[Review] Pivotal Cloud Foundry

Product Review: Pivotal Cloud Foundry

Historically speaking, the definition of technology has changed. Technology no longer means creating a better farming tool; today, it is associated with computers, smart phones, and rows of zeroes and ones. For those within the 21st-century technology industry, however, the biggest changes are not the latest updates to the iPhone or increased speed on a PC hard drive anymore.

“Buildpacks are a benefit for developers because ‘rather than specifying how to run applications, developers can rely on buildpacks to detect, download and configure the appropriate runtimes, containers, and libraries.’”

What is driving these technology markets and enterprise businesses is the technology of technology. Similar to the springs and gears of a watch being improved, software, networking, the cloud, and applications are transforming these markets.

As enterprises seek to discover what will help make them better and edgier over its competition, the details of how to digitize a business propel much of the momentum in the technology marketplace.

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Cloud computing, one of the segments of the technology of technology niche, has split into three approaches. Piecemeal, customizable applications powered by the Software as a Service (SaaS) method allow narrower, more precise expertise with support provided by the vendor; these SaaS solutions can be used to create subsections of a system to power a company. Diversely, Platform as a Service (PaaS) is a more generalized, fully developed environmental approach to help create and develop applications and more for enterprise environments with vendors still supplying major support. Finally, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offers the foundational framework to develop a custom environment and applications configuration.

One hugely competitive PaaS, Pivotal Cloud Foundry, is a tool that can help enterprises run and transform their current business model into more by switching to the Cloud Foundry platform. Or at least, that’s the new tagline for a product that has been at market for over three years ago.

Originally, it was pitched as a set of software development blueprints and tools that could help big businesses speedily construct and deploy brand new cloud-based applications. The emphasis was on the creation of brand new applications. Now, the marketing has expanded into assisting businesses to move their already in use and in place applications onto Pivotal Cloud Foundry for faster and better performance. All without having to make too many adjustments as they transition onto the Foundry platform.

According to the website, it is aimed to improve the agility of enterprises that feel impeded “by the complexity of deploying, upgrading, operating and scaling a PaaS on their private cloud.”

Pivotal Cloud Foundry is an open source cloud computing platform that supports fast application development and deployment, offers highly scalable and available architecture, encourages DevOps-friendly workflows, and provides multi-tenant compute efficiencies.

Review: A Peek into Pivotal Cloud Foundry - YourDailyTech
An outline of the Cloud Pivotal Foundry Architecture

One key feature of Pivotal Cloud Foundry is that it “enables developers to provision and bind web and mobile apps with leading platform and data services such as Jenkins, MongoDB, Hadoop, etc. on a unified platform.” The sheer amount of support offering and large company investment allow Pivotal Cloud Foundry to be an incredibly competitive PaaS choice.

In 2013, Pivotal itself was spun out of EMC and VMware with an undisclosed amount of capital that the company called its Series A investment. Around the same time, GE invested $105 million for 10 percent of Pivotal in what the company considered its Series B investment.  EMC still owns a large percentage of Pivotal through its initial investment. This means that soon Dell will be part of the Pivotal team as well since Dell and EMC are currently undergoing the biggest tech merger ever to combine as Dell Technologies.

For those unfamiliar with the exact details of the Pivotal Cloud Foundry offering, below is an outline provided on the company’s website.  It highlights the key pieces within the product and mentions more of the partner developer names that work within its architecture.

Review: A Peek into Pivotal Cloud Foundry - YourDailyTech
An outline of the main components of Pivotal Cloud Foundry

Pivotal Cloud Foundry strives to supply a good self-service platform for development teams; this is accomplished by including a range of application source files that use the CF CLI or via plugins for popular Integrated Developer Environments (IDE) and build tools like Eclipse, Maven, and Bamboo.

The language of the CF CLI and REST API is simpler and enables users to manage applications easily. For assisting development teams, Pivotal Cloud Foundry has role-based control and lifecycle staging isolation that can equip different teams with the responsibility for each stage: early development, testing, staging and ultimately production. For monitoring, managing, and administering uses and services, there is a centralized web console.

Additionally, Pivotal Cloud Foundry has another feature for developers’ benefit in the Pivotal Cloud Foundry Elastic Runtime: a flexible approach called buildpacks that may be used “to dynamically assemble and configure a complete runtime environment for executing a particular class of applications.” It is beneficial because “rather than specifying how to run applications, developers can rely on buildpacks to detect, download and configure the appropriate runtimes, containers, and libraries.”

Buildpacks are compatible to most modern runtimes and frameworks running on Linux language. Thus, enterprises can deploy apps written in nearly any language to Pivotal Cloud Foundry including Jave, Node,js, PHP, Python, and golang. Thus, enterprises can transition established applications onto the multi-lingual Pivotal Cloud Foundry.

