The PaaS landscape is changing. Many of the anticipated shifts are yet to come. Most of the expected changes are based on predictions of what the big players should do to align themselves for a prosperous future.
Last week, the nonprofit foundation tasked to oversee the open source Cloud Foundry project was announced. Like large stones being placed on one side of a weighing scale, things tipped in favor of Cloud Foundry as the open-source PaaS solution to bet on.
Given the choice, large enterprises want the solution that has the greater chance of success. They want a solution that offers agility and many options. They want a solution that many other large organizations are invested in. With the announcement of this foundation comes several large players sticking a stake in the ground and investing in Cloud Foundry. If you are already invested in a non-Cloud Foundry PaaS, what do you do now?
To date, much of development into Cloud Foundry alternatives has been driven by vendors of OpenStack, looking to expand their offerings and provide the next level of solutions on top of OpenStack. OpenStack vendors are currently spreading their investment in PaaS technology across Cloud Foundry, OpenShift, Solum, Murano and other projects.
Only time will tell which way Red Hat will go. On one hand, Ben Kepes hears from an industry insider that "Red Hat will shutter OpenShift and throw its hat in with Cloud Foundry within the year". On the other hand, we hear predictions from Mirantis' Chairman Alex Freedland that, "Red Hat and OpenStack will double down on its own PaaS initiatives inside OpenStack, giving customers more interesting options to choose from."
Freedland's predictions seem a lot less likely. Solum has not yet made it off the runway and its initiator, Rackspace, is among those pledging their investment into Cloud Foundry in last week's announcement. It does not seem wise to be doubling down on Solum right now. That said, ActiveState is not totally abandoning this project and we are waiting to see how it evolves.
So why now? What changed? Why are these big players joining the ranks of Cloud Foundry?
As Jordan Novet of VentureBeat put it, "Now they’ll have the security of knowing they’ll have more control over the future of the project, which VMware began in 2011.".
This new foundation will be the major turning point in the Cloud Foundry project. The project has had a long road to true openness that makes it difficult for others to play in the same sandbox as their competitors. The move from VMware to Pivotal was a big change, but the foundation will take openness to a whole new level.
Everyone involved with the Cloud Foundry project can reap the dividends of the true openness the foundation will bring.
Backers can throw development resources at the project without fear of committing code to a project governed by a competitor. This means more code, more eyes, more testing and more features.
Smaller organizations win, because they can now move forward with rolling out Cloud Foundry. They know it is backed, not by a single company, but by a foundation. In the February Cloud Foundry Community Advisory Board Meeting, Dr. Nic from Stark & Wayne stressed the importance of getting production fixes in the core code and out into releases as quickly as possible. As he put it, "It would be nice if we can reduce the cost of owning Cloud Foundry."
There are still places where the lines between Pivotal and Cloud Foundry are blurred. This starts with "Who is Cloud Foundry?", but goes much deeper. Questions surrounding identity and mandate have been inevitable from the history of this open source project and Pivotal is aware of this. The impetus for the foundation and its open governance model makes it clear that they have been seeking enhancements and structural changes to clarify blurred lines.
Another conflated area is in the processes surrounding code commits and release builds. Matthew Kocher, Director of Engineering at Pivotal, describes the release process as "mixing the streams", due the fact that an open-source release of Cloud Foundry is driven solely by updates to Pivotal's commercial public PaaS. He intends to see that this is separated.
In the week since the foundation was announced, the .NET solution to Cloud Foundry, Iron Foundry, has been officially submitted into the Cloud Foundry project. Uhuru, who also provided a Windows server solution to Cloud Foundry, has open-sourced their code. ActiveState has also committed to open-sourcing their file-system service and hopes to continue this with more components of Stackato.
Everyone wins with the new Cloud Foundry foundation. Everyone, that is, who is part of Cloud Foundry ecosystem. There is no doubt that we will see a snowball effect over the next 12 months.