Cloud Foundry is ensuring that the major offerings that sport its label live up to the name. In the process, it's preparing to do battle with the likes of Red Hat's OpenShift, whose governance and design contrasts sharply with those of Cloud Foundry.
The point of the Cloud Foundry PaaS Certification Program, as explained by company CEO Sam Ramji (formerly of Microsoft's open source division), is to guarantee that different editions of Cloud Foundry from different vendors will deploy applications reliably and consistently.
"When you have an open source project as permissive as Cloud Foundry is," Ramji said in a phone call, "it's great for proliferation. [But] there's no limit to the number of different variants you can create from that same code."
Major names like IBM and HP Enterprise are receiving the Certification Program stamp for their respective implementations of Cloud Foundry. In IBM's case, it's IBM Bluemix, which received positive marks from InfoWorld's Martin Heller despite some limitations. With HP Enterprise, it's HPE Helion Cloud Foundry, a key part of the company's heavily revised cloud strategy, which depends heavily on OpenStack as well.
In its commercial form, OpenShift is supplied by a single vendor -- Red Hat -- but Cloud Foundry's approach means different vendors can offer more diverse products based on the same core concept. For vendors, this is a boon: IBM, for instance, has every reason to differentiate itself from HP Enterprise and has done so with the enrichments (albeit proprietary ones) provided on Bluemix.
But for the user, it means potential fragmentation. Some major vendors, like HP Enterprise and ActiveState, were "building off of a [downstream differentiated] fork," said Ramji, which is bad for the community around the product. Certification helps keep such splintering to a minimum.
"Open markets grow faster," Ramji said, and the design created for the foundation was meant to support a "multi-vendor, multi-cloud community, and that seems to be what everybody wants." When Docker provided the specs for its container system to the Open Container Foundation, Ramji noted, it reassured people that any work done on Docker wasn't merely surrendered to Docker, Inc. Thus, Cloud Foundry's own investment in containers accelerated.
OpenShift and Cloud Foundry further diverge in their compositions. Ramji has described OpenShift as "a collection of technologies for containers and orchestration" that "doesn't come from an application-centric view that Cloud Foundry is built on." On the other hand, because OpenShift was built from other upstream open source projects, it nearly guarantees consistent behavior with those projects, while Cloud Foundry re-implements many items in a form specific to the company -- for example, Diego, Cloud Foundry's container management system, written entirely from scratch.
The contrasts between OpenShift and Cloud Foundry can be found both above and under the hood. OpenShift promises simplicity, due to its packaging and the single commercial entity behind it, while Cloud Foundry strives to be application-centric and the product of open collaboration between multiple parties, each bringing an offer to the table.