VMware Partners Uhuru, Tier 3 Take .NET to the Cloud

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2011-12-15

VMware Partners Uhuru, Tier 3 Take .NET to the Cloud

VMware's Cloud Foundry is now open to .NET developers in more than one way.

Dubbed an open platform as a service (PaaS), VMware's Cloud Foundry supported Java, Ruby, Erlang and other platforms, but lacked support for .NET. Now, in less than a week, there are two options for developers to take .NET applications to the cloud via Cloud Foundry.

On Dec. 13, Tier 3 announced Iron Foundry, a .NET Framework implementation of VMware's Cloud Foundry. On Dec. 15, Redmond, Wash.-based startup Uhuru Software came out of stealth mode to announce Uhuru .NET Services for Cloud Foundry.

Jawad Khaki, co-founder and CEO of Uhuru, told eWEEK Uhuru's product provides native Microsoft .NET extensions to Cloud Foundry and differs from the Tier 3 solution in that way. Uhuru .NET Services for Cloud Foundry allows .NET developers and Windows IT managers to deploy and scale .NET applications with Cloud Foundry using the Windows tools they're used to. Uhuru is contributing source code under the Apache 2 license.

Uhuru is committed to delivering quality tools that meet the needs of Windows and .NET developers and IT managers. As an open-source offering, Uhuru .NET Services for Cloud Foundry will benefit from the input and contributions of open-source community members. "We're looking forward to getting input from the community and expect community contributions to shape the direction of the product," Khaki said.

Uhuru .NET Services for Cloud Foundry, an open-source offering, now makes it possible for developers of Windows .NET applications to take advantage of the management and deployment simplicity offered through Cloud Foundry. Previously, Cloud Foundry supported only open-source development environments such as Spring for Java and Ruby on Rails. Now, by taking advantage of Uhuru .NET Services for Cloud Foundry, .NET developers can focus on building great applications rather than worry about how to deploy their software on specific cloud services, or how to scale their applications to handle large workloads, Khaki said.

"Cloud Foundry, until we came out, did not have a way to manage Windows machines," Khaki said. He said the Cloud Foundry implementation was on Linux and written in Ruby. "So we had to take that code out, use the protocols and do a native implementation in C# for Windows," he said. "We also did the work to tie in the Windows Server wiring to the SQL Server database. We also did all the plug-ins necessary to support Visual Studio and Microsoft Management Console."

Khaki, a native of Tanzania, said Uhuru is Swahili for freedom. "We named the company Uhuru because we believe developers should be free to write in any language or framework, and IT staff should be able to deploy apps wherever they want," he said.

"Cloud Foundry has changed the way developers and IT managers think about developing and deploying software for hosting in the cloud. It virtually eliminates the customization and deployment work they needed to do," Khaki said in a statement. "Uhuru .NET Services for Cloud Foundry brings this same simplicity to .NET applications. With .NET Services for Cloud Foundry, .NET developers can use the tools they are already familiar with, like Visual Studio and Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-ins, and still quickly deploy software they write to whichever cloud service they wish to use."

.NET Developers Gain App Portability


By using Uhuru .NET Services for Cloud Foundry together with Cloud Foundry Windows, .NET developers also gain application portability. Developers will be able to easily move their software from one cloud service to another with no modifications. Uhuru .NET Services for Cloud Foundry does not lock users in to one vendor. Users are free to select the most appropriate cloud service from among the many competing providers. Private and public clouds are also both supported with Uhuru .NET Services for Cloud Foundry.

And the Uhuru product enables users to take existing .NET apps and move them to the cloud unmodified. "One of the test cases was to take a .NET app and without any changes deploy it to the VMware cloud," Khaki said. "We were able to do this with Umbraco." Umbraco is an open-source content management system (CMS) platform for publishing content on the Web and intranets. It is written in C# and deployed on Microsoft-based infrastructure.

Charles Fitzgerald, platform strategist at VMware, told eWEEK the beauty of the VMware approach with Cloud Foundry as opposed to cloud computing platforms such as Microsoft's Windows Azure is: "We offer a much more open environment to give people a broader choice of clouds, frameworks and a range of application services where we're not locking people in. That's pretty powerful. Most of the other solutions out there have significant constraints on one or more axes."

Moreover, Khaki said Uhuru understands the challenges facing IT managers and developers. The Uhuru executive team's first-hand experience managing IT departments and .NET development teams inspired them to create Uhuru .NET Services for Cloud Foundry. Khaki spent 20 years at Microsoft, where he worked on projects such as Windows NT, and left in 2009 with the title of corporate vice president. Jawaid Ekram, co-founder and COO of Uhuru, also worked at Microsoft, where he was a general manager responsible for Global Foundations Services and Live Meeting Services.

"Uhuru's vision is to bring the best of .NET and Open Source together," Ekram said in a statement. "In today's announcement we are taking the first step in offering open source capabilities to .NET developers, so they can benefit from the agility and flexibility that cloud computing offers. We plan to offer additional services to enhance both the .NET and the open source community in the future."

"We are delighted to see Uhuru's contribution of .NET support for Cloud Foundry," said Tod Nielsen, co-president of Cloud Application Platforms at VMware, in a statement. "There is significant demand from .NET developers to move their applications to the cloud, and with .NET support for Cloud Foundry, they will be able to deploy and scale both new and existing .NET applications with ease."

