Seriously, do you want enterprise devs designing the UI for consumer mobile apps? Are you going to send them to school to learn Hadoop skills so that you can continuously analyze and optimize your e-commerce operation, or contract with a provider that's way ahead on that stuff? The sad fact is that enterprise IT lags in those areas, despite attempts to hire talent.
Of course, this doesn't prevent Pivotal from deciding to create a way for enterprise developers to make use of these new techniques with the languages and tools they already know, without learning new programming paradigms. Pivotal's HAWQ, a SQL engine for Hadoop, could play an important role in that sort of solution. At the very least, Maritz made clear that easy data integration between applications built on Pivotal One and enterprise back-end systems will be a high priority.
Big data isn't so big yet
The one-two punch of the organic, externally facing Web/mobile app with a big data back end running in the cloud -- private, public, whatever -- is a key application paradigm going forward. Yet Web and mobile clickstreams and GPS coordinates are not the only sustenance for the big data maw.
An even larger big data source will be telemetry from the so-called "industrial Internet." Here's where the $105 million investment from GE comes in.
GE laid out its plans for big data last November when CEO Jeff Immelt posted an article on GigaOM about GE's initiative to embed sensors in its vast array of industrial equipment, from wind turbines to jet engines to locomotives to electronic medical devices. Big data analytics will crunch the telemetry transmitted by those sensors to optimize equipment operation, deliver new services, and provide feedback for design improvements. In his post, Immelt boldly predicted "the Industrial Internet revolution will add about $15 trillion to global GDP by 2030."
William Ruh, vice president of GE's software and analytics center, was interviewed by Maritz on stage at the announcement, while Immelt provided a canned video statement declaring that Pivotal would be an "important partner" in helping GE to manage and analyze data from its industrial equipment and "put it to use on behalf of our employees and our customers." The $105 million represents a 10 percent stake in Pivotal, which seems like a relatively small bet for a $150 billion corporation, particularly one that has identified a $15 trillion market opportunity and has already opened its own industrial Internet software center in San Ramon, Calif., with hundreds of engineers.
But it's a stake nonetheless. There will be many, many plays in the endless expanse known as the Internet of things, and it makes sense to spread those bets around. Plus, it's interesting to note that GE has not cozied up to the leader in this area, IBM, whose thing-rich Smarter Planet initiative was launched nearly five years ago.
Eye on the horizon
You have to give Maritz credit. He has taken a jumble of acquisitions and fashioned a venture that embraces what are arguably the three hottest areas of tech: big data, PaaS, and the Internet of things. Plus, the service model of companies like Pivotal addresses a key aspect of the consumerization of IT: businesses turning to outside providers rather than trying to push internal IT where it is ill-equipped to go.
It's almost impossible to handicap the prospects for ventures with broad, long-range ambitions like those of Pivotal. A lot will depend on Maritz's level of commitment, since he's the visionary who stitched together this patchwork of technologies and company cultures. That will require real leadership to maintain.
When I interviewed Maritz two years ago, he was clearly struggling to determine how VMware could cross the chasm from server virtualization to enabling a new wave of native cloud applications whose outlines were as yet unclear. The launch of Pivotal shows that he has gone a long way toward sharpening that vision, even though he needed to spin out a new company to provide a vehicle for the journey.
This article, "The Pivotal launch and what it means to IT," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Eric Knorr's Modernizing IT blog. And for the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld on Twitter.