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“The times they are a changin’.” For anyone who’s not a fan of rock music history that quote may not resonate, but it comes from a song that Bob Dylan wrote in the 1960s. It describes a period when the world began to change how it looked at issues like women’s rights, racism, poverty and social policy.

Though the term wasn’t used at the time, "more democratized" fits the bill pretty well. More people had an opportunity to play a role in their own future. And people began to learn that when they worked together they could get more, and often more significant things, done with greater satisfaction.

It’s interesting to note that at around this same period IBM decided to unbundle the way it sold computing to the world. Rather than offer hardware, services and software exclusively in one expensive package, where you had to buy the whole thing or nothing at all, marketers "unbundled" the components and offered them for sale individually.

It was a defining moment in computing’s history that gave birth to the multibillion-dollar software and services industries. If it hadn’t happened, all the software and consulting services in the world would have been sold by three or four vendors who, let’s face it, probably wouldn’t have been able to harness the creativity that the current market provides.

Opening the Door to Possibility

While it may seem a bit dramatic to say so, we may be at another pivotal moment in history now. Though the Twitter revolutions of our day are well publicized, the way that the economics of commoditized hardware, cloud, open source and mobile devices are impacting the enterprise are also opening the floodgates for what’s possible. Whether it’s writing an app (and everything behind it) that helps one-third of the world’s population migrate home for the holidays without a hassle, or gaining insights on Ebola outbreaks by tracking where people have been during the 2 to 21 day incubation period, via their mobile devices.

One of the reasons that developers within the enterprises are beginning to be able to innovate as elegantly and with the same level of ingenuity as hackers is that the heavy shackles of devops are falling away now that PaaS (Platform as a Service) has come into play.

“The first time I used a PaaS I was delighted and a bit outraged,” writes Mark Atwood, director of open source engagement, Hewlett-Packard. “My delight was from how easy and obviously right it was. My outrage was from remembering all the hours over all the years I had spent installing and configuring Apache, MySQL, PHP, mod_perl, mod_python and Memcached, when all I wanted to do was write some code and give the world a web app. Having a PaaS available means that publishing a running scalable application is, from the developer's point of view, just as simple as pushing code into source control.”

And the PaaS Atwood was working on was most likely Cloud Foundry based.

Collectively Building a Foundation

Cloud Foundry, if you’re not familiar with it, is a next generation, built-for-cloud platform -- the industry’s first Open PaaS. It provides developers with a choice of clouds, frameworks and application services that make it easier to build applications faster. Though it was once “owned” by EMC spinoff Pivotal, it has been since open-sourced and companies like Accenture, ActiveState, Alpine Data Labs, Altoros, Anchora, Anynines, AppDynamics, Azul Systems, Blue Box, BNY Mellon, Canonical, Canopy, Capgemini, CenturyLink, CloudCredo, Docker, EMC, Ericsson, GE, HP, IBM, Intel, jFrog, MongoDB, NTT, Piston Cloud Computing, Pivotal, Rackspace, Redis Labs, SAP, Stark & Wayne, Telus, Verizon and VMware have all joined and/or provided contributions and/or support to the Cloud Foundry Foundation, from which it is governed.

The need for a cloud application platform standard starts with the belief that businesses today, in order to stay competitive, need to innovate through software development. In a world where customer interactions are being redefined by mobility and millions of connected devices, companies are striving to master or manage these trends to engage customers, create new sources of revenue, and transform how they do business,” says Todd Paoletti, vice president product marketing and operations at Pivotal Inc.

Tech giants have built their own Cloud Foundry based platforms. They include Pivotal with Pivotal CF, IBM with BlueMix, VMWare with its microcloud, the forthcoming HP Helion Development Platform among others. There are, no doubt, some cloud players who have yet to join such as Microsoft and Amazon. A warm invitation was recently sent out to Oracle.

One of the many things that is significant about Cloud Foundry, other than the possibilities it ignites because it lets developers focus on building apps, is that it’s an open platform, that it provides flexibility and that enterprise apps are portable between clouds versus being locked into cloud silos.

More simply stated, enterprises that build solutions on Cloud Foundry based platforms will have distinct advantages over those that don’t. And though Cloud Foundry based PaaS providers are businesses that have responsibilities to shareholders to make money, the Cloud Foundry Foundation does not. Its vision is to

foster contributions from a broad community of developers, users, customers, partners and ISVs while advancing development of the platform at extreme velocity. Cloud Foundry.org exists to provide a platform for the community of customers, partners and even former competitors to collaborate, teach, share and learn together, accelerating the pace of innovation and contribution.”

In other words, more and better things can often be accomplished when people, groups and organizations work together to build the foundation for a future in which sharing makes sense.

Community Speeds the Change

We were interested in hearing another voice talk about the significance that Cloud Foundry might play in computing’s history. Pivotal’s Paoletti agreed to do so using a consumer-level metaphor vs. geek speak.

Here’s how he replied:

When Henry Ford invented the automobile, it was seen in many ways as a faster horse. But it was not an apples-to-apples leap. It was a horse that was fed when it was convenient for you, could travel as far as you wanted, didn’t need room to run, and could hold a half-dozen people. So, it was not really a horse at all. The mobility it created begat the modern highways, which helped shape the modern suburb.

Cloud Foundry is the industry’s model-T. It both supports and unleashes new ways to build and run software applications, which today is that magical technology that does everything from landing aircrafts, to allowing us to call and track cabs via an app on your phone, to remotely playing Assassin’s Creed with your friends. It makes a lot of boring management and preparation tasks that used to and still do take a lot of time automatic, and it lets you deploy and iterate on your business applications much, much faster.

And in the same way that the automobile transformed the world, Cloud Foundry is transforming global businesses. It enables them to create the applications that in turn have changed how we buy things, socialize and how things connect to and respond to each other. That in turn has both upended and created new markets.

Some call this new way of computing the ‘third platform,’ or next generation apps. Whatever you call it, we are in a new era that has broken the confines of a proprietary client-server model to one where -- as I mention -- open source has become the new open standard. No vendor can innovate as fast as the community can."

Change in the Air

While much is being written about big data, mobile, social, cloud and the IoT, there’s a platform revolution going on that is just as significant. We think that it deserves some air time.

After all, the times, they are a changin'

Title image by Paul Townsend/Barry Feinstein (Flickr) via a CC BY-NC 2.0 license