VMware's move is a first step in neutralizing a long-term advantage Microsoft holds in supplying developers with platform-based services. Its Azure cloud is a haven for its strong following of Visual Studio developers. VMware is responding with an expansive platform for Java developers.
VMware's move also brings it into competition with search engine powerhouse Google, whose App Engine cloud, like VMware's, caters to Java developers.
VMware also is treading on the territory of platform specialists, such as Engine Yard and Heroku, both of which cater to Ruby developers. VMware's platform as a service will support both Ruby on Rails and the lean, Web-oriented Sinatra version of Ruby, a project that has been supported by Heroku. The move brings it into more direct competition with Salesforce.com, which paid $212 million for Heroku at the end of last year. Salesforce is the supplier of the Force.com platform as a service.
In the past, VMware has appealed effectively to systems administrators and operations managers in the data center, as they consolidated servers. Now it's appealing over their heads directly to cloud developers. VMware's open source star, Rod Johnson, founder of the Spring project and now general manager of VMware's SpringSource division, will urge Java developers to take advantage of new services by using the VMware platform as a service. He will appear Tuesday with VMware CEO Paul Maritz and several other open source project leaders in an online event designed to appeal to developers.
"We're firmly placing our hat in the ring of platform as a service," Tod Nielsen, VMware's former COO who became co-president with Maritz in January, said in an interview ahead of the announcement. "CloudFoundry.org will be a community open source site. We're leveraging the good will that came with our Spring acquisition."
CloudFoundry.org will be a platform as a service offering running in VMware data centers, where developers will be able to launch development projects. It also will be available as open source code to run in enterprise data centers, and VMware will make a "private cloud" version available as a commercial product at a later date.
There even will be an individual version, Micro-Cloud, that a developer may use to produce an application with all Cloud Foundry services, then deploy it in a public Cloud Foundry setting.
"Because we're a virtualization vendor, we figured out a way to shrink Cloud Foundry to one VM running on a laptop," Nielsen said.
Among the other services that the platform will offer will be point and click deployment of an application server with an application and a choice of database services, including MySQL or the NoSQL MongoDB, and Redis open source systems for handling large data sets.
Johnson, VMware's senior VP of cloud applications, said in a blog on Tuesday that framework services will include the SpringSource Tool Suite and Spring Roo, a tool for rapidly producing code using OSGi object management rules. In the future, other framework services, such as the Rabbit MQ messaging system, will be made available as well, he said.
"We want to serve developers, whatever their chosen language and framework," Johnson said in his blog. That claim sounds under-provisioned for a platform that supports only Java, Ruby on Rails, Sinatra, and a version of Ruby that runs in the Java Virtual Machine, known as Groovy on Grails.
The platform will support services provided in VMware-supported clouds, which include Verizon, Terremark, BlueLock, Colt, and Savvis. Those services include the messaging, load balancing, performance management, and "elastic" or variable-size data handling.