Review: A Peek into Pivotal Cloud Foundry - YourDaiilyTech
Built-in application services available on Pivotal Cloud Foundry

For companies that are unsure of how to undertake unstructured data, Pivotal Cloud Foundry provides “the ability to deliver a unified log stream of application platform events with end user actions for root cause analysis and understanding end-to-end service delivery.” This ability gives users the capability to add value and understanding to their unstructured data.

Pivotal Cloud Foundry supplies enterprises with the tools that can help them analyze and better understand their systems as well as the data produced—structured and unstructured.

For those concerned about health status and management, Pivotal Cloud Foundry has recovery mechanisms that work in tandem with deployed applications and the platform to provide self-healing capabilities for both. The third generation application health manager works to supervise applications and will recover any application states that do not “match” the desired state.

Additionally, the manager monitors the platform components as well as the virtual machine (VM) itself. If the VM fails, the health manager will utilize another VM to restart any failed cluster components automatically. Lastly, within the system, application instances can be automatically deployed and distributed over multiple availability zones. With several zones available, if any are lost requests will be re-routed to zones still running.

Review: A Peek into Pivotal Cloud Foundry - YourDailyTech
A snapshot of the Pivotal Cloud Foundry Developer Console

For security concerns, Pivotal Cloud Foundry aims to eliminate threats by “minimizing network surface area, applying security controls, isolating customer applications and data in containers, and encrypting connections.” Its detailed section on security includes explanations of its role-based access controls that assign permissions and roles to users and are enforced to curtail unwelcome attacks as well as resource starvation that blocks further attempts of hacking.

Review: A Peek into Pivotal Cloud Foundry - YourDailyTech
Pivotal Cloud Foundry Security Options graph

For enterprises that are considering a change to consumable web services for simplified application organization and increased portability, Pivotal Cloud Foundry offers a “binding mechanism.”  This mechanism allows for “automatic provisioning, configuration, management and storage of service connection information, credentials and dependencies of the application”; meaning that as the website states, “the application can now be moved from development and test to staging and production environments with no changes.”

Finally, according to the website, Pivotal Cloud Foundry is the only PaaS that supports direct IaaS API integration for convenient, well-supported full life-cycle management. As the company explains, “Pivotal Cloud Foundry Operations Manager installs from a single virtual appliance (OVA). From there, Operations Manager fully automates the deployment of Pivotal Cloud Foundry, using IaaS APIs, onto a resource pool of Linux VMs with Linux containers.”

There are other PaaS options besides Pivotal Cloud Foundry. Apprenda’s enterprise PaaS is also a cloud-native platform supported by Cloud Foundry for Java and .NET, that aims to deliver significant savings and improvements in productivity by freeing app development teams from internal infrastructure and IT. According to its website, Apprenda allows applications to “inherit cloud characteristics such as scalability, multi-tenancy, elasticity, high availability, SaaS enablement, and more.”

Red Hat OpenShift is an open-source enterprise PaaS (CEAP) that is not based on Cloud Foundry. Openshift 3, the latest release, is written on top of on Docker containers and the Kubernetes container cluster manager for easy app development and management in this open source environment.

Now, Pivotal Cloud Foundry is presenting themselves as an alternative to the Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) conundrum with microservices. Microservices are of the isolated, narrow but deep expertise variety that can be acquired singularly to be added piecemeal to a custom, Frankensteined data center created by enterprise IT and operation departments.

Pivotal Cloud Foundry advertises its product as larger, more inclusive package compared to the detached microservice segments; the comprehensive approach supports a variety of options and still allows an environment of choice without overwhelming a business. In fact, they recently wrote a study and guide as to how an ESB could be migrated to a native cloud platform in a reasonable and logical timeline.

If the Pivotal Cloud Foundry tempts a company, the steps for deploying an application on the platform take as little as 15 minutes based on an easy online guide provided on its website.

Pivotal Cloud Foundry is another evolution in the solutions available to enterprise companies to transform their applications and digitize their technical business needs.

To interact with individuals from Pivotal Cloud Foundry, there is an upcoming but sold out event: NYJavaSIG—An Evening with Java Champion Josh Long in New York on August 23rd at 6:30.

For those in Boston, the company will be attending the DevOps Days Boston from August 25 to August 26.


Additional Resources:

Pivotal’s Downloads and Partner List 

Pivotal’s Step-by-Step Guide 

Lindsey Cobb

Lindsey Cobb, a Georgia native and former history major, is a technology researcher who is fascinated by past and future of technology. When she is not engrossed in the prophecy of science fiction stories, Lindsey is likely to be planning her next adventurous trip or petting every dog she meets. Contact Lindsey at [email protected]