With a string of recent distribution and collaboration announcements, it’s time to look at Cloud Foundry’s progress since a beta announcement in April 2012.

VMware harvests fruits of SpringSource Acquisition
EMC VMware acquired SpringSource a little over two years ago. At the time, I wrote that the hype surrounding the deal greatly overshadowed the real opportunities that SpringSource brought to VMware.

After re-reading my original analysis, I still stand by the post. Even today, while SpringSource technology underpins VMware products like vFabric and Cloud Foundry, neither could be viewed as helping to move VMware’s revenue needle in a noticeable fashion.

VMware CEO Paul Martiz confirmed this during VMware’s 2Q2011 earnings call:

…as well as we continue to invest in the Spring Framework and the combination of the Spring Framework with Cloud Foundry. But I think it would be fair to say we’re still plowing the ground there. And we expect those investments to pay off well over the longer term, but we’re still in the development phases of the market.

Considering the typical five year payback periods used to evaluate acquisitions, all I can think is that VMware has a busy three years ahead of itself to justify the nearly $420 million valuation VMware paid for SpringSource. That said, with SpringSource technology, VMware is in a significantly better position to become grow beyond a hypervisor vendor, into a platform vendor with the likes of IBM, Microsoft and Oracle.

Whether VMware can pull it off, is still to be seen.

VMware expands Cloud Foundry distribution channels
This week, VMware announced deals with Canonical, Dell and enStratus to significantly expand distribution channels for Cloud Foundry technology.

Of these, the Canonical deal appears to be most interesting. Cloud Foundry can benefit from Ubuntu’s leading share of Linux cloud and virtualization deployments.

In explaining the collaboration with Canonical, VMware staff wrote:

Now starting with the 11.10 release both the (Cloud Foundry) VMC Client, and VCAP server functionality will be available directly as Ubuntu packages created by Canonical. With over 20 million active desktop users and a strong IaaS server OS popularity it represents an important milestone for the open source distribution of Cloud Foundry, and is just the beginning of an ongoing collaboration with Canonical. Having the VMC client pre-installed and ready on millions of developer desktops makes a Cloud Foundry app deployment just a few commands away for anyone using Ubuntu.

Cloud Foundry interest expanding, but not yet a game changer
Against this backdrop of potential opportunity for Cloud Foundry adoption is the reality of usage and interest to date.

During VMware’s 2Q2011 earning release, VMware’s prepared comments highlighted 25,000 developers signing up for Cloud Foundry. That certainly is a respectable number of interested users in three months since the beta announcement. It will be interesting to watch this figure over time. It’s not uncommon for new products to gain interest when first announced, only to trail off in the long run.

It is interesting however that the various Cloud Foundry Git repositories on GitHub are “watched”, a proxy for interest level amongst GitHub users, by fewer than 800 users, while leading repositories count well over 5000 watchers.

Of note, interest in the Cloud Foundry project targeted at Java applications is less than 20 percent of the interest of the overall Cloud Foundry project.

Considering the revenue that Java attracts from enterprises, even in the face of languages such as Ruby, or PHP, Cloud Foundry’s growth into enterprise accounts could be less than a smooth one.

Looking at Google search trends at open source based platform as a service offerings, VMware Cloud Foundry, Red Hat OpenShift, Amazon Beanstalk, and CloudBees self titled platform, it’s clear that the market is still wide open, with each offering in the 15 to 25 percent range.

Add Google App Engine into the comparison, and interest in Google App Engine dwarfs the interest in Cloud Foundry and others by an order of magnitude.

I purposefully did not include the established platform vendors, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle in the comparison above. As much attention as Google App Engine has received, and offerings like Cloud Foundry are getting today, they’ve yet to crack the enterprise market in a meaningful way.

In conclusion, it appears that Cloud Foundry is making some good progress, but the road to enterprise acceptance, adoption and revenue is well ahead of it.

I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies, or opinions.”