it," said Maritz.

"At the end of the day, we intend to be a platform provider," said Maritz. "I hesitate to use the word [OS] because it isn't a really good analogy, [but] we want to provide the operating system for the cloud era."

Maritz said Pivotal's aim is to deliver by the end of the year the new platform as both a service and as an integrated suite of products that can be purchased for on-premise use by customers. "Our goal is that you will be able to get it both ways," he said. "You can buy the software or you'll be able to take it as a service from a variety of providers by the end of this year.

"We think for a long time particularly larger customers -- for regulatory reasons, privacy reasons, whatever -- are going to do the stuff on premise," said Maritz. "So you have to have the ability to give them this layer of software on premise, but also work with service providers to make sure that there are a wide variety of people who are offering these capabilities as a service because one of our tenets is that these new classes of applications, these new data-centric applications we are talking about, should be cloud independent. You shouldn't have to be bound into any particular vendor's cloud for all eternity just because you wrote one of these apps."

NEXT: Maritz On Whether Amazon Is Pivotal's No. 1 Competitor

When asked if Amazon is Pivotal's No. 1 competitor in the big data market, Maritz replied: "They are one of the competitors. I think there is going to be a bunch of competitors." That includes, Maritz said, technology industry behemoths like IBM, Oracle and Microsoft, service providers like Amazon and venture-backed companies like Cloudera and Hortonworks.

Amazon, which has been stepping up its bid to play in the big data corporate and government market against EMC, VMware and others, did not return a call seeking comment as of press time.

What separates Amazon from the rest of the pack, said Maritz, is they "don't expose an analytics capability to their end customer; they expose a shopping experience that is constantly adapting to who you are and what you are doing."

That is the kind of big data business applications experience that Pivotal is aiming to power with its Cloud Foundry platform. "We are trying to build this cloud abstraction layer and then put the data-centric services on top of that," said Maritz.

"Because we think at the end of the day, big data is not just about analytics," he said. "It is really about driving some experience to a customer and causing them to do things in real time."

Pivotal also plans to pull a page from the playbook of consumer-grade big data platforms like Amazon by building on top of industry-standard Intel processor-based architectures. "The new infrastructure-level clouds, most of which are based on Intel processors, are critical," said Maritz. "Because when you are trying to do things, as I said at a level of scale, automation and cost effectiveness, you need a new generation of infrastructure to do that. And that infrastructure is going to be cloud and x86 based."

So what does Maritz think that means for rivals like IBM and Oracle, which are moving to build cloud platforms on their own IBM Pure-based and Oracle Exadata-based platforms? "You show me one consumer cloud that is built on Pure or Exadata or [IBM] Z Series or anything else," said Maritz, noting that "if you want to be informed, look at what the consumer guys have done. They point to the future."

One source, who is close to Pivotal and requested anonymity, said Maritz is aiming to build a Google-like platform for big data applications. "Paul's vision is to create a Google-like operating system for the enterprise," said the source. "Look at Google's search platform, which enables search and applications and collaboration and sharing. That is what Paul [Maritz] is trying to build for businesses with Pivotal."

The key differentiator between Pivotal's business platform and Google's is that Google attempts to lock customers into its search engine and collaborative products sets, while the Pivotal platform is open, said the source. "Pivotal is trying to create the next evolution of business services by providing a platform that integrates old legacy data with new big data applications and services," said the source.

The source envisions the Pivotal platform making automated intelligent decisions "based on the performance and requirements" of various big data applications "without having to worry about the platform, the hardware or the hypervisor that is being consumed anywhere at any time."