Cloud Foundry Gets a Foundation

Pivotal has announced that an open source foundation is to provide external governance for Cloud Foundry.

We’ve written various pieces about open source governance and the importance for a robust governance model to allow widespread adoption. In August 2012, we wrote a post suggesting that VMware merged Cloud Foundry into OpenStack to allow Cloud Foundry to piggyback off the OpenStack governance model. This is not what has happened. Instead, we have a separate foundation for Cloud Foundry.

There are a number of reasons why, in our view, it has panned out this way. In 2012, a big barrier to OpenStack and Cloud Foundry alignment was the product overlap between VMware and OpenStack. Since then, a number of things have happened to change the balance:

  • EMC has spun off Cloud Foundry into a new company called Pivotal, which breaks the tie to VMware’s vCloud stack and allows Pivotal to aggressively target OpenStack as an IaaS platform.
  • Red Hat has become a major adopter of OpenStack for IaaS, but Red Hat has its own competing open source PaaS, OpenShift.
  • Meanwhile, Rackspace and a number of other players, including Red Hat, have put together an initiative, called Solum, to do PaaS inside the OpenStack Foundation.

At the moment, the long-term significance of OpenStack is still in the balance. In truth, OpenStack may have happened too late. Amazon Web Services has huge market traction, and it is aggressively adding features. The commercial realities are that any PaaS foundation needs to take account of the fact that there may never be a dominant open source IaaS layer, even among those players who currently support OpenStack.

So, the tight alignment of OpenStack and Cloud Foundry makes less sense than it did eighteen months ago, and what we have ended up with is two foundations, which have a number of players in common. Pivotal currently quotes the following as founding members of the Cloud Foundry Foundation: Pivotal, EMC, IBM, HP, Rackspace, SAP, VMware, ActiveState, and CenturyLink, of which Pivotal and VMware are more or less EMC subsidiaries, leaving the following:

  • IBM: Publicly a big OpenStack supporter, but dealing with the realities of having acquired SoftLayer, which doesn’t run OpenStack
  • HP: Another big OpenStack supporter, committed to delivering OpenStack clouds in the form of its Public Cloud, CloudSystems, and Converged Cloud
  • SAP: Less involved with OpenStack, but has some OpenStack-related investments
  • Rackspace: The driving member of OpenStack
  • ActiveState: Vendor of the Stackato software platform, a supported and enhanced version of Cloud Foundry that can run on OpenStack but isn’t tied to it
  • CenturyLink: Recently acquired Tier 3, an IaaS public cloud provider, and is extremely connected in the Cloud Foundry space (and probably deserves its own post), but is not a user of OpenStack.

The presence of Rackspace in the Cloud Foundry Foundation will hopefully allow Solum to quietly fade away—there are enough open source PaaS activities in the form of OpenShift and Cloud Foundry. It is clear that there is a matrix of competition points among the various founding players, but they are all aligned around OpenStack at the PaaS layer. In contrast, Red Hat is looking quite isolated, and Heroku appears to be on a “desert island.” However, the dynamics of these foundations can lead to a dilution of focus. If it is to succeed in the marketplace, Cloud Foundry will need to ensure both that the foundation is adding more value than is being taken away through the effort of building consensus and, crucially, that Cloud Foundry gains fast adoption in one form or another.

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