Canopy: A Cloud Foundry Service Provider

Canopy has been set up as a joint venture between Atos (a substantial European-headquartered systems integrator), EMC, and VMware to deliver productized cloud solutions, including Cloud Foundry PaaS. In this post, we explore why.

Canopy offers both IaaS and PaaS solutions, but it is the Cloud Foundry PaaS solution (Canopy Cloud Fabric) that we concentrate on in this post. All successful open-source projects build strong ecosystems of companies that consume or contribute to the project. Sitting between end users and technology companies, systems integrators such as Atos have a role in facilitating adoption.

Why PaaS?

The most important driver here is that Canopy sees PaaS as a way of moving its customers toward a business goal. It may make money from PaaS in the process, but PaaS is primarily seen as a supporting technology for a transition to digital business. This is shorthand for a set of concepts around business becoming responsive to market change and differentiated from its competition through innovation in the systems it delivers across the Internet. Essentially, all businesses are seen as predominantly digital entities that require their own software systems embodying their own personalities.

This in turn moves the enterprise away from consuming packaged applications to constructing its own bespoke software. PaaS is seen as the enabling platform to ensure agility in an enterprise’s software development and deployment. The PaaS layer isolates the customer from the problems of constructing infrastructure—the repetitive plumbing that doesn’t really add value to the digital business.

Canopy sees the transition to digital business as a fairly universal opportunity and/or threat for enterprises across vertical sectors: retail, manufacturing, engineering, and financial services, as well as government. Canopy can thus develop a horizontal capability in PaaS that it can deliver to multiple verticals. One of the challenges of the transition to digital business is that a lot of enterprise IT  has become “hollowed out” by a process of aggressive outsourcing and cost cutting from when IT was viewed as a commodity, and it has lost the skill to actually write applications. Hence the role of the service provider in facilitating the digital business transition for many customers outside the bleeding edge.

One might argue that the term “digital business” was invented by a bunch of industry analysts over one too many overpriced lunches to describe something fairly banal and straightforward. However, the concept has C-level resonance. Moreover, when Atos gets involved in a high-level discussion with its customers about digital business, it can backfill the opportunity with Canopy Cloud Fabric, an appropriate set of solutions and technologies over which it has control. Canopy can then sell development and other services for the applications that are required to transition the customer into a digital business.

The polyglot open nature of Cloud Foundry means that Canopy can offer a fairly broad range of development languages and frameworks as appropriate to the customer account, including some of the more recent rapid development languages. Canopy has some statistics from its own internal use of Cloud Foundry showing a 20% increase in developer productivity, 75% reduction in deployment time, and 83% reduction in time for new project onboarding.

Why Cloud Foundry?

So, the question is: “Why Cloud Foundry and Not OpenShift or Heroku?” The primary answer is that there is an established relationship between Atos and the group of companies linked to EMC (like VMware and Pivotal). Other benefits of Cloud Foundry include the fact that it is open source, that there is an open governance model through the Cloud Foundry Foundation (membership in which gives Canopy some control over the direction of the platform), and that there are a number of substantial high-profile end users within the Cloud Foundry community. These are potential customers for Canopy, as well as reference points that can be used to show the benefit of the technology to other potential customers.

Canopy sees Cloud Foundry as robust and well-developed enough to offer to enterprise customers (at least in the Pivotal CF version, which is supported by Pivotal). However, Canopy’s goal is not just to offer a vanilla Pivotal CF experience to its customers, but also to provide additional value in certain areas. It will deliver in three different modes, depending on customer requirement:

  • Multitenant PaaS
  • Virtual private PaaS (multitenant infrastructure)
  • Private PaaS.

It will host in a range of clouds (including VMware VCloud Hybrid) and its own data centers, and it will both provide SLAs and ensure compliance with data sovereignty laws. It offers hosted SQL and NoSQL database options and can provide application and data services locally for performance and regulatory reasons. It has a number of prebuilt Build Packs that it offers to its customers. Perhaps the most significant benefit to the customer, however, is that the solution is self-contained, and there is a single point of support contact.

In conclusion, the point of interest here is not that a specific service provider is offering Cloud Foundry–based solutions, but that it has chosen to provide a horizontal productized services offering around PaaS. The motivation for doing so is to facilitate a transition to digital business, not to sell software or hardware. The existence of such a productized services offering is a sign of maturity in the Cloud Foundry ecosystem, as well as a requirement for certain forms of customer adoption, away from the early adopter bleeding edge.


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