Microsoft Azure gets an open source rival

Tier 3's Cloud Foundry-based .Net cloud offering gives VMware an entrée into the .Net application market, but will VMware seize the opportunity?

With Microsoft's Windows Azure striving for greater relevance and adoption, a relatively unknown vendor, Tier 3, is providing a cloud alternative for Microsoft .Net applications. Tier 3 is using EMC VMware's open source code as the basis of its offering, which opens the door for direct competition between VMware and Microsoft for .Net cloud workloads in the future.

Tier 3's .Net play

My colleague J. Peter Bruzzese recently provided an update on new pricing, open source support, and a free trial of Windows Azure. Support for Node.js and Apache Hadoop for Azure are sure to attract developer attention. But whether the attention, and the free trial, will turn into paying users is an open question. That said, Azure remains the leading cloud destination for Microsoft development shops seeking a platform as a service offering. That'll change if Tier 3, and maybe VMware, has a say.

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Tier 3 recently open-sourced Iron Foundry, a platform for cloud applications built using Microsoft's .Net Framework. Iron Foundry is a fork of VMware's Cloud Foundry open source PaaS offering. According to Tier 3, "we've been big supporters of Cloud Foundry -- the VMware-led, open-source PaaS framework -- from the beginning. That said, we're a .Net shop and many of our customers' most critical applications are .Net-based."

It seems to have been natural to start with the Cloud Foundry code and extend it to support .Net. Tier 3 is continuing its efforts to better align elements of the core Cloud Foundry code for using .Net technologies in areas such as command-line support in Windows, which Cloud Foundry supports through a Ruby application. Tier 3 is also working with the Cloud Foundry community to contribute elements of Iron Foundry back into Cloud Foundry and into the Tier 3-led IronFoundry.org open source project.

Tier 3 offers users two routes to use Iron Foundry. Open source-savvy users can download the Iron Foundry code from GitHub under the Apache 2 license and run it as they want. Alternatively, users can use a test bed environment of Iron Foundry for 90 days at no charge. The test bed is hosted on Tier 3's infrastructure; pricing for the hosted offering has not been released. This should raise some concerns about committing to a platform prior to knowing what the cost will be. Be sure to understand pricing before devoting time and resources to Tier 3's offering.

VMware's path to .Net support

It'll be interesting to see how Microsoft and VMware react to Iron Foundry over time. VMware appears to have the most to gain and the least to lose with Iron Foundry.

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