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Summary:

VMware aggressively recruited partners to base platforms on its open-source Cloud Foundry stack. Now as it preps the Pivotal Initiative spinoff, those partners worry about more intense competition with the Cloud Foundry mothership.

cloudfoundrylogo We all know now that VMware is spinning off its Cloud Foundry Platform as a Service (PaaS) effort to The Pivotal Initiative, along with some other VMware and EMC technologies.

What we still don’t know is what the emergence of this new entity means for the Cloud Foundry ecosystem — the third parties that built their own platforms atop the Cloud Foundry platform. Officially, no one’s saying anything beyond VMware’s opaque blog post announcing the move. Basically, VMware told us all to check back in Q1 2013 for details.

Unofficially the word to these partners, who worry about having to compete more with the Pivotal mothership’s Cloud Foundry commercial release, is:  “remain calm.” Companies that built their PaaSes atop Foundry include Tier 3, Uhuru, AppFog and Activestate.

Macro PaaS picture still bleak

While enterprise uptake of PaaSes in general remains spotty at best — the Cloud Foundry ecosystem has gotten traction of late at least with big IT partners. Two weeks ago, Hewlett-Packard dubbed ActiveState’s Stackato as its PaaS platform while Rackspace is marketing AppFog to its customers.  And, this week, Cloud Elements launched a formal systems integration practice around Cloud Foundry.

“With this spinoff I expect to see increased focus and resources for Cloud Foundry,” said Cloud Elements CEO Mark Geene. “If they put Paul Maritz on to head this up, they’re serious about this business.” (Maritz, the former VMware CEO and current EMC chief strategist will, in fact, be CEO of this new effort.)

Of course, the subtext behind the spinoff devoting more resources to the PaaS is that it will also focus more on selling that PaaS to customers which, naturally would mean contention with its PaaS partners who are likewise trying to sell services and support around their own PaaSes. Coopetition lives!

The problem is that most folks — even many PaaS companies —  think their market will consolidate and converge around a few key players. Most expect Cloud Foundry and Heroku which Salesforce.com bought two years ago, will remain along with Microsoft Windows Azure in the Windows and .Net realm, but many smaller more niche players will get acquired or fade away. So coopetition may live on but with fewer actual competitors.

The big question underlying all of this is whether this flurry of vendor action will lead to actual adoption by business customers. You can bet one thing — winning real customers was the primary motivation behind the Pivotal Initiative from the get go.

Photo courtesy by Flickr user fontplaydotcom

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  1. In 2013, look for more more cloud providers to move up the stack and add value with a PaaS offering much like @HPCloud has done with Stackato and more value-add’s like CloudElements1, Appsecute & CloudAbility extending PaaS functionality to meet the demands of monitoring multiple PaaS deployments http://activestate.com/stackato

  2. Big question (for me anyway) is can the honchos at CloudFoundry (hi James!) keep the ecosystem together long enough to give some clarity to their intentions around CloudFoundry or do one of the ecosystem partners (AppFog? Stackato? Tier3?), concerned about the mothership’s intentions, fork the product now.

    The ecosystem needs vibrancy, certainty and clarity – they’ve not got that yet and people are worried. Oh and the minor fact that enterprise adoption is taking longer than we’d all like is another blow.

    That said, PaaS is the way of the future and Cloud Foundry should be able to leverage that fact, a very smart initiative and a strong ecosystem to be one of the most important pillars in this brave new PaaS-fuelled world…

  3. Lots of piece parts in Pivotal. It will be interesting to see where they put their resources and energy. Will there be many mini-divisions, or will they try to have a single, cohesive strategy and offering? Will they be driven by revenue and profit goals, diverting management attention from non-revenue sources? It is looking like a ~$200M revenue company, and where will the priorities be?

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