Pivotal Cloud Foundry bundles managed Amazon capacity and simplifies AWS installs

Changes in the latest release of app-development platform Pivotal Cloud Foundry are designed to accelerate uptake and make life easier for coders.

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The installation dashboard on Pivotal Cloud Foundry's Ops Manager showing the AWS tile. Image: Pivotal

As well as bundling in managed Amazon Web Services capacity free with Cloud Foundry subscriptions, EMC and VMware spinoff Pivotal has also unveiled a simpler way to install its application development platform on AWS.

The moves are designed to boost uptake of the Pivotal Cloud Foundry platform as a service, which the company said accounted for $40m in sales in the final three quarters of 2014, and make it easier for developers to get down to work.

Pivotal cloud platform group vice president James Watters said the primary objective behind today's announcements is to simplify the use of Pivotal Cloud Foundry, the firm's distribution of the open-source PaaS.

"The first thing is just a matter of executing on a simpler install experience of bringing a virtual appliance for the platform to Amazon. Now that's a very special virtual appliance in the Amazon Marketplace because with a lot of other appliances you start an AMI [Amazon Machine Image] and you get one AMI," Watters said.

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"When you start ours, it's actually the control plane for the platform that will self-create itself there. So when you start ours, it says, 'What are your Amazon credentials and tell me how large a platform you'd like?'. You say, 'I need 600 nodes'."

Then in about an hour and a half 600 virtual machines have been created, with Pivotal's built-in operating system layered on them, together with rest of the platform as specified in the tick-box menu - including, for example, 600 app worker nodes and 30 database nodes.

"As opposed to having to wait to order datacentre equipment, it's bringing your own private platform to Amazon," he said.

"Before, we could do a command-line install for folks on Amazon - the open-source software supported it. But we hadn't quite got it up to this level of, 'Here's your virtual appliance, give me you dim-sum menu, hit go, and away you go - there were a lot of command-line arguments to get that done."

Pivotal Cloud Foundry already offers virtual appliances for the VMware vSphere server virtualisation platform, VMware's vCloud Air public cloud platform and for the OpenStack open-source cloud computing stack.

Watters said some developers might not even want to build a platform themselves, which is why Pivotal has also made its hosted Cloud Foundry edition generally available as part of the subscription.

"Because now you just subscribe to the software and you can, if you're a line-of-business developer and your department or IT has a subscription to the software to use on prem or on Amazon, you can also immediately start consuming our public cloud for free" he said.

"You just consume a licence when you use it. We've embedded the operations and capacity on Amazon into the software subscription, and no one's ever done that. So now a private datacentre dedicated on Amazon or hosted on Amazon - you're free to roam that however you like."

Pivotal's idea is that as soon as a business decides it is going to use Pivotal Cloud Foundry, the development team can start on the platform immediately on Amazon.

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"They're just going to start that day. They're not waiting for IT. Then as soon as IT want to stand up a dedicated version on Amazon for them or stand up one in private, they can - just as easily. It's just another end point," Watters said.

"The way Cloud Foundry works is you just hand it the code and then it runs it for you. There's no configuration. If you hand it the code on our hosted edition, it's just going to do it in the same way that it's going to run in private, so the developer won't know the difference, other than just a different URL that they've going to send the code to. It's all exactly the same."

Watters said at the moment developers who go to Amazon have to learn deploy, operate and manage in a very AWS-specific way, which is at odds with IT processes in the private datacentre.

"There's been this unfair decision that's had to happen. But now you can have one cloud-native architecture that spans the capacity of these different clouds. Finally, we can have something that unites all these things and there are no compromises between control and ease of access," he said.

"This will really help accelerate adoption because as opposed to those six months of waiting for IT to potentially stand it up sometimes, they might just get going the same day that they make the decision."

The bundling of Amazon capacity into the subscription price will save customers money on resources and on the operation of the platform, according to Watters.

"Two things allow us to do that. One is that we use Linux container technology in the platform and so when we start up, we only carve off the exact amount of capacity we need from a Linux container and that's all that we use," he said.

"So it's really hyper-efficient. There's no operating system overhead. You only use the memory footprint that you need. Then we have this very structured automation behind the platform that allows us, with a very small team, to run lots and lots of applications without incremental costs every time you want to add another app."

The price of the subscription remains unchanged and is not rising to absorb the cost of the bundled Amazon capacity, Watters said.

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"This might add 15 to 20 percent margin impact for us in terms of paying for the capacity, depending on how much they consume of it. But it was much more important for to be the best hybrid subscription and to share our efficiencies with our customers than to worry about a little bit of incremental cost because imagine how that slows you down," Watters said.

"You have to go plan to buy a certain amount of cloud capacity and a certain amount on prem. Now it's just an accelerant. You get access to Pivotal Cloud Foundry and your team just makes decisions very rapidly about how and where they want to execute."

As part of this release of Pivotal Cloud Foundry, the company is also launching what it describes as a competitor to Amazon's Relational Database Service, or Amazon RDS.

"We've also got a highly available MySQL service in a cluster that is more available than RDS because it's master-master replicated, as opposed to master-slave, which has failover. It's portable between all the installations. This really fills us out so it's a complete application lifecycle that you have - application automation as well as data-services automation," Watters said.

The open-source Cloud Foundry Foundation, which launched just over a year ago with seven participating organisations, now has more than 45 members.

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