Summary:

Cracking open the “black box” — IBM and now CenturyLink will advise the Cloud Foundry PaaS effort

Last week it was IBM. Now CenturyLink/Savvis  has joined the community advisory board that will, in theory, help Cloud Foundry establish itself as a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) that enterprises will use.

cloudfoundrylogoThat’s no mean feat. Developers often love PaaSes, which give them an easy environment to build their applications, but big companies often balk at deploying those applications on a third-party platform and bring them in house.

Pivotal, the spin-off partially owned by EMC and VMware, is backing this Cloud Foundry play big time and apparently realizes it needs strong third-party support — including from cloud competitors — to avoid the perception that any one company is big-footing the process.

In the past even some Cloud Foundry proponents felt that decisions about its direction were too closed off from public scrutiny. Some called it a “black box.” Frustrated with a lack of visibility, some even talked privately about “forking” the Cloud Foundry code — in effect, taking their version of the code and going home.

Opening up the process eases some of that concern. James Watters, head of product development at Cloud Foundry, said it’s important that interested parties get a formal voice in the architectural process and general outreach. “We’ll get input in how we track bugs, what submitted code should go into the project,” he said. And logistically the board will help with communication. “With more than a hundred developers — both inside and outside of Pivotal — working on Cloud Foundry we needed this,” he said.

Lucas Carlson, VP of cloud evangelism for CenturyLink, said he couldn’t be happier about this move. “This means that key customers and stakeholders that depend on Cloud Foundry have input and a say,” he said.  To be sure, CenturyLink is already a Cloud Foundry partisan. In June, it bought AppFog, Carlson’s previous company, which offered a Cloud Foundry-based PaaS  to build up its own Savvis cloud portfolio.

Carlson said many large, name-brand companies are taking a serious look at Cloud Foundry but declined to name names. Watters said Baidu, the gigantic Chinese search company, is aboard (and supplied a slide presentation from Baidu, translated from Chinese) that seems to back that up, and Rakuten, the Japanese e-commerce concern. Reps for Baidu and Rakuten have not returned requests for comment.

As for the community advisory board, stay tuned for a handful of new members to be named — Watters said the number will be more like 10 than 100. I would bet some will be named in time for the upcoming Platform Conference in Santa Clara, Calif. in September. Other vendors in the Cloud Foundry orbit include Tier 3, ActiveState and Uhuru.

To be sure, Cloud Foundry will not have an open field. Red Hat, the leader in enterprise Linux, is pushing OpenShift as its enterprise PaaS. Microsoft is also backing Windows Azure as a business-friendly PaaS.

Still, with IBM and now CenturyLink with its Savvis cloud business, Cloud Foundry has some momentum. Oh, and it has another key big business backer; in April General Electric invested $105 million in Pivotal. GE is about as big and enterprisey as it gets.

 

This story was updated at 9:42 a.m. PDT August 8 with added reference to the Platform Conference and other Cloud Foundry backers.

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