Pivotal continues enterprise PaaS push, questions linger

The upgraded Pivotal CF offers added security and control, but questions still linger over whether Cloud Foundry can live up to its promises.

Pivotal has included some intriguing upgrades to its latest enterprise PaaS offering, but plenty of work must be done before Cloud Foundry lures the enterprise market.

Pivotal this month released the latest version of Pivotal CF, its private platform as a service (PaaS) based on Cloud Foundry. This latest version allows enterprises to focus on applications and not the underlying infrastructure -- or tasks such as starting virtual machines or load balancing -- by offering multiple availability zones and increased monitoring capabilities, the company said.

Analysts praised the upgrades, but they see a long road ahead for the consortium behind the open source Cloud Foundry initiative if it wants to gain more traction with enterprise customers.

[Enterprises] are interested in Cloud Foundry, but there's a hell of a lot more work to be done.

John Rymer,
analyst, Forrester Research

"[Enterprises] are interested in Cloud Foundry, but there's a hell of a lot more work to be done," said John Rymer, an analyst with Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Forrester Research Inc.

The success of Cloud Foundry will come down to the actual quality of the products from backers such as IBM and HP, Rymer said.

"What we heard very loud and clear [from enterprises] is when we adopt, we have to know every operation that happened in the system -- whether it's machine talking to machine, provisioning services, or it's a developer pushing an application," said Dekel Tankel, director of the Cloud Foundry product team.

One of the big focuses in the latest version of Pivotal CF is to improve the operational experience, according to Donnie Berkholz, an analyst with RedMonk, an industry analysis firm based in Portland, Maine. Auditing translates into transparency that is essential for the product to grow beyond early adopters.

"The rest of the world, they have the same expectations as they always had in terms of security, governance, compliance and tying in with on-premises authentication systems," Berkholz said.

Berkholz attended the Cloud Foundry Summit earlier this month and said in some ways the product is ahead of other private PaaS offerings. And while customers he spoke with said Cloud Foundry made tremendous progress, there was still concern over the ability to ensure the features work seamlessly and reliably.

DevOps upgrades

Pivotal has positioned its PaaS product to help enterprises avoid vendor lock-in and bridge the gap between developers and operators. The company sees this as a critical step toward changing the way enterprises build and deploy applications.

Developers are more empowered in terms of influence on technology because of the abilities provided by open source technology. So one of the key improvements is the polyglot support in a technology world where language use is more fragmented and less top-down, Berkholz said.

"To cater effectively to developers you can't just support one or two languages anymore," he said.

Pivotal hasn't publicly disclosed the cost of its service, but said it charges on an application-instance basis, as opposed to a hardware-usage model common in infrastructure as a service.

IBM: The Cloud Foundry bellwether

The new features are important, Rymer said, but enterprises make decisions based on the company and the overall product.

Rymer said he's watching IBM the closest, as it has the potential to put Cloud Foundry over the top. The company has aggressive plans with BlueMix and its customers want to see it succeed, he added.

"They have such influence with large corporations and enterprises," Rymer said. "They could make it happen, but the product has to be right and the pricing has to be right, otherwise we've seen this before."

The 2013 Forrester Forrsights Developer Survey found 24% of respondents had either built or deployed applications in a public cloud. That means there's still time to grab market share, but that window is shrinking, Rymer said.

"They are late," Rymer said. "A lot of people are making bets, and if they don't get it right this time, I wouldn't want to go for another start."

Trevor Jones is the news writer for SearchCloudComputing. You can reach him at tjones@techtarget.com.

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