Pivotal CEO Maritz Teases 'Linux For The Cloud'

VMware spinoff's first product, Pivotal One, arriving later this year, will pose open source competition to Amazon Web Services and others, Maritz says.
VMware Vs. Microsoft: 8 Cloud Battle Lines
VMware Vs. Microsoft: 8 Cloud Battle Lines
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Pivotal, a spin-off from VMware/EMC formed last December, will "later this year" launch Pivotal One, a software stack meant to support a future generation of big data, scale-out cloud operations, CEO Paul Maritz said in a rare public appearance.

Maritz offered his remarks at the kick-off address at the venture capital event, CloudBeat, in San Francisco on Monday. Throughout what was billed as a discussion of "An OS for The Cloud," Maritz was poker-faced, explaining to the crowd that he held a great hand but couldn't show it to them.

Maritz has made few public appearances since stepping down as VMware CEO and stepping into the CEO's role as head of the Pivotal Initiative, a subsidiary set up to assemble the open-source assets that were once part of VMware and EMC. Getting those assets off the books of VMware appears to have increased that company's revenue per employee and improved the firm's standing on Wall Street. The company's stock regained some of its value, even as Maritz spoke. It closed Monday at $87.08, up $2.27, compared to its 52-week low of $64.86.

Maritz predicted that the cloud platforms of the future will follow the pattern set by the market leader, Amazon Web Services, but they won't necessarily be proprietary, like Amazon. "We'll see the development and open-source community essentially come up with Linux for the cloud," he predicted.

[ Was EMC and VMware's spin-off of the Pivotal Initiative a great idea or off base? See EMC's Pivotal Plan: Brilliant Or Crazy? ]

But beyond that, Maritz was at his shadow-boxing best as he spoke of the necessity of moving to a new generation of scale-out cloud applications, while offering few specifics of how Pivotal will help the enterprise get there.

The remark has been interpreted by those who heard it to mean that Pivotal is working on its own cloud operating system. That may be, but it's just as likely to be a reference to the work already being accomplished at Open Stack, of which VMware is a member. Pivotal is likely to be aiming to bring an application software stack to developers. Instead of being the Linux of cloud computing, think of Pivotal One as assembling the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) stack of the cloud. The software stack will be useful with different clouds, but count on it having some special integrations with the VMware vCloud Hybrid Service.

As it was spun off, Pivotal became the home of the Spring lightweight framework for Java applications; Cloud Foundry, a developer's platform-as-a-service that can be run on-premises; and GemFire, an in-memory caching system. More importantly, for handling big data off the Internet of Things, it also included the Greenplum open-source data warehouse appliance and software. Greenplum is based on the PostgreSQL open-source database system. That supplies an ANSI SQL compliant relational database to the stack; MySQL wouldn't necessarily meet that standard.

But Pivotal is also aiming to use Hadoop with Query (HAWQ), a way of accessing large amounts of data collected in Hadoop through a SQL query, and consumer-oriented Mozy data access and recovery software.

All of these parts might add up to a rapid, consumer-oriented data management system that could amass, analyze and respond to consumers visiting the future applications of e-commerce websites. But no one has used them in that manner to date because they weren't designed to work together. Pivotal One, for at least some of those pieces, should change that.

Maritz' business plan for Pivotal calls for it to have $1 billion in revenues by 2017, or about three years after Pivotal One first sees the light of day. But what will be the marketplace value of Pivotal? It was announced GE had invested $105 million, as Pivotal became a limited liability subsidiary in April. Some observers estimated GE's $105 million share at that time as 10%.

Maritz, a former Microsoft executive, spoke of how Microsoft became the dominant vendor of the client-server era. Apple showed what could be done at the edge of the network with a smart phone. But that dominance eventually gives rise to a more open set of technologies, with Linux as a leading component and the Apache Web Server eventually displacing Microsoft, and Android "closing the gap with Apple's."

In the cloud era, Amazon Web Services already has five times the market share of its 14 largest competitors combined, as represented by Gartner in its recently released Magic Quadrant on cloud computing. That doesn't matter, Maritz said.

The cloud will not stay on a proprietary path for long and become another mainframe-type technology, he said. Each new era has its own dominant player "who points the way, but inevitably developers find how to counter its proprietary and lock-in ways," he said.

"That's why we're positioning Pivotal as a new platform for a new era," he said. Exactly what that platform will be remains to be seen, but as we've seen in the past, Maritz, given enough moving parts, will try to build a Swiss watch.