The convergence of Big Data and Cloud will radically change the Enterprise Computing game. EMC’s Chairman, Joe Tucci, and his lieutenants have been evangelizing on this idea for years, though they’ve used different variations of the words.

And while they probably didn’t know how their vision would play out when they first started preaching, today they do. Pivotal, an EMC and VMWare spinoff, will build the next generation Platform as a Service (PaaS) for the Enterprise. On it developers and companies will be able to host and deploy applications with an ease that doesn’t exist today.

"Clouds are the modern equivalent of hardware," says Pivotal CEO Paul Maritz. And Pivotal will create the new Operating System.

Maritz is the former CEO of EMC spawn VMWare, which is valued at 34 billion today. If anyone can deliver on that big a vision, it’s Maritz. He’s been prepping for the task for at least a year.

Consider what he said at last year’s VMWorld:

Referring to VMware, Maritz said,

The story of the Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) has been written. We are not going to be the only vendor of a SDDC, but all of us who are going to provide one, understand how this is going to end.”

He then added (listen up here),

The story of how application development, deployment and operations is going to be reinvented is just as compelling, just as important, but has not been written. The participants in the creation of this story do not know how it will end.”

This is the story that Maritz and his team are now writing. The have promised to bring it to life in Q4. That would be an unattainable goal if Pivotal hadn’t been “given” VMWare and EMC assets such as Greenplum, Cloud Foundry, Spring, Gemstone and Cetas ... and, oh yes, 1250 of the companies’ most brilliant employees.

GE Bets Big On Pivotal

And though it’s no surprise that Pivotal’s “parents” EMC and VMWare are supporting Maritz’s creation in a very big way (to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars), GE yesterday offered its encouragement too via a US$ 105 million investment.

Explaining why the move made sense for GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt offered:

We want to be on the leading edge [of big data], We see Pivotal as an important partner on that [with] your ability to help us manage a lot of this data [in] real time and be able to transform and put it to use on behalf of our employees and our customers."

Immelt sees leveraging Big Data Analytics as key to his company’s future citing how it can aid in the maintenance of his company’s aircraft products, among other things.

But GE doesn’t stop there. The company wants a voice in building the “Industrial Internet” that is just as data-rich, informative and real time as the consumer web. He thinks it’s essential to the success of his company.

(Immelt must be learning from my CMSWire articles in which I keep quoting Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson’s saying: “Data-driven decisions tend to be better decisions. Leaders will either embrace this fact or be replaced by others who do.” Or could it be that Immelt also reads the Harvard Business Review?)

Can A Start-Up of Nearly 1 Billion Dollars and 1250 Employees Create Disruptive Technology?

Today’s most successful start-ups have been founded in parents’ garages, college dorms or in empty low-rent office buildings by people who had few obligations, let alone mortgages to pay and kids to feed. The dreamers and developers could afford to risk big because the only cost of failing was needing to try again, having to eat Ramen for yet another day, or re-enrolling at Harvard or Stanford.

Though the Pivotal initiative might be a well-padded risk, are the individuals who are working on it risk-takers? Are they hungry and willing to go the extra mile when the mile is the length of a marathon? Will they get sufficient options to become millionaires if Pivotal succeeds? And are they unencumbered from megacorp infrastructure?

(Take, for example, that I can get the founders of Hadoop start-ups on the phone for an interview in a few hours vs. Paul Maritz, maybe never.)

The story here doesn’t look quite as promising.

Can A Start-up Funded By EMC and VMWare Be Truly Independent

Both Tucci and Maritz insist that Pivotal is free to form relationships with EMC and VMWare competitors and to act in its own interest rather than theirs. This is very nice talk, it will be interesting to watch the walk. (Consider that VMWare hates Amazon and that Amazon is likely to be Pivotal’s partner.)

Consider that VMWare’s COO Carl Eschenbach recently addressed a roomful of his company’s partners saying this (talking about Amazon):

I look at this audience, and I look at VMware and the brand reputation we have in the enterprise, and I find it really hard to believe that we cannot collectively beat a company that sells books.”

If Amazon execs think “VMWare” when Pivotal calls, will the “Partnership” be an uphill climb from the start?

And how will VMWare boss Pat Gelsinger (who sits on Pivotal’s Board) look at Maritz after Pivotal has an Amazon infused win?

Fun To Watch

Maritz said it best just before he left VMWare to set out on his yet to be announced Pivotal dream:

“The participants in the creation of this story do not know how it will end.”

That’s why it will be such fun to watch.