Khaki said he believes there is a large pent-up demand for a solution such as Uhuru's to take .NET apps to the cloud. Fitzgerald said this is because Microsoft's Azure has failed.

"Azure has failed to catch on with .NET developers," Fitzgerald said. "The .NET Framework may be the second most popular framework in the world, and a number of companies are trying to figure out how to move their .NET apps to the cloud. Microsoft has sort of blown it with Azure. Azure has not caught on. From a purely developer perspective, the .NET support in Azure is not .NET; it's a mutant dialect that gets you locked into Azure."

Uhuru .NET Services for Cloud Foundry was built with a focus on providing a full-service product that accommodates and enhances the .NET user's environment. The product integrates with Windows and provides support for Visual Studio, MMC, SQL Server-all the systems that developers and administrators use as part of their daily work. Uhuru will continue to leverage its expertise in Microsoft Windows and developer tools to evolve the Uhuru .NET Services for Cloud Foundry as the premier .NET Cloud Foundry solution.

Iron Foundry, Uhuru Go After Same Goal


Launching two days apart, Iron Foundry and Uhuru .NET Services for Cloud Foundry are going after the same goal of taking .NET apps to the cloud. Fitzgerald said he believes Tier 3's offering may be more suited to service providers and Uhuru's may be more for software developers. Khaki said Uhuru is "not a competing effort to Tier 3. We can work together collaboratively."

A post on the Cloud Foundry blog describes how the .NET support works:

"Unlike other frameworks supported by Cloud Foundry, .NET requires a Windows based DEA running an IIS web server. An important part of the newly open sourced code is the support for Windows-based DEAs. Note that this implementation requires customers to bring their own Windows licenses for each Windows-based DEA. Cloud Foundry itself continues to run on Linux and does not require Windows licenses, but manages the Windows-based DEAs as it does any other DEA. 

".NET developers can access any application service or data store within the system, and support for Windows-based DEAs also opens the door for Windows-based applications service such as SQL Server. The end result is enterprise customers will have a common model for deploying and scaling both Java and .NET applications, as well as the newer frameworks supported by Cloud Foundry."

A DEA is a Droplet Execution Agent. Google engineer Ilya Grigorik says the DEA is the supervisor process responsible for provisioning new applications: It receives the query from the CloudController, sets up the appropriate platform, exports the environment variables and launches the app server.

Meanwhile, Bellevue, Wash.-based Tier 3's Iron Foundry contribution consists of the three key components required for developers to quickly leverage the open-source project for their own PaaS implementation or to leverage Iron Foundry to deploy applications to the cloud. In addition to a core .NET Framework fork of Cloud Foundry, which Tier 3 is committing to keep in sync with the main Cloud Foundry branch, developers can also access IronFoundry.org for both a Windows version of Cloud Foundry Explorer as well as a Visual Studio Plug-in for Cloud Foundry. Tier 3 will also make the core code available on GitHub under an Apache 2.0 license.

"At Tier 3, we believe that PaaS is so universal and so foundational to the adoption of cloud for Web applications that it should be an open source framework," said Jared Wray, CTO at Tier 3, in a statement. "As enterprises accelerate the deployment of their mission-critical applications to the cloud, the need for a .NET-based Cloud Foundry PaaS in the marketplace was acute. As fans of the open source nature of Cloud Foundry-and as a .NET based-cloud platform ourselves-we were excited to take on this opportunity to support the enterprise developer and open source communities and to foster innovation for the cloud."

"Tier 3's contribution of .NET Framework support is another powerful example of the open Cloud Foundry ecosystem in action," said Jerry Chen, vice president of cloud and application services at VMware, in a statement. "The availability of the .NET Framework on Cloud Foundry will greatly expand .NET developers' ability to deploy their applications across a wide variety of clouds."

Commenting on Iron Foundry, Sacha Labourey, CEO of CloudBees, maker of the CloudBees open PaaS, told eWEEK: "It is interesting in the sense that it is the first PaaS that bridges the gap between .NET and the rest of the computing world, so that's definitely interesting. Now, does that make any difference and any sense? I don't think so. Microsoft is implementing their PaaS. As anything Microsoft-related, we will have to wait for the 3.0 release to see something good, but they will get there and Microsoft customers will want to use THAT PaaS, not what Tier 3 thinks a .NET PaaS should be. So it is a good, artistic 'performance,' but hardly something that will shake up the market."

In addition to the core Iron Foundry code project, Tier 3 is also committing substantial support to the Iron Foundry community to help contributors and implementers. To ensure that contributors have access to engineering and technical support, Tier 3 is committing time from Tier 3's own expert engineers via the IronFoundry.org community forums. Additionally, to accelerate adoption, Tier 3 is donating a full test bed environment via a "try it now" feature on IronFoundry.org consisting of one Web and one database instance per developer for 90 days. The test bed is powered by Tier 3's enterprise-class cloud platform and requires only email address, password and acceptance of the Tier 3 PaaS EULA. Developers who "forward to a friend" to promote the IronFoundry.org test bed can receive an additional month, the company said.

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