Review: Cloud Foundry brings power and polish to PaaS

Cloud Foundry impresses with broad application support, streamlined deployment, and enterprise extras from Pivotal, though initial setup could be simpler

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According to Pivotal, in practice an administrator defines a service pool of HDFS and MapReduce instances, which take about five minutes to provision from scratch on Pivotal CF. Then a developer or an application can ask for an instance from the pool, obtain it in about two seconds, and a new instance can be created for the pool in the background. When the requested instance is no longer needed, it can be released.

Pivotal also offers a Mobile Services Suite that's integrated with both Pivotal CF and Pivotal HD. This is based on the seven years and 400 apps' worth of know-how acquired with Xtreme Labs last year. It's basically an MBaaS (mobile back end as a service) on Pivotal's PaaS, with the integration extending out to the mobile application level.

Cloud Foundry installation and use
Signing up for Pivotal Web Services was painless. I had no trouble with the developer console, and downloading and installing the cf command line was a matter of a minute or two. The documentation made the steps needed to deploy an application with cf quite clear.

As I mentioned earlier, the Micro Cloud Foundry VM has not yet been updated to Cloud Foundry v2. While I found two methods for installing the current Cloud Foundry open source into a local VM, each promised to be a multihour process. It was much easier for me to download a Stackato Micro Cloud VM (10 minutes) and install it into VMware Fusion on my MacBook Pro (two minutes). I also installed the Stackato command line, which is a superset of cf. Using the Stackato developer console in a browser turned out to be very similar to using the Pivotal Web Services developer console.

With the exception of the current lack of a Micro Cloud Foundry VM, which is kind of a pain, installation and setup of Cloud Foundry are very good. Everything you need is available for download, and the installations are self-explanatory. You can start small either online (in a couple of minutes) or on premise and grow your cloud incrementally, or you can install an enterprise cloud on an appropriate VM host in a few hours.

For a developer, deploying droplets from the command line, Eclipse, Spring Tools Suite, Maven, or Gradle is dead simple, once you've constructed a valid manifest file that includes any necessary buildpacks. Managing droplets and DEAs is straightforward, though I wish that automatic scaling of applications were fully supported instead of being an enterprise-only beta feature in Pivotal CF.

Stackato Micro Cloud
The Stackato Micro Cloud VM -- available for VirtualBox, VMware Fusion, VMware vSphere, and KVM -- is currently the fastest way to get Cloud Foundry on to a developer's desktop. Here the Stackato management console is running behind the Stackato Micro Cloud window.
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