VMware celebrated the first anniversary of its Cloud Foundry development platform Wednesday, and during the festivities on Hillview Ave. in Palo Alto, which included a cake with a single candle, all I could think of, was: "Why is VMware doing this?"
Why is it a big deal that Cloud Foundry is one year old? Cloud Foundry has experienced 75,000 downloads since it became available as open source code. So what? Those 75,000 downloads would constitute a slow day for MySQL or the Apache Web Server.
What does a cloud-based development environment have to do with VMware's primary mission, which is advanced management of the data center through virtualized operations? What did Cloud Foundry have to do with getting VMware's cloud enabling products inside the doors of more service suppliers? Not much, I thought.
When Cloud Foundry was first announced, I assumed it would become a platform hosting VMware's own Spring Framework and related tools, and this platform would be geared to building applications that would automatically be packaged into ESX Server virtual machines and run in a VMware partner cloud. The development environment would be compatible with the production environment, smoothing the task of deployment.
[ Want to see how VMware is expanding a network of cloud partners around the world? See VMware Rapidly Expands Cloud Partner Network. ]
VMware called a gathering of the press--it organized the event as a rough equal to its launch of vSphere 4 at its headquarters three years ago--in effect to say those assumptions were not correct. Platform as a service is a cloud service delivery model where the user may build software in a cloud-based environment with lots of assistance on secondary systems and other basic plumbing. This approach has the benefit of reducing or eliminating deployment issues; the development environment is a near match to the production environment.
Heroku is another PaaS system running on Amazon, but Cloud Foundry has taken the PaaS idea a step further. It's an example of not only multiple development languages in the cloud; it also supports deployment to multiple clouds.
CTO Steve Herrod said VMware was unsure whether many developers would express interest. It had set a goal of 5,000 in the first year; 10,000 signed up in the first three days. "That was a bit of a problem," he said. If enough developers adopt it, Cloud Foundry will become "the Linux of cloud computing," he said. After giving early developer sign up numbers, however, VMware officials declined to state how many current active users Cloud Foundry has, which was curious. They stuck to the 75,000 download figure, many of which were probably the micro version of Cloud Foundry for a PC or laptop.
Mark Lucovsky, VP of engineering for Cloud Foundry, said VMware and outside contributors have been improving the operational capabilities of Cloud Foundry so that code from a contributor can be turned over to an automated system for function and performance tests. The test results are rated automatically by the Jenkins system, resulting in a pass or fail mark. That tells project reviewers and committers whether it's worth their time to look through the submitted code, yielding improved efficiency in the project.
"Eighty percent of our work has been below the waterline," said Lucovsky, displaying an above and below the water picture of a massive iceberg. That's interesting because it means Cloud Foundry isn't just duplicating what other frameworks do but is bringing automated procedural improvements to the development process itself. Lucovsky, by the way, is the developer whose departure from Microsoft for Google several years ago prompted CEO Steve Ballmer to throw a chair across the room. He joined VMware in 2009.
Other speakers included Jerry Chen, VP of product management, Vadim Spivak, senior staff engineer, Kenn Saar, senior staff engineer, and Pat Bozeman, senior director of engineering. They cited Cloud Foundry's environment for multiple languages and multiple development frameworks. Spring serves Java developers, but Cloud Foundry also has two Microsoft .Net development frameworks, Ruby, Erland, JRuby, PHP, Python, Grails 2, and Chef deployment tools. In other words, it's become an open and general purpose development environment, one of the keys to its acceptance by developers.
Also, Cloud Foundry itself is open source code under the Apache license, which allows independent software vendors to take the code and add proprietary enhancements to it to make a product. Herrod said 3,300 alterations and forks in the code have been produced, a sign of developer activity, ISV interest, and ability to produce their own products from the code base.
Still, I don't quite agree with Herrod's analogy between Cloud Foundry and Linux. Cloud Foundry is not a cloud operating system, nor is it a general purpose system for building clouds that stay vendor neutral.