BOSTON—Things are moving fast in cloud application development, in more ways than one. The key pieces needed to build and deploy modern cloud-native applications—Docker and Kubernetes—have become de facto standards for container formats and container orchestration, respectively, in just a few years of existence.
A third de facto standard, the open-source developer platform Cloud Foundry, is just a little bit older and a lot quieter, but it is changing the future for a lot of enterprises moving to the cloud.
At its fourth North American Summit for 1,500 attendees here this week, Cloud Foundry executives and partners talked up how fast the ecosystem is growing and about how much faster Cloud Foundry users are able to deploy applications at scale and even save some money in the process.
"Home Depot is literally a brick and mortar company selling brick and mortar," said Abby Kearns, executive director at the Cloud Foundry Foundation, during her keynote address at the summit. "But they also are a retailer that competes with Amazon to sell hammers. How do you compete with that?"
The answer, of course, is to use Cloud Foundry in a big way. Home Depot has 2,500 developers working on Cloud Foundry managing 3,000 applications in production turning over billions of transactions every month, she said. "They were able to shave their deployment time from every six weeks to every 15 minutes."
Another user, the U.S. Air Force, was spending 70 percent of its IT budget on “keeping the lights on,” Kearns said. Development time was slow, and applications often ended up outdated by the time they shipped. “Using Cloud Foundry enabled them to put more workloads into the cloud, and they flipped that budget allocation. Now, 70 percent of the budget goes to new applications.”
Cloud Foundry Foundations
Cloud Foundry's origins date back to 2011, when it started as a project inside VMware. Eventually it was spun out into its own company, Pivotal. In 2015, the Cloud Foundry Foundation was formed to shepherd the open-source project.
While Cloud Foundry works with Docker and Kubernetes, it can run independent of them. The functionalities between them, however, are starting to overlap, as developers can use Cloud Foundry, or pieces of it, to deploy Kubernetes-based container applications.
IBM at the conference announced it is taking steps to bring Kubernetes and Docker closer to Cloud Foundry. Don Boulia, general manager for Cloud Developer Services at IBM, announced the alpha of an "experimental" project, called the IBM Cloud Foundry Enterprise Environment, that brings together Cloud Foundry and IBM’s own Kubernetes-based Cloud Container Service.
"The lines are becoming blurred between the platforms. Cloud Foundry is a multicloud application platform," said Chen Goldberg, director of engineering at Google for Kubernetes and the Istio microservices project, in an interview prior to the conference. "What we are seeing is that not one platform speaks all use cases and applications. We have been investing in allowing users freedom of choice—the best platform for a specific use case."
That freedom is about the ability for developers to choose where to deploy cloud applications. In that respect, Cloud Foundry has things covered: Like Kubernetes and Docker, it is supported by every major cloud vendor. The latest supporter, announced here, is Alibaba Cloud, the largest cloud provider in China.
For some vendors, Cloud Foundry is the default platform as a service (PaaS). SAP provides Cloud Foundry under the covers its Cloud Platform. For others, like Google, Cloud Foundry is available as an option over its native PaaS service, App Engine.
The broad support for Cloud Foundry puts it at the center of the discussion about so-called multicloud deployments. But the form multicloud takes is still in the developmental stage. "There is no magic pixie dust for multicloud," said Daniel Lahl, vice president of product marketing at SAP. "It always gets down to implementation details."
What multicloud means amid the reality of mission-critical enterprise computing is putting the workload in the best environment, and that usually means where the data is. If a user has data in Google Cloud, for instance, it’s best to put the application there. But with Google supporting Cloud Foundry, users don’t have to necessarily go with App Engine if they have standardized internally on Cloud Foundry.
The implications of this ability are growing in importance as service providers and social media networks are grappling with data compliance in the age of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which goes into effect May 25.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how this fleshes out, but data sovereignty requirements and regional [cloud deployments] will really play out in on-prem vs. cloud solution choices,” Kearns said in an interview. “For the foreseeable future, most organizations are going to have multiple clouds because that’s going to be the best way to bring those applications to their users.”
Scot Petersen is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. He has an extensive background in the technology field. Prior to joining Ziff Brothers, Scot was the editorial director, Business Applications & Architecture, at TechTarget. Before that, he was the director, Editorial Operations, at Ziff Davis Enterprise. While at Ziff Davis Media, he was a writer and editor at eWEEK. No investment advice is offered in his blog. All duties are disclaimed. Scot works for a private investment firm, which may at any time invest in companies whose products are discussed in this blog, and no disclosure of securities transactions will be made.