Cloud computing just got a lot stronger and just slightly more weird today with the announcement that IBM would be getting involved with Cloud Foundry, an open source platform as a service currently stewarded by Pivotal.
It's a good kind of weird, to be sure, with IBM announcing that they will be working with Pivotal to collaborate on Cloud Foundry and push the PaaS framework towards a more community-led open source governance.
Pivotal will establish a community advisory board of Cloud Foundry users and vendors—including IBM—to guide the community as outlined on the Cloud Foundry site. Pivotal will continue to steward the Cloud Foundry brand and preserve the trademark from direct commercial use in product names. IBM and Pivotal will co-host a community conference for Cloud Foundry Sept. 8-9 in Santa Clara, Calif.
This sounds like yet-another let's-all-be-pals press release, full of legal department-vetted phrases of positive goodwill. But, given IBM's past history of involvement with open source projects, Cloud Foundry should indeed become a much more vibrant open source project. IBM is a pretty good player in open source land, for the most part.
The weirdness comes into play when you consider that IBM, which has implicitly given its stamp of approval (and therefore a huge market boost) to Cloud Foundry, has effectively brought Cloud Foundry together with OpenStack, the open source cloud infrastructure in which IBM has also decided to invest its resources.
When Cloud Foundry was released in 2011, it was a service to enable developers to pick and choose the framework, cloud and application services for their applications. The idea is, write an application once and off you go. The code for Open Foundry is at CloudFoundry.org. The service itself is over at CloudFoundry.com.
Cloud Foundry is now part of Pivotal, but when it was launched two years ago, it was VMware that launched the project, a direct counter to Red Hat's Cloud Formation umbrella of Red Hat's cloud computing projects. Cloud Foundry was just another attempt to get developers more interested in VMware's ecosystem than Red Hat's.
Yet here we are, with Cloud Foundry now part of the VMware spin-off Pivotal and getting this endorsement from IBM and very likely a stronger connection to OpenStack. If IBM is indeed the bridge between OpenStack and Cloud Foundry, another beneficiary of any open source technology shared between the two projects will be Red Hat, which has also started betting big on OpenStack.
Funny what a difference two years can make.
In a broader market view, today's move is probably the most threatening towards Amazon Web Services and its cloud offerings. Any move that strengthens the developer ecosystem outside AWS—no matter the players involved—is bound to get AWS' attention.
Cloud application development is not easy, especially taking advantage of everything cloud can offer. Platform services like Cloud Foundry make that development process easier and the prospect of using cloud services other than AWS will bolster those cloud offerings, particularly in the North American market. For regions where AWS is not as dominant, a stronger Cloud Foundry will be just more cloud goodness for customers to use.