What is old is new again, as yet another company makes a bet that platform-as-a-services clouds are the future and Amazon Web Services's infrastructure-as-a-service tech is the past.
This time its VMware-spinoff Pivotal, which has launched a "Pivotal Web Services" cloud based on its own Cloud Foundry platform-as-a-service to take on equivalent services from Google (App Engine), Amazon (AWS Elastic Beanstalk), Salesforce (Heroku), and Microsoft (Azure).
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PWS runs on top of the open source Cloud Foundry tech, along with some proprietary additions such as Pivotal's Developer Console, Billing Service and Marketplace.
Cloud Foundry is a platform-as-a-service, so it gives developers less control over underlying infrastructure than a traditional IaaS cloud like Google's Compute Engine or Amazon's EC2 and S3 services, but makes application deployment significantly easier.
Cloud Foundry is going through continuous development, so aspects of the Cloud Foundry release that get deployed as part of PWS are prone to change. Pivotal recently rewrote the Cloud Foundry command line interface in Go to simplify cross-platform installs, the company said. The CF CLI previously ran on Ruby, switching to Go makes it easier for developers to install it on Windows environments, we understand.
Initially, the PaaS supports apps written in Ruby, Node.js., and Java, but companies can add their own applications and runtimes by building "Custom Buildpacks".
"Buildpacks are a convenient way of packaging framework and/or runtime support for your application," Pivotal explains. "For example, by default Cloud Foundry does not support Python, or a Python framework like Django. Using a buildpack for Python and Django would allow you to add support for these at the deployment stage."
Buildpacks are one of the keys to Pivotal's overall tech strategy, which sees the company take a different approach from those of its rivals. Where Google is a bakery that serves up some delicious Ruby and Python-coated confections, Pivotal has a small menu but lets you also use its kitchen to cook up your own delights. If you don't know how to properly prepare your buildpack, then the results may be inedible [Luckily, unlike bad baked goods, a bad buildpack won't doom you to an extended conversation with Ralph on the porcelain phone.—Ed.].
Pricing has, as is the current fashion, been engineered to be substantially lower than its rivals, with Pivotal's pricing for its service working out to $10.80 per month versus Amazon's $35.27. Though the company's comparison isn't exactly correct, as AWS's "Elastic Load Balancer" has different characteristics to its "HTTP Routing and Balancing", it serves as a good rough indication for where the service fits.
PWS also comes with a "Services Marketplace", which means people can easily integrate and pay for additional tech such as ClearDB's MySQL Database or SendGrid for email delivery, or a MongoDB-as-a-Service tech from MongoLab, and so on.
Pivotal Web Services is, superficially, a serious bet by Pivotal that it can succeed in a cloud world. However, the main emphasis of the company is on on-premises installs wrapped in a pricy package of consultation, so it is not clear yet how dedicated it will be to pay-by-the-drink cloud.
It's also worth remembering that we've been here before: Google and Microsoft's early cloud services were both platform-as-a-service systems, and they failed to make the companies significant sums of money. Both have since developed infrastructure-as-a-service platforms as part of a pursuit for greater revenue.
With PWS, however, Pivotal thinks PaaS's time has come. ®
An earlier version of this story said CF is now written in Go, when in fact only some components of it have been rewritten.