Compounding Open Source Cloud Foundry Value: The Pivotal Difference

January 26, 2017 Karun Bakshi

I often get asked during customer briefings why Pivotal Cloud Foundry (PCF) is a worthy investment when its open source counterpart, CF Release, is readily available. It’s a valid question, and an important one.

Open source technologies that leverage global collaboration to build advanced, resilient platforms have certainly proven their mettle, and are increasingly the bedrock of modern enterprise IT infrastructures. In keeping with this trend, CF Release provides the foundation for a resilient cloud native application platform—the platform authentication, CLI, platform APIs, integrated logging and highly available elastic runtime that are in some sense, the bare minimum foundation necessary to deploy and run containerized microservices workloads.

But, there is much more to an operational platform than just a technology foundation. Simply managing the installation, upgrade and operation of complex, distributed systems such as Cloud Foundry (or something like Kubernetes) can require significant IT investment. Next, add on managing bugs, security vulnerabilities, integration with existing IT infrastructure and ongoing support for new cloud services and you can begin to severely tax the skillset and manpower of most enterprise IT organizations. More importantly, when enterprises are busy with these activities, they limit their agility and incur huge opportunity costs – the “free” platform is paid for by your time and energy managing these activities, and even then can end up costing a lot more than anticipated in terms of lost opportunity. The same time could have been spent building new, revenue generating applications.

That is why there is tremendous value in packaging, automation, UX, support, seamless enterprise integration and turnkey availability (and continual expansion) of the advanced built-upon capabilities. There is value in effortlessly staying abreast with the state-of-the-art technology so you can move fast and focus on your business. And, that is where Pivotal Cloud Foundry and the broader Pivotal offerings build on and compound the value of the solid foundation provided by open source Cloud Foundry. Here, we discuss some of these value drivers.

Certification: As a Cloud Foundry vendor, Pivotal invests in providing a Cloud Foundry Foundation (CFF) certified distribution which ensures that Pivotal provides a recent release within 6 months of an unmodified core CF distribution with minimum capability set that matches CFF requirements for application portability. Importantly, Pivotal engineering follows a strict guideline where any enhancements are made using documented extension points. This keeps the engineering clean, allowing us to update the core quickly, as well as giving customers confidence that they could opt for the open source version in the future if needed. Of course, Pivotal is the leading contributor to the open source CF core as well, but under the engineering banner of the Cloud Foundry Foundation.

Simplified Infrastructure Management: The Ops Manager dashboard provides a simplified UI for initiating and managing the underlying BOSH driven infrastructure automation used by PCF. This UI simplifies infrastructure provisioning and configuration, installation and zero-downtime upgrades for the platform and highly available services, deployment configuration changes and daily infrastructure maintenance.  With Ops Manager, the tedium and fragility of Day 2 IT operations workflows are replaced by rapid, reliable and repeatable, parameterized point and click experiences.

Enhanced Platform Functionality: PCF continues to build additional capabilities on top of the core CF Release that significantly enhance usability by simplifying and streamlining various IT workflows, thereby driving efficiencies and savings. For example, PCF provides rule-driven auto scaling for applications based on detected load thresholds. PCF customers can also use the Apps Manager dashboard for application start/stop/scaling operations, aggregated log inspection and general application management. In addition, the Metrics dashboard provides log-correlated, drill-down visualization of network, container and application event series for simplified monitoring and rapid failure detection and recovery.

Application Services: Pivotal provides a rich set of developer and application services (based on the Cloud Foundry Service Broker abstraction) that accelerate application development. These services can be accessed by applications no matter where they run—on-premise, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform or Microsoft Azure. And, they can be easily installed, upgraded and managed via Ops Manager.

For example, PCF has enhanced the Cloud Foundry UAA functionality to enable a federated application single sign on service that integrates with key enterprise identity providers (e.g., Ping, CA, Azure ADFS, ForgeRock, Okta and others). Pivotal also directly provides highly available data and middleware services (e.g., MySQL, RabbitMQ, Redis, push notifications, GemFire in-memory session cache, etc.) that can be deployed alongside Pivotal Cloud Foundry. Pivotal’s growing ISV partner ecosystem and community continues to enhance the application services ecosystem by supplying both highly available and cloud portable services (e.g. GitLab for source control) as well as service broker integration with key SaaS application services (e.g., New Relic, First Data or Apigee). Finally, Pivotal has worked with leading public cloud providers to enable developers to access services from AWS, Microsoft Azure and GCP from applications running on Pivotal Cloud Foundry. For instance, developers can very easily access Amazon RDS/S3 or Google Machine Learning APIs from their applications running on PCF.

