IBM, Pivotal Partner To Push Cloud Foundry PaaS Development

IBM said Wednesday it is backing Cloud Foundry, an open source platform-as-a-service being developed under the wing of Pivotal, the EMC-VMware big data startup.

By teaming up with Pivotal and Cloud Foundry, IBM wants to help developers focus on getting apps to the cloud without having to worry about whether the underlying technology will be compatible.

The first product of the IBM-Pivotal partnership is IBM WebSphere Liberty, a lightweight version of IBM's WebSphere Application Server that helps developers respond to enterprise and market needs more quickly by getting less complex, rapid development and deployment of Web, mobile, social and analytic applications using fewer resources, according to IBM.

[Related: Adapting To The Era Of Big Data And Cloud Requires New Partnerships ]

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In another example of the IBM-Pivotal collaboration, the vendors are holding a joint conference for Cloud Foundry from Sept. 8-9 in Santa Clara, Calif.

Launched in 2011, Cloud Foundry is an open platform as a service that provides a choice of clouds, developer frameworks and application services. The technology makes it faster and easier to build, test, deploy and scale applications, according to the organization.

IBM is responding to vendors' growing appetite for apps that run on the cloud, Chris Ferris, IBM's chief technology officer for the cloud interoperability, told CRN.

"That's what this is all about -- getting to the cloud, fast," Ferris said.

Companies like IBM are feeling the pressure to develop applications in order to keep up with the rapid pace of development, he said, driven in large part by mobile devices.

In other words, employees using their own devices for work are discovering new apps that enterprise-level companies in particular have not yet adopted. To be competitive, companies need to keep up and focus on users' demands, as well as fast-changing technology, he said.

To do that, developers need to be able to innovate, develop and scale apps fast, Ferris said.

From a channel perspective, open source and open cloud serves partners by giving them choices, he said.

Cloud Foundry is "like an operating system for the cloud," Andy Piper, developer advocate for Cloud Foundry at Pivotal, told CRN.

It doesn't matter which cloud, Piper said, and people can bend and shape the platform in the way they want to, like they did with Linux. "It's all about choice. We're not about restricting you," Piper said.

NEXT: What this means for the channel

Cloud Foundry is also 100 percent about competition with Amazon Web Services, said Jamie Shepard, the North America regional vice president of Lumenate, a Dallas-based national solution provider making a significant investment in the big data arena.

The backing to develop Cloud Foundry is "huge" because the technology supports the development of apps, Shepard said.

Channel partners, he said, are going to need the support of Pivotal and IBM to expand their business model -- by adding consulting services, for example.

Pivotal, he said, understands the need to embrace the channel.

Pivotal gives solution providers and businesses the building blocks needed to build big data applications and services for the cloud. In Europe, for example, Pivotal is working with a company to develop a service for doctors that cross-references genetic history and patient information using big data algorithms, the San Mateo, Calif.-based company said.

EMC, Hopkinton, Mass, owns about 80 percent of VMware, which specializes in virtualizing servers, often the first step to the cloud.

IBM is a big brand and has a lot of customers, expertise and experience, Pivotal's Piper said. He said he thinks IBM's backing will help Cloud Foundry run better.

IBM's Ferris said his company wants Cloud Foundry to benefit from its involvement in the same way that OpenStack did. IBM financial sponsorship, as well technical, legal and marketing know-how, helped the OpenStack community grow from a few hundred sponsors and contributors to one of the most robust open source projects being developed, Ferris said.

"IBM is fully committed to open source and an open ecosystem," he said.