Well it had to be that when VMware and Salesforce.com got together to make an announcement of a new partnership called vmForce it was going to stir up my, and I guess your, interest. But what exactly did they announce? Is it a highly effective solution, but a proprietary lock-in, or a move to place Java development on equal footing with .Net development on Microsoft Azure?
Well, opinions of the real experts on the topic point out that what was announced could have been achieved before, as in using the SpringSource Cloud Foundry running on Amazon EC2. (Remember VMware bought SpringSource relatively recently). But to me that is missing the point, what this announcement brings is a main street capability backed by two trusted names that will encourage many more developers to try this approach.
But what exactly does ‘this approach’ mean? To me it’s all part of several other trends, or changes, starting with a radical shift in what we are increasingly using software for leading to an equally radical shift in how we develop software. In simple language enterprise software for the back office core processes has to be built to last, run in a secure, reliable environment and is monolithic in construction. Whereas today the focus is on front office agile optimisation around software built for frequent change and used in more open environments with simpler development using scripting or even services assembly.
Some pundits even go so far as to say built by users for users, and talk about the rise of ’situational software’ as a noticeable part of the software in use in an enterprise. And that might just become more real under capabilities that VMforce provides because the link up with Salesforce.com is all about the ability to assemble existing data and services on the Force.com platform with what ever is being built. That’s a game changing element that the new combination brings into the market. There is of course more to say on the provision of a Java-based development framework, but first let’s stay with the assembly feature.
Salesforce.com has always been focused on ‘Software as a Service’ (SaaS) from their earliest days, and it showed in their approach to the Force.com platform. By contrast Amazon and VMware have been focused on ‘Infrastructure as a Service’ (IaaS). All of these companies talk about offering ‘Platform as a Service’ (PaaS) but it’s only now in VMforce that there is the beginning of a mature PaaS supporting a framework for integration of services over the virtual platform.
This is moving towards the aims of the Distributed Management Task Force’s (DMTF), Open Virtualisation Format, (OVF). Wikipedia provides a better overview of the OVF than the DMTF does itself in my opinion! This ambitious approach started back in 2007 mainly by the principle hardware vendors, and its latest move was in January 2010 with specification V1.1.0. Various aspects of OVF are being supported across the industry and there are some places that unofficial open source libraries are being developed to support OVF.
The end game should be the ability to write once and run in a distributed anywhere, to paraphrase the popular description of Java, and in so doing both open up ease of implementation and broaden possible business uses. Again that’s moving towards a game change, and as VMware supports OVF, there was, in the VMforce announcement, the inclusion of support for OVF.
That’s why I think it was an important announcement, not for the technical side of virtualisation, or so called cloud provisioning, but for the move to bring these things together in a taste of where we are going in a genuine interoperable services world over virtualised resources. I did promise to say more on the creation of a Java development framework, but then there is some good stuff on this already on the blogosphere so I suggest ReadWriteWeb for a good description rather than duplicate what is already out there!
BTW a colleague from our Custom Software Development team, who now works with Capgemini Rapid Design and Visualisation (RDV), suggested that I ought to add that there is another big change in this. Increasingly marketing and sales managers are not just the clients for the development managed by the IT department, but they are contracting and working directly on these developments themselves. The simplicity of the approach coupled with an increasing amount of knowledge of web-based development tools is a true game changer in more than one way.