VMware's Cloud Foundry looks to disrupt the PaaS market

Is VMware building an open source Microsoft Azure killer? What happens to Google App Engine, Heroku, and Force.com?

Last week, VMware unveiled the company's new open source platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) cloud offering called Cloud Foundry. The new cloud service promises to make it much easier for developers to get started with creating applications within a "platform cloud" or a "development cloud."

CloudFoundry.org is a community-driven open source project led by VMware, and the community is free to download and build their own open source Cloud Foundry environment. At the same time, VMware will also host and operate its own managed environment on CloudFoundry.com, currently in beta. At the end of the beta phase, this hosted commercial cloud offering will become a paid solution, but pricing has not yet been disclosed. The company also announced a Micro Cloud offering, a free download for developers who want to build a single instance of this PaaS on their local machines.

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Currently, the Cloud Foundry platform lets you build applications with Spring for Java (acquired by VMware from SpringSource back in August 2009), Ruby on Rails, the Ruby framework Sinatra, and Node.js. Other JVM-based frameworks like Grails are also supported. VMware stated it plans to expand support to other languages in the near future as well.

Cloud Foundry will plug into the messaging technology framework from RabbitMQ and the data management platform from GemStone, both now owned by VMware. It also supports several other application services such as MySQL, MongoDB, and Redis. VMware expects to grow that support list in the coming months to include other technologies, including the company's own vFabric application service.

This is VMware's first move in trying to neutralize the long-term advantage that Microsoft has enjoyed with supplying developers with its own platform-based services. The VMware name alone will give Cloud Foundry an instant pedigree with enterprise organizations, but it won't necessarily go after the same set of virtualization administrator users that the company is currently familiar with, nor will they necessarily be the same users that are currently using or looking to use Microsoft Azure. Microsoft Azure is built around a "Microsoft shop" and is clearly aimed at the Visual Studio community even though Azure itself supports other development platforms.

VMware's latest announcement is a significant development, and it has a huge potential to disrupt the platform market. But Microsoft, in typical Microsoft flair, doesn't seem to sweat it -- or at least doesn't show it in public.

"We agree, of course, that PaaS is critical, but there's a difference between delivering slides and delivering a platform that businesses can bet on," said Amy Barzdukas, general manager of server and tools business at Microsoft. "The economics of the cloud dictate server scale, and it's unclear how VMware's proposed solution set will address the complexity of managing infrastructure, security, and optimized service delivery."

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