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Pivotal Cloud Foundry Adds Netflix OSS Services, Docker Support

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Today, Pivotal announced an update to Pivotal Cloud Foundry (PCF), the commercial version of a popular open-source platform for building, deploying, and running cloud-native applications. This 1.6 release gives developers native access to a subset of Spring Cloud’s Netflix OSS services, built-in support for .NET applications, beta support for Docker images, and integrated ALM tools for source control and continuous integration. InfoQ spoke to James Watters, VP and General Manager of the Pivotal Cloud Platform, to learn more.

The open source Cloud Foundry – historically labeled a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) but  now referred to as a cloud-native platform  – includes a self-healing application runtime, support for open-source programming languages and frameworks, deployment tools, centralized logging, health monitoring, an application services framework, and more. Pivotal put together its first commercial version of Cloud Foundry in 2013. It offers “enterprise” features like a web-based management dashboard, installation bundles for popular infrastructure targets, an application service marketplace, and professional support. Watters told InfoQ that the first release of PCF only ran on vSphere environments and that subsequent 1.x releases focused on multi-cloud support. PCF now runs natively on vSphere, OpenStack, AWS, and CenturyLink clouds. With today’s release of PCF 1.6, Pivotal adds Microsoft Azure to the mix.

According to Watters, new editions of PCF are focused on teaching organizations to write 12-factor, or cloud-native, apps. Pivotal has made large investments in Java, Spring specifically. Netflix is the poster child for building resilient cloud-native apps, and they partnered with Pivotal to add support for many open-source Netflix services into a project called Spring Cloud. With support for Spring Boot and now Spring Cloud Services, PCF has what Watters calls an “opinionated way to run cloud-native apps, and create them.” PCF offers Spring Cloud-powered services for:

  • Config Server. The base Cloud Foundry offers lightweight environment variables to store shared configurations, but the Config Server goes further. It’s a Git-powered service that’s meant to work across development/test/production environments and integrate cleanly into Spring-based apps.
  • Service Registry. Based on the Netflix Eureka project, this provides a service discovery for Spring apps running in PCF. Instead of hard-coding references to dependent services, developers use service discovery to register and locate services at runtime.
  • Circuit Breaker Dashboard. Resilient distributed systems prevent cascading failures, and Hystrix from Netflix OSS is a practical implementation of the circuit breaker pattern. PCF users can implement this Spring Cloud service to react to failures and provide fallback behavior until the suspect service starts behaving normally.

Pivotal also officially added support for Windows-based .NET applications in PCF. The Pivotal press release states:

Thanks to the next-generation runtime shipping in this latest release, .NET applications can now run on Pivotal Cloud Foundry. With this expanded support for .NET, enterprises can support a heterogeneous environment consisting of both Linux-based and Windows-based applications. .NET applications will run natively on Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V virtual machines, and Pivotal Cloud Foundry can manage applications with the same commands and many of the same consistent Day 2 operational benefits as existing applications.

From a user’s perspective, Watters says, .NET apps are a first-class citizen in PCF. Native service discovery, health management, scaling, and deployment tools work identically for all supported languages and frameworks. However, Spring Cloud services won’t work with .NET apps, and operators can’t use the release management tool BOSH to deploy the necessary Windows Server 2012 host servers. Watters expressed confidence that these gaps will close over time.

Docker dominates the modern discussion about platforms and microservices, and Pivotal joined in by adding (beta) support for running Docker containers within PCF environments. Pivotal described the basics of how this works.

Docker applications can now leverage the built in Pivotal Cloud Foundry platform capabilities, such as scheduling, health management, load balancing, enterprise identity, logging, and multi-cloud support. Now in beta, native Docker image support is made possible by the new elastic runtime and makes Pivotal Cloud Foundry the most advanced container management system on the market today. Customers can deploy applications to Pivotal Cloud Foundry based on Docker images from public, secure registries such as Docker Hub.

Watters told InfoQ that when developers push apps to PCF, they can include a link to a registry location to pull the Docker image and deploy it to the platform. However, Watters is clear that “Docker support” doesn’t mean that developers can pull together a random set of Docker images, stateful or otherwise, start them up, and magically get orchestration and management. For example, it’s not possible to deploy the official Cassandra Docker image and expose it to PCF as a service that developers bind to their apps. Rather, Watters says that Pivotal sees developers building Docker images from their continuous integration processes. PCF support for Docker is catering to that particular scenario. It’s about offering an alternate mechanism for deploying code versus becoming a generic Docker orchestration engine.

Pivotal also added some built-in application lifecycle management tools to PCF. Specifically, Pivotal partnered with established vendors to introduce turnkey continuous integration/deployment capabilities.

Building upon the popular software project management tool, Pivotal Tracker, customers can integrate platform-managed versions of GitLab source code repository, CloudBees Jenkins continuous integration, and JFrog Artifactory binary artifact management. By providing the building blocks of a modern application delivery toolchain, Pivotal Cloud Foundry empowers software organizations to build and deploy microservices and Cloud Native applications with confidence and speed.

GitHub is the home of many important open source projects, but isn’t actually open source itself. Pivotal’s new partnership with GitLab is exciting to Watters who likes seeing a strong OSS source control service that accepts pull requests as a way to get desired features.

Who does Pivotal see as their toughest competition? According to Watters, that distinction belongs to AWS. Cloud customers often believe that AWS itself is enough. Watters says that there wouldn’t even be the concept of cloud-native apps without Amazon, but “people need more than just Amazon to be successful.” Watters believes that some of Pivotal’s best customers are those who first tried to creates platforms themselves, but then asked “what’s the right thing to do for my organization?”

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