Cloud-native Enablement: As a proponent of cloud-native application development relying on microservices and continuous delivery, Pivotal has invested in making it easy to build them.  Based on NetflixOSS technologies captured in Spring Cloud, Spring Cloud Services (SCS) is one of the Pivotal supplied highly-available services that provides high-quality implementations of battle-tested patterns for coordinating distributed microservices, helping to ease things like how services discover each other, or detect failure and work around it.  SCS is accessible through Java/Spring as well as through .NET (using Steeltoe). With Concourse continuous integration newly available as a service, customers can declaratively compose continuous delivery pipelines, and use them to automate the source to deployment release process that enables rapid, incremental software build, test and delivery.

Security: Pivotal continues to invest in hardening PCF against a range of threats not already addressed by CF Release. For example, PCF secures platform network communications through the IPSec Bosh Addon that enables encryption of IP traffic within PCF.  Pivotal also rapidly fixes, validates and releases patched stemcells in response to high priority CVEs. Platform security is a high priority and remains a central fixture in PCF’s roadmap. Pivotal’s agile 3Rs vision—Repair (vulnerable stemcells and application stacks), Repave (via rolling upgrades), Rotate (credentials)—guides our security roadmap and is rooted in the notion that an active posture (rather than a “hands-off” approach to a secure configuration) that continually resets to a known secure state to narrow the window of exposure, is the best means to avoid security vulnerabilities.

Enterprise Support: With the CF Release, enterprises must rely on in-house talent to understand, deploy and manage Cloud Foundry. By contrast, PCF comes with 24x7 support along with product updates and guaranteed migration paths from older versions to newer versions. Importantly, PCF expands the Cloud Foundry cloud validation with AWS, vSphere and GCP to also include Microsoft Azure and OpenStack.

Strategic Partnership: An investment in PCF not only yields a modern, cloud-native application platform but also opens the doors to a strategic collaboration with Pivotal. Pivotal listens to and learns from its customers to develop a roadmap informed by customer feedback that meets real world needs.

Java and .Net (and Microsoft) technologies generally comprise a substantial portion of the enterprise IT fabric. And, Pivotal continues to invest in making these experiences first class on PCF. As the steward for Spring, the most popular Java framework, Pivotal makes it easy to run and monitor Java/Spring based applications on PCF by providing supporting capabilities, including Spring Cloud Data Flow, Spring Cloud Services, Spring Boot Actuator integration with Apps Manager, among others. Similarly, Pivotal supports Microsoft technologies with PCF through capabilities such as Windows Diego Cells, support for Azure CPI, .NET Core buildpack and .NET bindings to Spring Cloud Services (Steeltoe).

Without proper support to seed, integrate, encourage and establish new technologies in organizations, even the best technologies can wind up being little more than shelfware. That’s why Pivotal provides the installation, integration and customization support for each customer’s unique technological and business context to ensure that PCF is successfully deployed and used from Day 1. Pivotal also provides platform immersion training dojos (onsite, multi-week), hands on training courses,  as well as the ever popular Cloud Native Workshops and Cloud Native Roadshow to help customers experience how Pivotal's technology portfolio transforms software delivery.

Finally, Pivotal can help accelerate application development and delivery of strategic initiatives through Pivotal Labs as well as assist with application modernization and migration efforts through partners.

The PCF Advantage

So there you have it. Cloud Foundry provides the cutting-edge, cloud-native platform kernel. PCF’s enhanced capabilities harden the Cloud Foundry platform so it is enterprise ready and immediately usable by Dev and Ops teams for next generation workloads. And, Pivotal, through its collection of enterprise friendly technologies, support, services and partners, further enables customer teams to capitalize on the cloud-native promise and helps ensure that their digital transformation initiatives find traction and success.

As a company, Pivotal is organized around making you successful—on your own. After all, no one knows your business the way you do. Ultimately, it’s this holistic commitment to empower our customers with the platform and skillsets that they can immediately leverage for their business, that should—and does—convince our customers to work with Pivotal Cloud Foundry. Come, take a look!

Any questions? We are here to help, just contact us!


About the Author

Karun Bakshi

Karun Bakshi drives Pivotal Cloud Foundry® product marketing. He has held roles spanning engineering, product management, product/platform marketing and business development at Lockheed Martin, Oracle and Microsoft.

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