There's a new twist in using Cloud Foundry as a platform for developing next-generation applications. The commercial product, Pivotal Cloud Foundry, is frequently installed and used on-premises by enterprise development teams. But the latest version comes with a link to Amazon Web Services embedded in it.
It's more like a nested doll than a mere connection. If resources on-premises don't prove sufficient, a user can click on an embedded virtual appliance, and up pops a Cloud Foundry environment on Amazon to which you're connected. The virtual appliance knows how to provision servers, establish uses, manage identities, and set load balancing. The user only has to tell it how many virtual servers should be initiated. "It calls on the Amazon APIs and builds a set of servers, without you doing anything else," said James Watters, VP of the Pivotal Cloud Platform group.
"Pivotal is the first middleware company to embed cloud capacity in the subscription," he noted. If a customer invokes the cloud capacity, his existing subscription covers the charges. In short, hybrid cloud operations are taken for granted. They can be implemented whenever the user chooses.
Pivotal has previously offered Cloud Foundry on top of Amazon as an option, but the customer needed to learn Amazon practices and procedures, set up an account, launch Cloud Foundry, and then pay Amazon for the per-hour billing.
[Want to learn more about the future of Cloud Foundry and platform as a service? See PaaS Debate Heats Up At Interop.]
Part of Pivotal's announcement on Tuesday included technical support for what is now known as Pivotal Web Services with Enterprise Support -- its Cloud Foundry as a managed service on Amazon. The virtual appliance taps into the managed service.
Watters noted that, in some cases, IT may buy more compute power to support a line of business project, but the capacity hasn't been stood up yet in the data center. In that event, line of business developers could get a project underway at Pivotal Web Services (on Amazon), then move it into the data center as the capacity came on line.
The hybrid approach allows users to migrate an application they're working on via Cloud Foundry on-premises into the cloud, regardless of "differences in the underlying infrastructure," Watters said.
Watters said the online version of Cloud Foundry had not attracted high traffic use, but it experimented with the virtual appliance approach as it provided services to the Sundance Institute, the nonprofit that hosts the annual Sundance Film Festival. "We took Sundance public on Pivotal Web Services and fielded heavy traffic generated by a mobile app. We used it as a developer proof-of-concept and found we could manage it with great efficiency," he said.
That's true in part because under the covers Cloud Foundry is packaging the workloads it's dealing within Docker containers running on a server in the Amazon Virtual Private Cloud. The server can be divided into hundreds of containers, and many containers run in one Amazon Machine Image virtual machine for one customer.
Pivotal Web Services on Amazon is also using containers to convey enterprise workloads back and forth between the cloud and enterprise data center. "We use Linux containers to slice up all those Amazon virtual machines. This is why we can include Amazon use in the subscription price. … We have better economics through containers than we did on Amazon virtual machines by themselves," Watters said.
Applications developed on Pivotal Web Services may be migrated from the cloud back into a private vSphere virtualized environment, or onto an OpenStack cloud, or into VMware's public cloud, vCloud Air.
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