VMware's Cloud Foundry must deliver on openness pledges

VMware promises to make its Cloud Foundry open to any development framework, application service and cloud infrastructure. Delivering on those promises will determine whether VMware plays a bigger role in the cloud computing space.

VMware's announced Cloud Foundry -- an open source platform-as-a-service (PaaS) -- strengthens the company's standing in the developer and open source communities.

The Palo Alto, Calif virtualization giant stepped into the development and open source arena with the acquisition of SpringSource in September of 2009.

This deal brought VMware a top Java development framework and stewardship of Apache Tomcat, Apache HTTP Server, Hyperic, Groovy and Grails open source communities.

The company has made some other strides by contributing VMare Tools to the open source community, contributing Virtual Machine Interface (VMI) paravirtualization code under the GPL and working with the Linux kernel community as part of the creation of paravirt-ops.

Still, the virtualization giant has been viewed primarily a proprietary company, especially when compared historically to providers of open source hypervisors such as the Linux project and Citrix.

Virtualization is the core enabler of cloud computing. The combination of SpringSource and Cloud Foundry (along with the company's participation in the cloud standards development group)  elevates VMware's standing in the open source world.

Cloud Foundry supports Spring for Java, Ruby on Rails, Sinatra for Ruby and Node.js, and other JVM-based frameworks including Grails, and the company promises that "additional programming frameworks to be rapidly supported in the future. It is important for VMware to honor this commitment.

Additionally, Cloud Foundry is not tied to any particular cloud environment, VMware promises. The PaaS, for instance, will support deployment on any public and private cloud environment including those built on non VMware public clouds as well as VMware's vSphere and vCloud.

VMware this week demonstrated support for Amazon Web Services by cloud management provider RightScale. "Because of the open architecture, it could also be implemented on top of other infrastructure technologies like Eucalyptus or OpenStack," VMware said this week.

VMware also announced this week the beta release of a public cloud PaaS service called www.CloudFoundry.com that is operated by VMware. VMware maintains other public clouds (new and existing VMware partners) will run its open source Cloud Foundry. The latter will also be pivotal to its success.

Steve Herrod, VMware CTO, said in his blog that www.cloudfoundry.org will be open and will integrate with any developer framework, application service or infrastructure.

"Available under the Apache 2 license, this liberal licensing model encourages a broad-based community of contributors.  While not a Spring project, the Cloud Foundry project will be governed like Spring based on the long and successful history of Spring as an open source project.

Cloud computing will be open. VMware's decision to launch Cloud Foundry as an open source project demonstrates the company's grasp that while its virtualization technology leads the pack, the cloud will be led by many. Delivering on the promises of openness this week will determine whether VMware will play a bigger role in cloud computing going forward.

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