Pivotal Delivers on Promises

A bit more than six months ago, EMC and VMware celebrated the launch of Pivotal, a new company led by former VMware CEO Paul Maritz. Pivotal’s team included IP and personnel from EMC’s Greenplum and Pivotal Labs organizations, and VMware’s vFabric (including Spring and Gemfire), Cloud Foundry and Cetas organizations.

A considerable surprise was the support from General Electric, including US$105 million for a 10 percent stake in the company. GE plans to use Pivotal technologies to create new analytic services and solutions, and a Platform as a Service offering for enterprise customers in markets including aviation, transportation, healthcare, energy and manufacturing.

Pivotal’s core value proposition relates to synergistic shifts in what Maritz called the “industrial Internet,” which supports complex information exchanges and the delivery of data resources to virtually any location on the globe.

While savvy Consumer Internet companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft have learned to leverage that infrastructure to their advantage, less adept organizations often find themselves competitively disadvantaged. That makes those companies natural customers for solutions like those Pivotal envisioned.

Powerful Development Environment

Flash-forward to last week and another major launch and another surprise Pivotal partner. So what’s new and different this time around?

In essence, this latest event marks the official coming to market of Pivotal One, the company’s primary PaaS solution, as well as the commercial maturity of Pivotal CF, its homegrown Cloud Foundry distribution, and associated service add-ons — HD for Hadoop, AX for analytics, RabbitMQ for message brokering and MySQL for MySQL database provisioning.

The result is a powerful and flexible environment that enterprises can use to develop and deploy data-intensive, Web-based applications and services, both within their own private cloud infrastructures and across public cloud platforms such as those supported by Amazon, VMware and OpenStack (the open source project founded by Rackspace).

The questions most will ask:

  1. How likely are Pivotal’s offerings to attract the enterprise customers required to provide commercial lift?
  2. How well-positioned is Pivotal is to compete in the rapidly evolving PaaS market?

Regarding the former, Pivotal seems well set for the enterprise market it covets. The company’s parents — EMC and VMware — have deep roots within that customer segment.

In fact, EMC is the enterprise storage market leader by far — and despite continuing, massive assaults from Microsoft and others, VMware remains the x86 virtualization platform of choice for the vast majority of global enterprises.

Competitive Challenges

In essence, Pivotal’s parentage — along with core support from Tier 1 vendors including Intel, SAP and IBM — should help the company open doors that might well be closed to many others.

Additionally, Pivotal’s new offerings support features and functions larger organizations should find valuable, particularly around easing the complexity of Hadoop deployment and management.

All of this should give Pivotal a leg up, but it’s no guarantee of success, especially considering the maturity of some competitors. Red Hat’s OpenShift, for example, has been commercially available since 2011, and the company has trusted relationships with many of the same enterprise customers Pivotal is likely to target.

In addition, other deep-pocketed vendors are in the process of entering or planning to join an increasingly crowded PaaS market.

Overall, Pivotal’s future rests in the strength of its core technologies, its commitment to new innovations, its experience with and support among developers, and its widespread partnerships.

Just as GE’s surprise appearance and investment at the company’s launch sent a key message about Pivotal’s value and gravity, so did key support from Verizon Enterprise Solutions this time around. In essence, Pivotal seems well positioned to inspire and enable the synergistic shift in business computing that it envisions. Now it’s time to see if enterprise customers are similarly inclined.

Charles King

E-Commerce Times columnist Charles King is principal analyst for Pund-IT, an IT industry consultancy that emphasizes understanding technology and product evolution, and interpreting the effects these changes will have on business customers and the greater IT marketplace. Though Pund-IT provides consulting and other services to technology vendors, the opinions expressed in this commentary are King's alone.

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