Last week at its conference in Prague, open source vendor SUSE had a few announcements in the platform and container space. Before I delve into those announcements, I have a long and somewhat torturous disclosure to make. A number of years ago, I was the first external investor, and board member of a startup trying to solve the PaaS management problem. That vendor, Appsecute, was eventually acquired by ActiveState, the Canadian vendor that, among other things, created the Cloud Foundry-based Stackato Platform as a Service (PaaS). Fast forward a few more years and HPE acquired Stackato from ActiveState. That acquisition didn’t go anywhere and HPE “sold” Stackato to SUSE. Obviously, I no longer have any financial interest in the product or its success, so can opine upon the space with some inside knowledge, but no commercial interests. Whew, I did say it was a long disclosure.

So anyway, the announcement from SUSE was all about the introduction of a Containers as a Service (CaaS) offering. SUSE’s CaaS is built upon everyone’s favorite container management project, Kubernetes and sits alongside SUSE’s Cloud Application Platform, which is an offering based on both Kubernetes and the Cloud Foundry platform inherited from HPE.

SUSE CaaS Platform 2

The SUSE CaaS is described as an enterprise-class container management solution. As such it is all about making deployment, management, and scaling of container-based applications easier. The platforms specific points of differentiation, as articulated by SUSE, include:

  • Simplified deployment and ongoing management of large-scale applications with Helm. An open source package supported by SUSE, Helm is used with Kubernetes to help customers find and use software packaged as charts, share their own applications as Helm charts, create reproducible builds of Kubernetes applications, manage Kubernetes manifest files, and manage releases of Helm packages.
  • Enhanced security, performance, extensibility and hardware support with Kubernetes v1.7 and updated SUSE MicroOS, based on the latest SUSE Linux Enterprise Server.
  • Streamlined accessibility on public clouds with pre-defined SUSE CaaS Platform deployment configurations, offered from Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform.

SUSE Cloud Application Platform

In something of a “turtles all the way down” proposition, CAP is an amalgam of Kubernetes and Cloud Foundry. It is aimed as a management platform that spans both traditional and cloud-native applications and leverages Kubernetes in an attempt to simplify the management of Cloud Foundry by containerizing the Cloud Foundry PaaS. This containerized implementation also consumes a fraction of the memory footprint of other Cloud Foundry distributions and is faster to recover and scale.

In discussing the release, Abby Kearns, executive director of the Cloud Foundry Foundation, has to navigate a path which both recognizes the incredible momentum that Kubernetes has, while still carving out a value proposition for the project that she has to shepherd, Cloud Foundry. As she puts it:

Cloud Foundry Elastic Runtime already serves as the industry standard cloud application platform, making enterprise developers’ lives easier and more efficient in more than half of the Fortune 500. As demand continues to grow, so does the need for more Cloud Foundry software distributions from a provider who can address the different business models and IT strategies for enterprise customers. We are delighted to see the new Cloud Foundry distribution from SUSE, and fully support SUSE as they serve enterprises with the very best technology for modern application delivery.

Hmmmm

MyPOV

I’m a long time fan of Cloud Foundry, but the fact of the matter is that Kubernetes is carving off a significant part of its value proposition. We can see this in the speedy move for all PaaS offerings (both Cloud Foundry and otherwise) to amend their messaging to talk more about their container-specific abilities. For SUSE, these changes are all part of the regular thrust and parry, and they’re covering themselves well by having a foot in both camps. But for those of us who have watched PaaS for the longest time, it’s fascinating to watch it being eaten by new approaches. The fundamental question here is whether, in a world rapidly moving to smaller and smaller units of measure (containers for a start, but function-based compute as well) does a PaaS still have a part to play? Some would suggest that PaaS is to modern applications what monolithic applications were to virtualization – and history has shown what happened in that case. Watch this space…

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

1 Comment
  • Great post, Ben. One thing to consider: this entire space is evolving at such a rapid rate – there is no single solution to a problem anymore,and actually most of the time there is not a single but multiple problems to cover. Containers+Kubernetes and Cloud Foundry are generally addressing different needs with a focus on different use cases – the two are actually complementary for overlapping requirements. We fundamentally believe in ensuring Cloud Foundry users are able to use the right tool for the right job – sometimes that will be Application Runtime (what most people think of when they say “Cloud Foundry”) and sometimes that will be Container Runtime (Kubo project) – which uses Kubernetes along with BOSH.

    SUSE is offering these two technology solutions to solve two different problems (coming from the infrastructure with container management, or from the application delivery with Cloud Foundry) and seamlessly integrates them for both code and container-centric approaches to coexist – giving users the flexibility to address their evolving application portfolio.

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