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The Past, Present and Future of Cloud Foundry – Part 1

Our Boomerang Back series checks in with open source projects that came to life at VMware, were grown by Pivotal, flourished in the community, and are now “back” enjoying strong VMware support with Pivotal’s return under the VMware umbrella.

One of the most significant of these is Cloud Foundry. In this post we’ll take a look at what Cloud Foundry does, who it serves and how it came to be. Next time, we’ll explore how Cloud Foundry, and the foundation that now runs it, are adapting to the ever-evolving cloud computing landscape and looking ahead to future growth.

Cloud Foundry is an open source, multi-cloud platform-as-a-service solution designed to support a full application development lifecycle – from initial development, through all testing stages, to deployment. Serving application development teams of any scale, it offers a container-based, language-agnostic architecture for running apps atop any cloud infrastructure target.

The big appeal here is both flexibility and efficiency. All developers face common challenges, most notably the need to achieve:

  • flexibility (don’t fence me in!)
  • productivity (how can I work faster and smarter?)
  • efficiency (make the most of the least)
  • security (trust is key!)

Cloud Foundry was, and continues to be, built by developers, so no surprise that it tackles all four: it’s portable, so users aren’t tied to any specific provider – indeed they can move application workloads as needed in a matter of minutes with no changes to the application. It automates the routine stuff, allowing developers to productively focus on innovating and creating new apps. For that reason, it also promotes operational efficiency. And it does all this while deploying multiple strategies to mitigate against security threats. 

Early adopters included multinationals like Verizon, SAP, NTT, SAS and Baidu. Today, the user community boasts over half of the U.S. Fortune 500 and major enterprises across the globe. It also supports smaller entities like the UK charity Comic Relief, and numerous government agencies worldwide. Its accelerating innovation at Citi, helping deliver the largest pay TV service in the UK, driving developer productivity and culture change at engineering giant Siemens. And multiple major adopters, including Home Depot and Comcast, support robust Cloud Foundry developer teams that are contributing to the project’s ongoing evolution and growth. 

“Cloud Foundry is an incredible community success story,” notes Chip Childers, Executive Director of the Cloud Foundry Foundation. “We couldn’t have achieved what we have without being an open source project, and that openness and flexibility is helping us stay nimble as new technologies emerge.” 

Cloud Foundry was initially developed in 2009 by a small team at VMware led by Derek Collison, at that point under the name “Project B29.” It was renamed that same year, grew quickly, and by 2011 it was open sourced. In April 2013, Pivotal spun out from EMC and VMware to focus on supporting several promising open source projects, including Cloud Foundry. Then in 2015, Cloud Foundry was placed under the care of the newly formed Cloud Foundry Foundation, itself an independent collaborative Linux Foundation project.

The Cloud Foundry Foundation began with more than 40 members and at its inception embraced both the Cloud Foundry Elastic Runtime (now Cloud Foundry Application Runtime) project and the cloud management tool chain, BOSH. It has since expanded, adding support for pushing Docker images into the platform, support for .NET applications running on Windows hosts, certified provider and developer programs, an Open Service Broker API project and Envoy and Istio integration.

In 2018, became a Cloud Foundry Certified Platform, making it the first government agency to offer a certified platform based on the Cloud Foundry Application Runtime (CFAR). Cloud Foundry is also now available on Alibaba Cloud, China’s largest cloud infrastructure provider.

Most recently, Cloud Foundry has introduced two new projects that take advantage of perhaps the most significant shift in the cloud ecosystem of the last few years: the rise of Kubernetes as the leading open source system for automating the deployment, scaling and management of containerized applications.

“Kubernetes has presented us with both a challenge and an opportunity,” says Childers. “It’s required a massive collective effort to get Cloud Foundry aligned with Kubernetes, but it’s also allowed us to leverage our many strengths as a community to bring our best-in-class developer experience to the Kubernetes ecosystem.”

In March, the Cloud Foundry Foundation announced the incubation of KubeCF, a new distribution of CFAR for Kubernetes. Then just a few weeks ago, the community launched Cloud Foundry for Kubernetes (AKA cf-for-k8s), a Kubernetes-native Cloud Foundry distribution.

In part two, we’ll explore how these and other recent initiatives are helping Cloud Foundry bring its trademark efficiencies and flexibility to new communities and an ever-evolving technology landscape.

One final note: the Cloud Foundry Foundation runs regular meetups and events and a twice-yearly Cloud Foundation Summit. You can join the next Summit on June 24-25 online. To learn more, visit the Summit registration page.


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