3 Quotes Explain It All: Why IBM Is Betting On Cloud Foundry

July 29, 2013 Stacey Schneider

IBM on Cloud FoundrySince we announced our collaboration on Cloud Foundry with IBM last week, the media has been a-buzz with various slices of the news from conversations directly with Pivotal and IBM. Journalists from GigaOM, InfoWorld, TechCrunch, WIRED, ZDNet, The Wall Street Journal, and dozens more have covered the story, and over 2000 tweets have been made covering the topic. Out of all the coverage, we’d like to highlight three perspectives that shed some light on how a few of IBM’s cloud leaders plan to use Cloud Foundry as a standard within IBM’s Open Cloud architecture.

Together, the quotes from the three IBMers below best explain IBM’s view of where cloud-based development and deployment models are headed, and why they chose to partner with us rather than build their own.

Most importantly, selecting a PaaS as a standard for the future is not small decision. Angel Diaz, IBM’s vice president of software standards and cloud labs gave some background and reasoning for the decision to bet on Cloud Foundry:

“Cloud Foundry already had a number of users and was already going at a good trajectory. It was the same thing we said about OpenStack. There already is a community. This whole cloud platform layer is emerging and there’s lots of opportunity to innovate together. And if we can use this stuff out in the open and innovate faster and better then we all can benefit. At the end of the day, this is a layer of technology where you don’t want proprietary technologies… When you’re working at the application layer, if you have Cloud Foundry as the way to build cloud-based apps, you’ll have an easier time of doing that. We had a solid infrastructure story, the piece missing was what we were doing around the platform–the PaaS.”

In short, IBM is confident in their middleware products. They are well developed and deployed, but they too see the need to accelerate development. So rather than spend months or years developing and marketing a new PaaS, they looked to the market to find one that was established and use their market muscle to accelerate the adoption around that PaaS community.

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How they are going to accelerate development with their middleware is pretty clear too. IBM Distinguished Engineer, Rachel Reintz, has been working with Pivotal engineers on new IBM buildpack for Java and Websphere Liberty Core, the primary way to accelerate and tailor the deployment of runtime environments on PaaS. She explained how runtime management changes with buildpacks:

“A key part of the Cloud Foundry architecture is the use of buildpacks to specify and compose runtime environments for a class of applications. Cloud Foundry has adopted buildpacks from Heroku. We want to collaborate with Pivotal, Heroku, and the Cloud Foundry community on adding to the specification of buildpacks to ensure portability of buildpacks across PaaS offerings that support them and add more features.”

Custom buildpacks are a fairly straightforward concept—they include three scripts to allow an application to be built and deployed on Cloud Foundry:

  • A detect script determines what buildpack goes with an application—for example, Ruby looks for a Gemfile.
  • A compile script builds the application and includes all the components like binaries and config files
  • A release script provides metadata to Cloud Foundry and returns YAML

When an application’s push command is given with a buildpack, the buildpack is cloned and applied to the application in Cloud Foundry.

IBM’s chief technology officer of Cloud Interoperability, Chris Ferris, summed up how developers benefit:

“That means we can allow Cloud Foundry’s mechanisms to deploy a profile of WebSphere and provision the app that way…. What it does is it takes the whole administrative aspect of standing up a WebSphere server and delegates that to the buildpack and Cloud Foundry, [which] makes it easier for a developer to rapidly integrate through an environment.”

He went on to offer where IBM’s software and services will evolve:

“Cloud Foundry is a very good foundation, but what’s really interesting to us are the frameworks and services we weave into this… We have a lot of plans around those things–optimizing from a Java perspective [and] certainly from a services perspective to make a lot of our middleware capabilities available as a service through Cloud Foundry [such as] caching as a service, rules engine as a service.”

What This Means

Together, what we see is that IBM is planning on doing exactly what the community needs to support a successful PaaS. Our own Cloud Foundry Product leader, James Watters, summed it up best, “A PaaS like CloudFoundry asks for the application, gives it a name and runs it. PaaS lets you focus on business logic.”

IBM is doing this. Instead of building their own PaaS, as they share the vision that developers need it, and they put their chips in on ours. They will become our super-users, focusing on building out buildpacks and application logic that accelerates development for their users within the broader Cloud Foundry community. But the benefits will reach past just how their products will be used in this community because they will also be teaming with us to extend and harden our PaaS platform through their own use cases and development. We expect platform requirements to be designed and proven faster by partnering with a development house the size of IBM, and the community to expand even faster as it becomes easier for their users to deploy on Cloud Foundry.

Essentially, Cloud Foundry just got bigger and stronger. For the future of PaaS, this is an incredible step forward and we couldn’t be more proud that its IBM taking this leap forward with us.

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