A new spin on Cloud Foundry

VMware and EMC’s Pivotal Initiative could lift Cloud Foundry to higher ground

After months of speculation, EMC and VMware have finally announced plans to unite their cloud and big data technologies in a new venture dubbed the Pivotal Initiative, which could breathe fresh life into Spring and Cloud Foundry.

VMware will move several Tier 2 technologies across to the new subsidiary including VFabric, meaning the Spring Framework and in-data memory cache GemFire will also form part of the group. VMware’s open source PaaS Cloud Foundry and Hadoop analytics tool Cetas will also be transferred to the entity led by Chief Strategy Officer of EMC Paul Maritz, who previously worked for VMware as CEO.

EMC, meanwhile, will bring the big data analytics platform Greenplum (acquired in 2010) and agile tools-focused Pivotal Labs to the umbrella group. EMC acquired VMware back in 2003, and this move merely strengthens already iron-clad links between the two companies.

In a blog post, VMware’s VP of Global Corporate Communications Terry Anderson explained that the alignment of these resources is scheduled for the second quarter of 2013 and that “approximately 600 employees from VMware and 800 employees from EMC” would move across to Pivotal.

She continued:

There is a significant opportunity for both VMware and EMC to provide thought and technology leadership, not only at the infrastructure level, but across the rapidly growing and fast-moving application development and big data markets.  Aligning these resources is the best way for the combined companies to leverage this transformational period, and drive more quickly towards the rising opportunities.

It’s a monumental deal for both parties and also a logical one. VMware’s traditional focus on virtualisation technologies threatened to stifle development in cloud and big data-focused projects. VMware are renowned for their proprietary datacenter work, so it proves especially to difficult to sell commercial cloud products like Cloud Foundry with that branding still attached.

The decision to align with EMC (or, more importantly, rebrand) gives both an opportunity to tackle the commercial cloud world head-on, and there’s no doubt that VMware see value there. With storage specialists EMC alongside and Cloud Foundry spun out, they stand a much better chance of taking on the heavyweights of Amazon, Google and Microsoft.

It also leaves VMware to concentrate on its most profitable arm, the aforementioned virtualisation, and move the marooned Spring framework into a more suitable home, perhaps giving it the new direction it so desperately needs.

Transferring other technologies with Cloud Foundry seems like a natural fit too - especially when you consider Amazon’s recent introduction of data-warehousing service RedShift, the latest in a growing suite of interconnected cloud services. Having a tranche of integrated technologies nearby is helpful to entice enterprise customers as long as they can combine into a cohesive and compelling solution.

Cloud Foundry may still be in beta, but it likely won’t be for much longer, as the chasing pack begin to emerge from several months of tinkering. Details on the operational structure of Pivotal will be revealed early next year, along with an update on its progress.

EMC and VMware has set out their stall for cloud credence in 2013, in what is shaping up to be the year where cloud platforms really pique the interest of the enterprise, and become a cash cow for the players who opt in. If the duo play this to perfection, we could have a new credible contender in the marketplace.

Chris Mayer

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