Developers cite many benefits to working on cloud platforms, including speeded up projects and the ability to tap into platform-provided components, like Web servers and application servers. But it's a surprise when the youngest platform-as-a-service offering gets the highest ratings.
As might be expected, Google's App Engine and IBM's Smart Cloud rated as the top pick for public cloud and private cloud platforms, respectively, given the tools and components that both provide. But the top overall pick was VMware's young Cloud Foundry, launched in mid-April and "a very notable newcomer's entrance into the field," wrote Michael Rasalan, author of the Evans Data November report, "Users Choice: 2011 Cloud Services."
"VMware's Cloud Foundry ... brings with it a novel approach to delivering cloud services that places more control in the developers' hands. Perhaps for this reason, developers responded favorably to its offerings and ideas," said Rasalan in an assessment of cloud rankings by 14 factors. In addition to being tops overall, Cloud Foundry was second to Google as a public cloud platform and second to IBM as a private cloud platform.
Evans Data assembled all the ratings so that they created a score that fell between 2000 and 2700. The distance between the leaders was not that great. While Cloud Foundry came in with a score (estimated from the Evans Data bar chart in the report) of 2695, Google was close behind at 2533, and IBM at 2500. AT&T's Synaptic Compute Cloud showed up at 2400, HP's Enterprise Cloud Services at 2390, and Amazon Web Services at 2300, the latter three with surprisingly strong showings, since they're best known for offering plain infrastructure services more than developer platform services.
[ Want to know who VMware's five closest cloud partners are? See VMware's Maritz Predicts Hybrid Cloud Future. ]
Surprisingly, Microsoft's Azure registered only 2100, slightly behind Salesforce.com's Force.com at 2115. Evans Data surveys historically have been addressed to a body of independent, non-vendor-specific developers who rarely score Microsoft tools or services at the top of the pack. Other surveys and market research report Microsoft offerings in a stronger position. Nonetheless, with a key developer group, Microsoft's Azure appears to be making little headway.
Developers often produce software in the cloud because it's easier to coordinate a geographically distributed team there. It's also an environment where a variety of tools and supporting plumbing, such as connections to databases or Web services, may be found.
Cloud Foundry offers developers a broad set of open source tools and Java middleware that came with its acquisition of SpringSource, the supplier of the Spring lightweight Java development framework. In addition to Java, however, Cloud Foundry offers the Ruby scripting language and the Ruby on Rails rapid development framework, as well as lesser-known options such as Node.js and Sinatra.
Developers also like producing software in the cloud because, in some cases, the development environment closely resembles the deployment environment. By developing and testing software in the same architecture to which it's to be deployed, developers often produce more reliable applications that run better in actual operations.
"The ability to use any number of services in conjunction with the Cloud Foundry platform appears to appeal greatly to its users," Rasalan wrote, The VMware offering also competed on price with its competitors.
But perhaps more important is the fact that services developed on Cloud Foundry can be deployed to either internal servers or several public infrastructure-as-a-service providers. RightScale, a cloud workload preparer and deployment service, has illustrated that Cloud Foundry (VMware has made it open source code) can be run on top of Amazon Web Services EC2. In addition, applications placed in VMware virtual machines can be distributed to VMware's cloud partners, such as BlueLock or Colt.
Dave McJannet, director of VMware cloud and application services, said in an interview that developer choice in deployment as well as development "was clearly a priority" to the developers attracted to Cloud Foundry. Among other options, developers may run their applications in their own environments or even on their own laptops because VMware provides Micro Cloud Foundry for individual machines.
The Spring Framework in Cloud Foundry will automatically deploy an application into the Cloud Foundry infrastructure at the push of a button. The foundry also provides a command line interface that will deploy an application to whichever public cloud the developer names, he added.
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