Pivotal Tries To Steal Amazon's Thunder With Commercial Cloud Foundry Launch

Pivotal, the EMC-VMware spin-off helmed by former VMware frontman Paul Maritz, held its coming out party the same day rival Amazon Web Services convened its second annual developer conference.

Pivotal on Tuesday launched its commercial distribution of Cloud Foundry, the open-source Platform-as-as-Service that has support from IBM, SAP and other enterprise vendors.

Dubbed Pivotal CF, the commercial distribution is part of Pivotal One, the San Francisco-based vendor's name for its integrated portfolio of cloud fabric, data fabric and application fabric technologies.

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Amazon is far and away the dominant cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service player, and Pivotal wants to achieve a similar sort of position in the PaaS space.

So, as Amazon holds its AWS re:Invent conference this week in Las Vegas, Pivotal is pitching its technology as a way for developers to build apps and not have to worry about any of the management and maintenance that comes with using IaaS.

Just as Hadoop has become the operating system for big data, Cloud Foundry will become the de facto solution for enterprise PaaS, Dave Menninger, Pivotal's ‎head of business development and strategy, said in an interview.

Pivotal CF is designed for rapid software iterations and continuous updates. As more enterprises move into developing cloud apps, speed is of the essence, Menninger said. "With everyone becoming a software company, we're trying to enable this new approach to development," he said.

Unlike IaaS, which requires a fair amount of management and maintenance on the part of the user, PaaS lets developers focus just on building apps, Menninger said.

"First you build the app and use Pivotal CF to deploy it. We will then manage the process of mapping that app onto the appropriate number of instances. If one instance fails, we will automatically fix it," Menninger said. Pivotal CF also takes care of chargeback information, he said.

One big challenge cloud developers face is getting their apps to scale on private and public clouds, and Pivotal CF handles this through built-in automation technology, Menninger said.

"You can't provision every one of these servers individually, or monitor them, so you have to have an automated way of dealing with the distribution and deployment process," Menninger said.

It's unclear at this stage what role, if any, partners are going to play with Pivotal CF. Pivotal hired Scott Aronson, a 10-year VMware channel veteran, to build an ecosystem of VARs, ISVs and other partners. But CRN was unable to find any VMware partners who've crossed over.

One reason for this is that not many enterprise- and data-center-focused channel partners are doing much work in big data at the moment, sources told CRN.

Cloud Foundry's biggest impact could be leveling the playing field in the cloud space and taking some steam out of Amazon Web Services' sails. With Pivotal CF, developers can build apps using whatever tools they prefer and, as Maritz often notes, it's a way for them to avoid getting locked into proprietary vendor clouds.

"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," Maritz told CRN in April.

NEXT: New Services That Run On Pivotal CF

Pivotal also is rolling out several services that will run on top of Pivotal CF. One example is Pivotal HD, which lets users build and manage Hadoop clusters from within Pivotal CF. Creating and deploying Hadoop clusters isn't easy to do, and Pivotal HD is aimed at smoothing out the process, Menninger said.

Pivotal HD includes SQL interface in addition to the Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS). Also included is HAWQ, a Greenplum-developed technology that allows queries of HDFS data using standard SQL queries, and YARN, a next-generation Hadoop data-processing framework for running distributed applications.

Another new service is Pivotal AX, an analytics-as-a-service offering that is inherent in apps built on Pivotal CF. Pivotal AX can look at the data customers are managing in Hadoop and analyze the apps, Menninger said.

Rounding out the new services are RabbitMQ, a message broker for apps running on Pivotal CF; and MySQL Dev, which allows a single MySQL instance to be bound into an app for development and testing. This is useful because transaction-oriented databases are a common piece of many cloud apps, Menninger said.

Andrew Brust, CEO of Microsoft-focused research firm Blue Badge Insights, New York, has been briefed on Pivotal CF and told CRN he's still unsure what value the whole Pivotal stack brings.

"On the one hand you've got Pivotal HD and HAWQ, which is the Pivotal Hadoop stack, undergirded by the IP from the Greenplum MPP data warehouse technology," Brust said in an email. "On the other hand, you've got various BI, cloud and developer components inherited from EMC and VMware."

As someone with a developer and business intelligence background, Brust said he can understand the motivation for bringing these technologies together, but he isn't sure it will resonate with customers.

"I think the burden is on Pivotal to prove that another enterprise PaaS cloud, based on an open-source stack, is something that will benefit the market," Brust said. "And there's a further burden on the company to show why combining that cloud platform with a message queue, a Java API, a BI front end and other developer knick-knacks is natural or contrived."

Pivotal isn't sharing any pricing details for Pivotal CF. Menninger said it will be licensed as a service with pricing based on usage.